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Can You (Systematically) Text Your Students?


Teachers and Administrators Should be Able to Communicate with Students Using Text Messaging (but NOT With Their own Phones).

Not too long ago, a teacher said to me, “Why can't we text our students? That's how they communicate”. That stuck with me.

Texting turned 20 years old in 2012 (wow!). According to ChaCha, way back in 2010 the world was already exchanging over 92,000 text every second! OMG. I wonder how big that number is today in 2014?

Today's teens and young adults have taken to texting like the proverbial duck to water. So why can't we communicate with students through text messaging, without having to resort to using our personal phones?


Text Message Pic

I envisioned a service that would allow us to track which students had given us permission to text them and provide administrative features so users could be given access and appropriate permissions. Additionally, all the messages had to be captured and stored.

Unfortunately I didn't know of  any such service (it seems kind of surprising that even now in 2014 there still isn't some sort of hosted tool that provides this functionality – do you know of any?). Besides, I really wanted more than a generic tool would offer – I wanted it integrated with our Student Information System (SIS). We were already storing texting permission (we were using texting in a much more limited fashion than what I now envisioned) and besides, it is our primary system of record.

If We Build It They Will Come (And They Did)!

In 2013, I learned that text messaging service provider Clickatell provides an API that enables programmers to read and write text messages (for just $300 per year for a small business package!). This turned out to be the last ingredient I needed for a recipe I had concocted that would serve up easy, secure text messaging with students, linked back to our SIS.

Working with CW programmer John Jurgens, we designed and built a solution that enabled staff to use a simple interface to send and receive text messages (but only with students who have given us permission to do so). All text messages are linked to and stored with an associated “Activity” in our Student Information System. This solution has allowed us to easily reach many students who were usually unresponsive to phone calls and emails. We are presently sending and receiving over 600 text messages a week! We intend to build an add on in the not-too-distant future that will allow faculty to leverage this functionality.

An Award Winning Application

Not only did we create an application that provided innovative functionality helping us to serve our students better, we've also been honored with formal recognition for our efforts. In March, The College of Westchester was recognized with the Clickatell Mobile Touch “People's Priority” Award!

 College of Westchester Award Winning Application

How are you Communicating With Students Outside of the Classroom?

So … it's 2014, can you text your students? How do you communicate with them now outside of the classroom now, through email? Do they respond? Or do you have a class web site or portal where messaging can occur? If there was a texting service like the one described above available to you as a teacher, would you use it to communicate with your students?



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  2. Thanks “RSpray” for the tip on Remind 101. This is certainly an option for those looking for a “quick fix” of sorts – it is only one way (text recipients can’t reply), but heck, it’s free!


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