When schools lift the ban on cell phones, they need to decide if they want to embrace the use of student devices for learning. If they do, it doesn't "start" with inviting devices into the classroom.
It starts in student's homes.
What better way to help parents understand the instructional value of cell phones than to use these devices to strengthen the home-school connection?
Cell phones provide a terrific means for connecting with parents. Teachers can begin using phones to develop and strengthen those relationships. This can provide a foundation and help develop understanding around the benefits and value of cell phone use in general and later for use with students.
Here are three ideas to get started:
1. Mass texting - Services like Remind provide a safe, one-way, mass text messaging system created specifically for use in education. It keeps your phone number, and the phone numbers of your subscribers private, stores all of your sent messages, and it’s free to use. Once the school signs up they will create a "class" for parents. Parents can sign up with one text or e-mail. Because of the convenience of sending messages directly to phones, Remind is a perfect tool for announcements and reminders such as school holidays, school events, photo days, fundraising events, links to videos of class presentations, and more.
2. Twitter - Anyone (in the U.S.) can receive tweets on their phone even if they haven’t signed up for Twitter. This is a simple way for people to get information they care about in real time. For example, let’s say you want to get tweets from me (@InnovativeEdu). Just text ‘follow InnovativeEdu’ to 40404. Schools, principals and even teachers can set up Twitter accounts to keep parents connected to the latest information. Locke Elementary School in Chicago uses it to great effect.
3. Poll Everywhere - Poll Everywhere provides a terrific way to capture the thoughts, ideas and opinions of parents. Simply set up a multiple choice or free response poll, text parents the code, and have them text their answers like they do on shows such as “American Idol.”
When Eric Sheninger when Principal of New Milford High School in New Jersey he used Poll Everywhere during back-to-school nights. He says it’s a great way to elicit feedback during budget presentations or to secure real-time input on school initiatives.
Laura Spencer, an instructional technology coordinator for a K-8 school district in San Diego suggests quizzing students on topics taught in school with a twist. She also sends the messages to parents. She explains that students enjoy comparing their responses to their parents’, and this gives parents a deeper insight into what is happening during the school day.
Maine school board member Lisa Cooley suggests using Poll Everywhere to provide data about parent opinion to inform school board decisions. For example, ask how they felt about a recent school event, a new facility, the holiday homework, or a new curriculum.After you've introduced some parents to ways cell phones can strengthen the home-school connection, you might want to consider holding a workshop showing them how they can use cell phones as an educational tool to support student learning. You can find workshop agendas in Teaching Generation Text, or create your own. If you do hold a workshop, invite some students to help you plan and deliver the workshop.