Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Is Texting Really the Enemy?

This most definitely is not the first blog you've read about texting.  It most definitely won't be the last.  For most teachers I know, texting is an annoying phenomenon that distracts students and keeps them from learning, doing homework, studying, etc.  There are complaints that students are no longer good at concentrating because they are used to focusing on many different things for short periods of time.  This may be true.

It also might be true that there is simply a new dynamic world that we are missing out on.  A world that is full of constant engagement with others.  A world in which, thanks to smart phones and wifi, all kinds of information is constantly accessible.  My school has done something unique, at least in my experience, by letting students text and use their phones in the hallways between classes and allowing teachers to choose to what degree students are allowed to use them in the classroom.  This has caused me to reassess my own opinion of cell phones.  I grew up without cellphones.  We made fun of the first student in our school to carry a cellphone ("He can't stand to be away from his mommy!").  Texting was definitely not part of my coming of age and it wasn't even part of my adulthood until very recently, so it has taken me a while to accept the idea that texting, instead of distracting students from my class, could and should be a part of my class.  Luckily, the technological world has not been waiting for my approval.  There are several programs that utilize texting for education.  Audrey Watters, professional blogger and writer for Hack Education, writes about programs for classroom texting here and here.

After spending years fighting against texting and taking phones from students, I have come to the realization that I'd rather utilize phones for education.  I think that's where everyone will be heading, and with some great programs out there (I know I've just started finding the resources) for texting in class, I am not at all upset by that opinion.  I have already started using Remind 101, which allows me to schedule text message and email reminders for quizzes and tests.  I am looking at more programs right now, which I am sure to write about.

I'm writing now, not to recommend a specific program, but to encourage those of you who have doubts to consider texting, not as an enemy to education, but as a tool.  If we use it in class, it's no longer something the students are "getting away with;" instead, we take ownership over the activity and make it a requirement. Best case scenario, we end up with students who feel engaged and view us as adults who get them.  Worst case scenario, texting stops being cool.