Thursday, January 5, 2012

A Geographer Looks at EdTech - Part 3 - Text Messaging

The third theme Audrey Watters identified in her top ten list of ed tech for 2011 is text messaging. She explains that since not all students will have smartphones, at least right now, text messaging is the universal mobile phone communication platform. She highlights a number of startups aiming SMS products at the education market. All of them seem to focus simply on managing communications between students, teachers and sometimes, parents.

The apps sound like a great first step in exploring the use of SMS for education. My question is what happens next, that is, how do educators best use SMS tech for actual teaching and learning? Is it in class? During school hours? Outside school hours? Is it reminders? Extra questions/challenges for homework? Extra hints for the tough problems?

How can educators embrace the very nature of the platform? I have one idea that stems from a limitation in a technology I used in my teaching. The Jing Project allows anyone to create screen capture movies with narration and share them via the cloud. It's free - with a five minute time limit per video. I adjusted my assignments to be complex, but still required students to respond within the five minute video. It was TOUGH. But, to their credit, students stripped away the irrelevant material and created tight, focused responses. SMS assignments might focus on students developing a 160 character answer to a specific question or challenge. Here's a geographic one that would be interesting: "State within an SMS if you feel the redistricting in your state has been fair or not and why."

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