Text messaging often is seen as a distraction in the classroom, but when it’s put to good use, it can actually serve a worthwhile purpose for school districts.
New York City schools recently launched a text-messaging program in order to communicate important announcements and information, according to a report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
"We're helping our kids succeed in giving their parents more tools and support," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in the article, "and that includes using technology to help keep parents informed even when they're on the go."
In order to sign up for the program, parents just need to text "nycschools" to 877-877.
In Manchester, N.H., school administrators have decided to allow students to use cell phones while in school, but only for text messaging, and only during certain times at certain locations, according to the New Hampshire Union Leader.
While text messaging has the power to engage students with learning in new ways, Dr. John Avard, who serves on the Manchester school board's Coordination Committee, said that allowing students to use cell phones in limited capacities at school takes the teachers’ focus off of policing cell phone use and puts the focus back on teaching.
“If you tell students they can't do something, like text, 100 percent of the time, they will try and find ways around that 100 percent of the time,” Avard said. “And the administrators and educators spend too much of their time trying to police that rule. This gives students designated areas where they can text, where they can get that message home to mom or dad or to a friend, and frees up time for administrators.”
Students in Manchester will be allowed to text in the classroom, provided it’s approved by the teacher, and in cafeterias, study halls and hallways. Phone calls, however, will remain prohibited.
Dr. Avard’s assertion about cell phone use by students in schools is backed up with data.
According to an April 2010 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the University of Michigan, 58 percent of students used cell phones in schools where use was banned entirely. So the heavy-handed approach to cell phones in the classroom clearly hasn’t been working.
New York and New Hampshire are taking important steps toward a mobile information future, which is good for students, parents and teachers alike. Technology is an increasingly significant part of everyday life for most Americans, and asking students to completely disconnect from their technology is a request that they find difficult to honor.
If more districts can positively channel students’ interests in text messaging and cell phones in schools, we’ll all be better off.