Sunday, February 12, 2012

Principals Can Get Out of Their Office and Into Classrooms with These Ideas for Harnessing the Power of Cell Phones

Cross posted at the Teaching Generation Text. The blog dedicated to using mobile devices for learning. 
Cell phones are being used by some administrators as a way to get out from behind their desk, away from the office, and become an active part of school! They’ve become popular not only because they are a tool that most professionals own and use but also because there is little to no learning curve and little to no additional cost.

The following uses of cell phones enhance a number of functions within the school community.
1. Group texting
  • Emergency Response System
    Free group texting services such as
    Celly provide a free emergency notification system for principals to reach staff in the event of a snow day, school cancellations, crisis information, and updates. I used this just last week when the internet was down. I was able to send one quick text from home and let my staff know ahead of time that they needed to plan alternate lessons.
  • Newsletter
    We have replaced newsletter and instead send group texts informing parents of events, meetings, and successes happening at school. These are sent regularly two times per week and  parents report back that they love it! The paper newsletters were costly and rarely got home went sent with kids and even more expensive to mail and potentially end up in the junk mail pile. Parents may not check their email regularly, but a text goes right into their hands. According to, "Fewer than 20% of email messages are opened. Within 15 minutes of sending a text blast, over 95% of your subscribers will have read the message."
  • PLC (Personal Learning Communities)
    With a free group text messaging services such as
    GroupMe the weekly or montly PLC becomes a daily chat by having them become a group. Agenda items, successes, ideas, announcements, supportive messages, entire chats can all be done quickly through the cell phone or computer. The messages and replies automatically go to everyone. So much simpler and in the moment than email, the conversation is an instant chat, involves the entire group, and is documented online.
  • Survey
    All principals value the input of their staff, parents, and students, but it is difficult to get everyone together, to collect input, and to respond. Using a free text message service such as
    Poll Everywhere principals can gain input and give everyone a voice through their cell phone. Much like voting on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars, the principal can gather votes on calendar items, prom themes, course offerings, field trips, you name it!
2. Individual Texting
  • Intercom system
    Rather than having classes interrupted with the secretary's voice beaming over the intercom for a student (or the principal) to come to the office, a quick text message allows the teacher to send the student quietly. According to Principal Todd Markley, “Administratively, we text to communicate throughout the day as we are usually not in the same location in the building. Text messages can be sent to administrators from the secretary if we are needed in the office without using the school intercom which interrupts instruction.”
  • Note taking  
    Principals are out and about in their schools and carrying around a notebook, or even an ipad gets in the way of interacting with students. The cell phone provides an unobtrusive, in the moment, way to take notes of good things kids are doing, thoughts during lunch duty, incident details, teacher observations, and anything that needs dealt with once he/she is back in the office. These can be used later to share with parents, for discipline conferences, and for personal records.
    WeTxt offers a way to text notes to an organizable, searchable online notebook.
3. Pictures  
Principals can capture the activities of the school, text or email home, improve connections, build student/teacher self-esteem, and document incidents pictorially.
  • Video Yearbook
    The pictures a principal takes throughout the year can be sent immediately to
    Flickr and a "principal created" slideshow/video yearbook is done! This can be shared on the school website or wiki and used for assemblies throughout the year. Parents and students love it and it gives principals a quick and easy tool to show their connection!
4. Evaluation Apps
  • Power walk-throughs (McRel)
    Principals often struggle with getting enough time in the classroom, doing a great job with observations, and having effective teacher evaluations.
    McREL has developed an app that allows the principal to use a smart phone to support these needs. “Collect classroom observation data using most handheld devices, including iPad™/iPhone®/iPod Touch®, BlackBerry®, Android™, or Tablet PC. Easily upload data from your device to our Web-based software, which lets you analyze data with a variety of charts and graphs" (
These are some ideas school leaders can try that harness the power of the cell phones they own. For more ideas and Instructions on using these tools order Teaching Generation Text or contact me about speaking to your group, school, or district.

1 comment:

  1. Classroom Mosaic is a great power walk through tool. Built by students, it's very flexible and non threatening to thr teacher. Great use of mobile tech.