Jan 05 2012

Teachers Bring Text Messaging to the Classroom

Social media and smartphone-based learning help typically shy students find their voice.

In most U.S. classrooms, texting is a violation. But in Joe Gianotti’s English classes at Lowell (Ind.) High School, texting is required.

Gianotti’s students use a web-based texting service called Celly to conduct “backchannel” discussions about classroom topics, which he projects onto the wall from his notebook computer for everyone to read.

“While the kids are reading novels, watching movies or listening to podcasts, there’s this awesome discussion taking place without anyone saying a word,” Gianotti says. “Students who are typically quiet during traditional discussions really like Celly, because it levels the playing field for them. It’s totally transformed my classroom.”

Fellow Lowell High School English/language arts teacher Kevin Deal uses Twitter in a similar fashion. Deal writes hashtags on the board that address the themes of the day’s lesson; his students then use the hashtags to track their conversations on the microblog, both with other students and the larger Twitter universe.

“There’s been a lot of blow-back about Twitter depreciating people’s writing skills, but I feel it’s a really good tool to teach writing,” Deal says. “You have to learn how to be clear, direct and concise. Working with thesis statements on Twitter is really good practice.”

In Greeneville, Tenn., meanwhile, students are using handheld devices to take biology quizzes, to capture audio and video on field trips, and to research topics using Google’s Short Message Service Search applications, says Beverly Miller, chief technology officer for Greeneville City Schools.

Many educators, in fact, are embracing a “bring your own device” philosophy because it’s easier, faster to implement and far less ­expensive than traditional one-to-one computing initiatives, says Dr. Richard Hezel of Hezel Associates. The problem, of course, is that not every student has one.

“Using more expensive devices for one-to-one hasn’t been very cost-effective, so relying on devices that students already own makes more sense economically,” Hezel explains. School administrators and IT leaders “just need to figure out how to get them to everyone,” he adds.

For more on technology in the classroom, watch "The High-Tech Classroom," an EdTech video profiling the Charlotte County (Fla.) public schools' transformation of its classrooms into high-tech learning hubs.

<p><a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/vblibrary/4419780787/sizes/o/in/photostream/">Flickr/Enokson</a></p>

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