Thursday, August 19, 2010

6 Ways to Use Cell Phones to Strengthen the Home-School Connection

Step three in the 5 Steps to Harness the Power of Cells in Education is strengthening the home school connection. Once parents/families experience ways cell phones can be used as a learning and connection tool they will become empowered and more open to using the devices as learning tools with their students.

Here are six free and easy ways to get started.

Google SMS - Translate
Teachers and families can use Google SMS Translate to send text messages to one another if they speak different languages.
How: Text 466453 with the words Translate and your message to (recipients language) i.e. Translate How are you? in French. Google SMS will reply with: Translation: 'how are you' in English means 'como estas' in Spanish. The teacher can text the translated message to the student’s parents and vice versa.
URL: http://www.google.com/mobile/products/sms.html

Drop.io - Free Voicemail Box
Set up a Drop.io account where parents can leave you voice mail anytime without interrupting your lesson.
How: Drop.io assigns a voicemail number to the creator's account. The teacher simply shares this number with her student’s parents. They can leave a message anytime. Drop.io makes it easy to name and comment on any audio recording making it easier to remember any important information about the caller such as noting if you’ve returned your call, any important documents you want to have on hand, and/or serving as a reminder to what you discussed.
URL: http://drop.io

Send group texts for notifications
Set up group texting in a service like Swaggle or WeTxt to notify parents about important events, question of the day, celebrations, exciting accomplishments, cool projects, assignment due dates, etc. If you have a multii-lingual student body you may want to group parents by language.
How: Go to the website and enter your phone number where you will receive a password texted to your phone. You can create groups as appropriate for your students parents. You will be asked what you want your name to be. Set this to the name the students/parents know you by or if that is taken consider adding your school mascot i.e. MsNielsenTigers. Next you invite parents to join either by entering their numbers in your phone or on the website.
URL: http://www.wetxt.com or http://www.swaggle.mobi

Poll Your Parents
If knowing what your parents are thinking is important to you, Polleverywhere is a great tool. It enables you to let parents have a say and show them their thoughts and opinions matter. You can poll them or request open response using Polleverywhere.
How: To use poll everywhere the teacher sets up an account at which they’ll be assigned a number for participants to send their answers. Within the message respondent enters the code corresponding to their response. This looks similar to what you see on popular shows such as American Idol. Without any additional equipment or need to download software within seconds educators will have parent responses. Another nice feature is that it doesn't matter what device your parents are using as text message, web, and smartphone responses can be instantly combined.
URL: www.polleverywhere.com

Use Wiffiti for Parent Feedback
Ask your parents questions, thoughts, opinions, and have them text answers to Wiffiti. Maybe you want to know what your parents are expert in and would like to share with your class. Perhaps you want to know your student’s birthdays. Have your parents send in the student name and birthday to a Wiffiti board.
How: Send a group text to parents asking them to share and text to Wiffiti. Everyone will know everyone well very soon.
URL: http://wiffiti.com

Twitter for Live Class Updates on Your Website, Blog or Wiki
Description: Twitter is a great tool that allows you or your students to instantly make the home-school connection by updating your class website, blog, or wiki. Simply tweet important or interesting events happening in your class and have it feed into your selected online space. Parents and families have an ongoing window into your classroom. Educators may want to Tweet information themselves or allow students to use their cell phone to Tweet items of interest when they arise.
How: Once you have a Twitter account set up you’ll visit http://twitter.com/devices and enter your phone number so you can update Twitter from your phone. You will then go to your desired online space (website, learning network, blog, wiki, etc.) and paste in the Twitter feed embed code. You can select the widget you’d like to use here.
URL: www.twitter.com

Once parents are comfortable using cell phones as an extension of the classroom you may be ready to move on to the next step. Enlisting parents to partner with students on homework involving the use of cell phones.
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