Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why Have Students Text Rather Than Talk? – Continuing the Classroom 2.0 Live Conversation

Willyn Webb and I had a terrific time during our recent Classroom 2.0 Live Webcast where we shared with participants a five – step progressive plan to harness the power of cells for education which you can visit here. A NYC girl at heart, I kept things going at a fast, New York –minute pace, which I love, but I know we left some folks heads a spinning. The intent of the session was, in part, to expose participants to a multitude of ways cells could be used for learning, rather than teach how to use each tool. For that you can read the further readings that go with each step or of course, purchase our upcoming book Teaching Generation Text in Fall 2011.

A great question came up in our webcast from Maureen@bcdtech. Here are excerpts from her in our chat:

Maureen@bcdtech: Ok- hard-headed here. But in a classroom, aren't you talking with the kids and aren’t they listening/talking? I'm not getting why I would have the kids reply by text, etc… instead of talking.

Maureen@bcdtech: I don't want to fight cell phones, but some of the stuff I see done with them, much like clicker use, I see as non productive. Perhaps because I teach in a small school, small classes- and the kids talk- out loud to each other- to me....

We didn’t have the chance to address this in the webcast, and it’s such an important observation, that I’m devoting this post to it.

Many of the ways Willyn and I recommend educators use cells for learning, actually happens outside of school as part of homework, so that when kids come to class their ideas are already captured. This allows class time to be spent with the discussion, “rather than” collection, of ideas. Capturing student’s thoughts and ideas with tools like Wiffiti and Poll Everywhere provides many benefits as follows.

5 Benefits of capturing student’s thoughts and ideas through polling

1. Ideas are instantly captured and collected without taking time away from class.

2. Ideas can be referred to for reference later and by students who may be absent.

3. Ideas can be collected anonymously giving everyone a voice which enables students to avoid risking embarrassment.

4. Questions about homework can be captured so when the teacher gets to class, she isn’t spending time asking students what their questions were, but instead she is able to get right to answering them.

5. Students may not be comfortable publicly revealing they don’t know answers to a question. Assigning a few polling questions for homework, enables the teacher to get a more accurate insight into what percentage of the class really understands a particular skill or concept.

In class, what is nice is the one cell phone class is quite powerful. One phone can be used to capture pictures for insertion into a Flickr slide show. One cell phone can be used to Tweet shout outs, celebrations, and learning taking place in the class. One cell phone can be used for students who want to record audio reports using tools like Voki animated Avatars or Google voice.

When we allow students to use cell phones in class in general, this is analogous to allowing them to use laptops in class, after all, cell phones are really just mini laptops. They may be useful during class time for students who want to take notes or retrieve information on their phone…I do this and it’s much more effective then paper. I can thumb quickly and search and share my thoughts as needed. I have a calculator at my fingertips. With Google SMS and ChaCha I have access to research and information.

As with any technology, the teacher needs to have protocols in place, and is the expert at knowing when the time is best for working, using your phone as a resource and when it is time to put down the phone (or laptop cover) and spend time interacting face-to-face. Innovative educators like those who attended our webcast (see cell-created Flickr slideshow below) are masterful conductors knowing how to effectively blend each of the various types of learning to enable students to learn most effectively.


  1. Lisa and Willy were amazing in this presentation. We can't wait to have them back to tell more about integrating cellphones in the classroom!!

  2. Thanks for answering that question Lisa. You did a beautiful job of capturing our conversation after the presentation about my choice use of cell phones for outside of class activities which in turn help us make better use of class time. Your post was perfect and we should incorporate it (or embed) in the book.

  3. Not exactly using cell phones but I recently conducted a short reflective activity with 10 year olds using online chat. See my short post - main benefit was that a student identified that it gave them all a chance to respond without interruptions - it evened the playing field - quieter children had the same voice as louder ones

  4. @Lorna, thank you so much and, yes! It would be fun to do a dive into step 5. Actually, perhaps first we could do a presentation around what precedes that which is how to "break the ban." Then...teaching in a cell phone classroom.

    @Willyn, You are right. Our conversation framed the ideas here well. I love putting our thoughts in writing...which is why it's so fun writing our upcoming book together :-)

    @Celia, that is another great point. F-2-F conversation is a fantastic medium for some students, but for many it is not i.e. those who are shy, lose train of thought, don't wan to compete to get their ideas out, those who have issues forming thoughts verbally, etc. It can actually, be the same thing as a discussion forum can be set up via text too. Thank you for sharing your experience.


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