Text Messaging in Teaching: Tips and Techniques from the Trenches

students texting

Over the past 10 days, I led the second iteration of an online professional development workshop with the Sloan Consortium, entitled Text Messaging in Teaching: Tips and Techniques from the Trenches. This workshop, just one in a series of workshops on mobile learning, was geared for faculty desiring to add a mobile dimension to their online teaching using text messaging? Participants learned by doing as they experienced texting incorporated in the online environment (Moodle), explored free texting apps, and formulated their own plan for incorporating texting into their online communication strategy. Our discussions focused upon how to enrich one’s online presence and communicate with students through a mobile technology they are already using daily while also protecting privacy.

The following resources, among others, were shared during the workshop:

Looking for some great online professional development opportunities? Check-out Sloan Consortium’s online workshops!

Miscellaneous Texting in Teaching Resources

Here are a few other miscellaneous resources related to text messaging in teaching, not previously mentioned.

Are you aware of another miscellaneous resource regarding texting that you’d recommend be added to the list above? Leave a comment with the name, description, and link.

Text Messaging Tools

There are many free tools available that can be leveraged when implementing text messaging in teaching. The intended purpose, frequency, and substance of messages are among the factors to be considered when selecting a text messaging tool. The following is a listing of free texting tools. If you find another free tool, please leave a comment with the tool title, description, and link.

  • Broadtexter
    Mobile clubs and marketing.
  • Celly
    Platform of tools that enhances school communication: Create cells, instant mobile networks that connect your school Members can join a cell by texting or logging in to the web.
  • ClassPager
    Text your classroom. Broadcast updates to parents and students. Engage any student on any device — during or after school. Ask and answer questions, individually or with groups of students. Incorporate modern technology in your teaching safely and easily.
  • ClassParrot
    Safe and simple tool that lets teachers reach students the way their friends do.
  • Follow My Teacher
    SMS service geared specifically for K-12 schools and teachers
  • Google SMS Applications
    Use Google applications via SMS text message.
  • Google Voice
    Using a Google Account, you can setup a Google Voice phone number that you can set to auto ring an office and/or mobile phone number. Send and receive text messages at your Google Voice phone number using either the smart phone app or web interface.
  • gText
    Free group texting – A network of group communication.
  • Let’s Talk by CloudTalk
    Social messaging service that goes beyond texting and voicemail: FREE personal text and voice messaging, 1-to-1 and group conversations, public and private conversations, for Web, iPhone and Android.
  • Poll Everywhere
    Creates stylish real-time experiences at events using mobile devices. Poll Everywhere replaces expensive proprietary audience response hardware with standard web technology. It’s the easiest way to gather live responses in any venue: conferences, presentations, classrooms, radio, tv, print — anywhere.
  • Remind101
    Safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents.
  • SMS Mac
    Use your Mac to enter SMS text and send the SMS through the Internet.
  • TextMarks
    SMS service for educators and educational institutions.

If you find another free tool, please leave a comment with the tool title, description, and link.

Best Practices on Texting in Teaching

What are some examples of best practices incorporating text messaging into teaching? The following resources provide a few ideas to consider as you formulate your own plan for utilizing texting.

Have you located other best practices documented online that you’d recommend be added to the list above? Leave a comment with the link.

Articles on Texting in Teaching

What does the literature say concerning mobile phone use, and more specifically text messaging, in educational settings? What theoretical and pedagogical foundations have been identified to build effective best practices upon? The following peer-reviewed articles provide theoretical and pragmatic foundations.

  • Hayati, A., Jalilifar, A., & Mashhadi, A. (2011). Using Short Message Service (SMS) to teach English idioms to EFL students. British Journal of Educational Technology. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01260.x
    Abstract: This study aimed to gauge the efficacy of three modes of instruction of English idioms, ie, Short Message Service (SMS)-based learning, contextual learning and self-study learning. More precisely, this study capitalized on the push aspect of SMS affordance to deliver bite-sized English idiom lessons on spaced intervals to the learners irrespective of the traditionally inherent problems in most teaching classrooms of English as a Foreign Language learning contexts and thus promote regular study. Students’ perceptions and attitudes toward mobile learning and the application of SMS in teaching and learning English (idioms) were also sought by conducting a poststudy survey. Overall, the results revealed that students receiving short mini-lessons on their mobile phones via SMS were more enthusiastic and learned more than their counterparts on paper or contextual groups.
  • Lim, T., Fadzil, M., Mansor, N. (2011). Mobile learning via SMS at Open University Malaysia: Equitable, effective, and sustainable. The International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(2).
    Abstract: This article describes Open University Malaysia’s efforts at enhancing the blended learning approach for undergraduate distance learners with the successful implementation of the Mobile Learning via SMS initiative. The pilot project was implemented in the May 2009 semester, and this coming January 2011 semester will be in its sixth consecutive semester. Aspects such as the conceptual model, the process flow of group messaging, and challenges faced, as well as effectiveness of the initiative, are discussed.
  • Mentor, D. (2011). Supporting students’ connectedness via texting. Educause Quarterly, 34(1).
    Key Takeaways: Providing students with portable communities of support through mobile phone texting offers one way to give them a sense of social connectedness. Increasing a sense of social connectedness encourages healthier emotional well-being among students, reducing potential feelings of isolation from the campus community. Texting may help improve participation by and performance among students, although definitive proof will require a more rigorous examination of the actual effects on their performance and perceptions of emotional well-being.Summary of resource
  • Kovalik, C. L. & Hosler, K. A. (2010). Text messaging and the community of inquiry in online courses. Journal of Online Learning and Teaching, 6(2).
    Abstract: Text messaging is emerging as a tool educators are using for multiple purposes in both face-to-face and online courses. This research study investigated the impact of using text messages to convey course information for six online courses, taught by one instructor, as measured by the Community of Inquiry survey. Text messages communicated course information, including reminders of assignment due dates, notification that assignments have been graded, and short feedback on discussion postings. Students completed two surveys for the study; 1) the Community of Inquiry (COI) survey and 2) a survey created by the first author to gather information on student reaction to using text messages in the courses. Overall results indicate that students reacted positively to receiving text messages. COI survey results indicated, however, that there were no significant differences between students who received text messages and students who did not receive text messages in their perception of social presence, cognitive presence, and teaching presence as represented by the COI framework. This lack of significance may be partially attributable to the instructor’s extensive prior experience and success in online teaching.
  • Porath, S. (2010). Text messaging and teenagers: A review of the literature. Journal of the Research Center of for Educational Technology. 7(2), 86-99.
    Abstract: Look around on any bus, in any restaurant, or standing in any line and people are text messaging. Likewise, most teenagers in America are nearly inseparable from their cell phones, not because they are constantly talking, but because they are connecting with their friends through text messaging. Although cell phones are banned in most K-12 schools, students are text messaging constantly there as well. Few adults, including teachers and administrators, understand how and why adolescents and young adults are using text messaging or how to harness text messaging capabilities in the classroom. This literature review examines the limited amount of research on the practice of text messaging for adolescents and young adults (ages 11-21), focusing on the motivation, means, and methods of text messaging. In addition, it considers how adults have successfully engaged text messaging to access and inform youth about health-related issues. In this light, some current educational uses of text messaging are highlighted, along with implications for future research.
  • Wallace, P. & Howard, B. (2010). Social networking tools to facilitate cross-program collaboration. Educause Quarterly, 33(4).
    Abstract: This project is part of a continuing effort among the faculty in our department to break down the silos of learning created by the structure of off-campus programs. The use of social networking tools allows our students to engage in a level of collaboration that would be awkward, if not impossible, without a means to communicate effectively. This particular project focused on the tools of collaboration. We will continue to explore options for developing stronger and more long-term collaborative projects that will build communities of practice among students for the duration of their graduate programs rather than over the course of one short semester.
  • Jones, G., Edwards, G., Reid, A. (2009). How can mobile SMS communication support and enhance a first year undergraduate learning environment? Research in Learning Technology, 17(3).
    Abstract: In this paper we discuss a case study investigating how the academic and personal development of first year students on an undergraduate sports education degree can be supported and enhanced with mobile SMS (Short Message Service) communication. SMS-based technologies were introduced in response to students’ particular needs (in transition to Higher Education) and characteristics (adept mobile communicators). Despite being unaccustomed to using their mobile phones for academic study, students willingly accepted SMS communication with their tutor via a texting management service. This communication was used in concert and integrated with a more traditional learning and teaching context (lectures and a virtual learning environment). Drawing on evidence from two student surveys, focus groups and a tutor’s journal, we illustrate how mobile SMS communication has influenced the student learning experience. Taking a holistic view of the learning environment we use Laurillard’s (2002) conversational framework (Laurillard, D. 2002. Rethinking university teaching: a framework for the effective use of learning technologies. 2nd edition. London: Routledge.) to analyse and discuss the role of texting in supporting student transition to higher education.
  • Duvall, B. J., Powell, M. R., Hodge, E., & Ellis, M. (2007). Text messaging to improve social presence in online learning. Educause Quarterly, 30(3).
    Summary: This study aimed to adapt instructional pedagogy to make it more compatible with the mobile lifestyle of today’s students. The goal of this research was to evaluate and provide suggestions on how to incorporate SMS text messaging so that both professors and students could maintain a social presence within a learning community.

    Data collected indicated that the students liked to use SMS text messaging and felt that it was useful for enhancing communication in their online class. The collaboration and communication created through the use of text messaging also supported the creation of a social context that fostered a sense of community. Using the text messaging tool, teachers and students became active participants in the learning process. Furthermore, the use of SMS text messaging to share online resources allowed students to learn through interaction with other students in an online environment. The learners applied their combined knowledge to solve course problems.

    The SMS text messaging tool also provided a medium for communication and dialogue, which engendered the “immediacy” sought by many online learners. Consequently, we believe that if text messaging is integrated effectively into an online class and used for well-defined objectives, it provides a useful tool for enhancing social presence and communication among learners.

Are you aware of another peer-reviewed article on texting that you’d recommend be added to the list above? Leave a comment with the bibliographic info and link if possible.