Do text messages have a place in education?
I set out on an experiment today. After assigning an Annotated Bibliography project to my ninth grade World Studies students to begin during the break, there was an outcry of confusion. After answering a few questions, I told students they could email me over break with any other questions. One student asked for me to give out my email again, even though they had been given the address several times. However, another student asked if I could give out my number, for them to text me questions during break. I initially laughed and said no, but then several students voiced that they had “all” of their other teachers numbers and text for questions often. I was hesitant, but I eventually caved and wrote my number on the board.
Yes…..I gave 30 fourteen year olds my number. However, it is not my personal cellphone number.
I actually gave the class my Google Voice number, which I have had for roughly two years, and only took advantage of when I was overseas this past summer.
I set up the number on my personal phone for several reasons.
1. The Google Voice mail service allows me to check the transcription of messages on my phone or computer and emails them to me, thus cutting down on time checking messages.
2. When overseas, my phone was set to forward any calls to my personal number to go to my Google Voice number, which would then ring on my computer if I had my Gmail open. I could also send and receive text messages on my computer and iPod Touch with the Google Voice app, which allowed me to stay in relatively seamless contact with friends and family back home. All without ever having to buy/set up an overseas phone.
However, I never considered its use in my classroom in the United States.
I was aware that many of the teachers in my school had given their students their cell phone numbers, and I have yet to hear any instances of a students abusing the privilege. From one teacher, she said it actually helps her quite a bit, as she no longer has to worry about a student not understanding instructions when they get home, as they can always contact her with follow questions. Given this, I decided to try it.
Even with the assurance from other teachers, I did not feel comfortable giving out my private phone number, so I gave my Google Voice Number.
My reason for optimism.
Google Voice has a few great settings that have allowed me to customize the direct amount of access my students have to me and I have to them through the use of a Google Voice number.
1. I have my Google Voice account set to automatically go to my voice mail if the caller has dialed my Google Voice number. My personal cellphone will still receive calls to its number, but I did not feel my students needed to be able to directly call my phone.
2. I have my Google Voice account set to send any voicemail and text messages that were directed to my Google Voice number to be forwarded straight to my email. This means that when a student texts the number, it will arrive as an email in my inbox, not in my text message inbox on my phone. The same applies to a voicemail, if left by a student, will appear as a transcribed voicemail in my email inbox, and not in my phones voicemail.
3. If I feel that this privilege is being abused or distracting to my students, I have the ability to simply deactivate the account, which disables the Google Voice number. This will not effect my Google account in any other way, which allows me the luxury of a fail safe. I have the ultimate power, with the ability to end the experiment at any time, without having to go through the lengthy, frustrating and often times expensive process of changing/canceling my personal cell phone number.
It seems as if everyday there is something else in the news about another state or district that is trying to limit the use of technology in schools, which I think will directly harm our ability to prepare the next generation for higher eduacation and the work force.
I am very curious to see how this experiment plays out, and if it is beneficial to my students and their ability to communicate with me. I will be sure to update in the future with the results from this experiment.