In many cases, cell phones in the classroom can be a hassle and a distraction. However, writing them off completely ignores the fact that they are a uniquely-suited tool for communication between teachers and students.
Used correctly, cell phones can allow teachers to tailor their lessons and content to each studentâ€™s interest and ability level without the use of special apps or internet access. It doesnâ€™t take a smart phone to use phones smartly.
Three ways that teachers can use text messaging to tailor their content to each student in classrooms where most or all of the students have access to a phone with texting capabilities include gauging student knowledge, gathering student feedback, and giving students choices.
Gauge Student Knowledge
Trying to get an accurate idea of what your students understand using technology is not a new idea. However, many classrooms try to do this using clickers, apps, and other complicated technology that takes away from instructional time or available funds.
Many mass texting services, though, compile text responses on an online dashboard. This essentially works the same way as other programs, but skipping any steps for installation or learning new equipment.
One of the biggest benefits of using texting to gauge student knowledge is that each studentâ€™s answer to any given question isnâ€™t visible to their classmates but is visible to the teacher. This allows teachers to see how each student is doing without embarrassing those who havenâ€™t yet grasped an idea.
Gauging student comprehension with text messages can take many different forms. For example, a teacher could send a message requiring a full answer or a multiple-choice question that compiles answers as in a poll. For either option, the answers are available as soon as a student has replied but will remain available in the future for teachers to look back on.
Additionally, teachers can send these messages anywhere and at any time: during class, after school, or even the night before a big test.
Gather Student Feedback
Knowing what your students think can be just as important as knowing what they know. Of course, face to face conversations with each of your students would be ideal, but with increasingly large class sizes and busy school days, this isnâ€™t always possible.
Text messages are an easy way to connect with each student individually in a way that theyâ€™re likely already connecting with others. The messages can include pictures, videos, or links, making it easy to share examples or answer questions in multiple ways.
Text messages may be especially beneficial for communication with quieter students. Allowing for these alternative communication methods can allow the personality of these more timid students to shine through.
For text message communication with students to be most beneficial, students must be allowed to express both positive and negative opinions and teachers must respond to these in some way. For example, if several students have mentioned that the music a teacher plays during a test is distracting, the teacher should strongly consider either not playing music or, at the very least, playing music of a different genre.
Over time, this feedback should manifest itself in the teacherâ€™s deeper understanding of each studentâ€™s needs, interests, and struggles. Including open-ended questions in this communication allows for students to bring up concerns that teachers may not have considered and interests they wouldnâ€™t otherwise have noticed. It also allows teachers to speak specifically to a studentâ€™s strengths.
Give Students Options
Another way to tailor your content to students using text messages is to let them be the decision makers, and to make your own decisions with them in mind. This is a natural next step after gauging their knowledge and gathering their feedback, because youâ€™ll know them well enough to give them what they need most in terms of assignments, feedback, and help.
For example, text messages make it easy to communicate with just one subgroup within the class at a time. So, the teacherâ€™s contact list could be divided based on ability level. Then, instead of assigning the same homework assignment to the whole class, each group could receive an assignment at their skill level meant to focus on the areas in which theyâ€™re struggling.
This same group function can be used to send different instructions to different groups working on projects or to students who have expressed interest in different aspects of a topic. In fact, students can have the choice to opt into different groups that they feel apply to them.
Texting As A Tool
Of course, tailored content isnâ€™t the only benefit to texting in the classroom. But ignoring the uses of mass text messaging is ignoring one of the simplest but most effective ways to make education more personalized.
Want engaged students receiving information thatâ€™s relevant and helpful? Try introducing mass text messaging.