There have been a few teachers who have approached me about the emerging text messaging services that claim to be perfect for educational purposes. These services are offering educators the ability to text message their students/parents important notices and reminders without either party seeing phone numbers...they are kept private. It's a great concept that can be very effective and secure at the same time. As with a lot of web-based software/apps there are numerous providers right now of this type of service. Here are three services that are not only geared more toward educational use, but are also free to use.
Celly is a text messaging service that is safe and secure for school use. it is a device neutral service that will allow you to not only send text messages to students and parents with notices and reminders, but will also allow you to create groups and send group-specific messages to certain classes of students. Here are a few of the services' published features:
- join by text in seconds
- unlimited members
- group messaging with moderation
- multiple-choice polling
- scheduled reminders
- track feeds automatically
- link networks together
- phone numbers are kept private
- works on any phone with text messaging (SMS), Android app, web and email
With this service you can even allow moderated group messaging between students. An example of the educational use of this feature is best demonstrated with what Mrs. Montano has done with math test review. The moderator provides the students with a window of time in which they activate the student messaging with moderation feature. This feature allows the students to message the teacher with a question or thought and the teacher can provide a simple answer or further support...everyone in the group will receive the messages that are being transmitted and can therefore benefit from the discussion. If students do not wish to participate, then they simply text a message to the service to suspend it for that time and they can later reactivate.
Another example of the educational use of this service is demonstrated with what Mrs. Kochanowicz has done with her classes. For now, just her students joined her "cells" in order to receive text messages for the purposes of increasing communication. It is her plan to use the service to notify students of any changes to homework or when she anticipates them needing to bring their devices into class. She would like to eventually offer the service to parents, maybe at open house, with the same goals in mind. Mrs. Kochanowicz also expressed interest in using the service for its convenient polling capabilities. She mentioned how it might be more practical than taking the time to use the SMART Response devices with their cumbersome setup.
Learn more about Celly
Remind101 is another text messaging service that is safe and secure for school use. It is a bit more simplified than Celly in that it only allows the moderator to send text messages...there currently is no feature that would allow group messaging with moderation as does Celly. It will allow you, however, to create groups so you can send specific messages only to certain groups of students, including parents. This service, too, is easy for students and parents to join by sending a text to the group you create and they are a member.
Learn more about Remind101
gText is yet another text messaging service that is safe and secure for school use. It is a little different than the other two services in that users initially join your groups via their website. All future communications/functioning for your users will be through their cell phone or email software.
Learn more about gText
Mrs. Kochanowicz has forwarded me a screenshot of one of her classes using Celly and describes how she has utilized it so far.
"The screen shot is my home screen for my Period 6 “cell.” At the bottom are the two reminders I just sent to my class. The top comment is a message from a student asking what the homework was. I was able to click on her message and select “private message” to reply without sending it to everyone. So far I LOVE this!!"