Pew Internet study, 77% of all teens have a cellphone. I wasn't able to find research on pre-teens but from the work I have done in my own district I would say almost 50% of them have cellphones as well. And these aren't smart phones. (Although, we know many have smart phones.) These are just plain, ol', regular cell phones.
Because of the explosion of use of mobile devices, many schools, realizing it's a powerful tool, have allowed them to be used in schools. Just this year my district changed the policy from an outright ban to leaving it up to the school to decide and many schools are allowing them to be used.
Texting, as many have come to realize, is an easy way to reach someone. I can send a text message to an entire group of students easily and with just a few keystrokes. But for many teachers, they don't want their students to have their personal (or even school issued) phone number. Or for others, they want to use the power of texting but don't want to use their own device. For whatever reason, there are a number of services that can help.
Here are some of the more popular texting services teachers can use. A lot of them have the same features but they are all different in some way.
Remind 101- Like most of the ones I am going to highlight, the premise is, you sign up for a free account and create a class. This generates a unique code that you then give to your students. When they text from their phone to the code they are signed up to be a part of your class. There is no exchange of phone numbers. When you want to send a message you head over to the Remind 101 site (and that is one of the bummers for me. You have to text from the site), pick your class and send your message. You can't pick and choose who to send messages too. All messages go to the entire group. They have a great video that explains all the features:
Remind101 from remind101 on Vimeo.
I like Remind 101 because its dead simple to use. There aren't a whole lot of fancy features and if you want to just do class texting without all the fuss, Remind 101 is the way to go.
Cel.ly- Like Remind 101, Cel,ly allows you to create Cells (classes) that you can then give the name of your cell to your students that they can then join from their phone or the web. Cel.ly has lots more features like making your cells public or private, or sharing them with the world. Unlike Remind 101 you can create instant polls, open chats where users can text each or curated chats where users can only reply to you. One of the most handy features is the schedule a message. So you can set up messages to broadcast well in advance. Set it and forget it!
I think what sets Cel.ly apart is users don't have to have a phone to participate. So if you are are in an environment where not everyone has texting on their phone or not everyone has a phone, everyone can still participate. My friend Eric, just wrote a piece about how his school is using it as part of their BYOD initiative that you should take a look at.
Cel.ly is free and definitely worth checking out if you want more features and the ability to control more options.
ClassParrot-This is one I have written about in the past. Just like the others, you create an account and kids join by texting a code. No exchange of phone numbers is needed. The difference here is that ClassParrot isn't free. Well it sorta is. They use credits. And each month your credits refresh. It costs credits to send message and to reply to a student. You can buy credits if you want but if you are simply sending a message here or there you won't need to. However, if you are planning on using the phones as polling devices or for back-and-forth communication, you might want to look at the other options. I like ClassParrot because it is another dead-simple to use tool but the credits part scares people. Don't let it. If you send only a few messages a month, you would never have to deal with it.
There are some others worth checking out too. My friend Richard, recently wrote a post highlighting 7 different services. Worth checking out to see what else is out there.
Bottom line here is if you want an easy way to communicate with your students but you don't want to go through the hassle of exchanging phone numbers, check out these services. They each have points that make them stand out and some that don't. Each is different and could suit many different needs.
Do you have a favorite texting service you use with students? Leave us which one you use and how you use it below.
photo credit: JPott via photopin cc