For most of us, the thought of cellphones in the classroom is one in which distraction reigns. Unfettered access to text messaging does not seem particularly well-suited to ensuing that kids get the education that they need. In fact, at first glance, it seems like it would encourage the opposite – endless text messaging, a lack of attention to subject matter, and the like. There’s no denying the fact that texting can be distracting, but there is also the fact that when used correctly, text messages can actually play an important role in educating our children. There are quite a few ways that texting can be worked into the classroom, to provide additional learning points.
Why should Teachers use Text Messaging?
Before we dive into the how and why of this topic, it’s important to address why you might want to do it in the first place. For one thing, texting is not going anywhere. In fact, digital communication is becoming more and more the norm. Second, it can help prepare students for careers involving digital media in which they are more likely to communicate with team members via apps like Slack, or through an online chat platform than in person. The world has changed, and texting is a permanent part of that change.
Text messages can be used as appointment reminders for students and parents about school work, class projects, extracurricular activities, and a great deal more. The right online SMS provider can allow teachers to send texts to students and parents, and communicate with them easily. There are even platforms like Remind that allow you to do this without using an actual phone number. That can provide some peace of mind, particularly for parents concerned about sharing their child’s cellphone number with others.
One of the most interesting features of text messaging is that it can play directly into the curriculum being taught in the classroom. For instance, a teacher could use texting to send quizzes, polls, questions that need feedback, and more. Students can use their cellphones to reply to the teacher directly, to take the quiz, or to play a game, right on their phone. Teachers can even create pop-up quiz style study aids that work in the SMS environment, allowing students to prepare for tests, learn class material, and more.
Text speak (l8tr, u, r u, etc.) seems to have little in common with actual English grammar. However, it is actually closely tied to our oral past. Formalized grammar has not been the norm for most of history. In fact, it was only a few hundred years ago that we really started focusing on developing stringent requirements for spelling and sentence structure. So, texting is a throwback to an earlier time in our language, and educators can use that to their advantage by having students translate text speak into correct English. Not only could students convert text speak into long form prose, but the teacher could actually deconstruct those sentences, diagramming them to show the various parts of speech.
Introduce the Arts
The works of the Bard are still with us, but fewer children are reading them. Teachers can turn that paradigm on its ear by using text messaging. There are myriad options, but one possible scenario could run like this:
- Choose two students, one to play Romeo, and one to play Juliet
- Have the students read a scene from Romeo and Juliet and decide how they want to change it
- Have the students act out the scene via text messages to one another
Another possible option would be to use this as a means to master more difficult vocabulary. The teacher could have students read through a scene, and then try to translate it into text speak or modern language via text message.
Teachers can use text messaging to tell stories, and they can do it in a way that involves every student in the classroom. Here’s a quick rundown of how that might work:
- The teacher and students decide what type of story they want to tell.
- They randomly choose one student to start the story.
- The chosen student writes the beginning of the story, and sends it to everyone via text.
- The next student then takes up the story from there.
- Each student will then add his or her own element to the story via text, sending the story to all students and the teacher as they are written.
One interesting way that texting could be turned into an educational tool is to allow it for note taking purposes. Not only does this help students master material they need to learn in class, but it can help introduce the concept and process of good note taking in a digital medium. Note taking is something that all college-bound students will need to master if they hope to pass college courses, and this can help to prepare them for that day.
As you can see from the discussion above, there are plenty of ways that text messages can be incorporated into the classroom. However, it is important to realize that there is no way to guarantee that cellphones will always be used for their intended purpose during class, and no way to ensure that no off-topic texting is not going on.
The best way around this is to create a code of conduct/behavior when it comes to the use of text messaging in the classroom. Rather than having the teacher hand down a list of rules, though, consider turning this into another learning lesson. Let the students have a hand in the rules that will govern them – letting them help come up with cellphone use rules and text messaging rules of conduct can help them better understand a wide range of topics, rather than simply forcing them to adhere to an arbitrary list of rules that they had no part of creating.