Tag Archives: cell phone

Connect your School with Remind

11 Mar

After using the Remind texting app with my students to connect my classes, I had a thought to connect my entire school in the same way. I’m constantly hearing from students that they are uninformed and don’t know what is going on at school. So, I set out to get my kids connected on their phones using Remind.

I targeted two groups year one, the freshmen and seniors. I knew that I would have those groups together, and that is key. If kids feel they have a choice to signup, most won’t. However, if all the kids are there at the same time and you instruct them to signup to get updates, they will see their friends signing up. That, and the kids get excited when the teacher tells them to take out their phones and do something with them. So, at freshmen orientation and at senior sunrise the first week of school, I had about three hundred kids sign-up for text updates. My students brought out a giant sign with the info needed to sign up and we parked them in front of the crowd as we explained how and why to signup.

Over the next two years we had all four classes signed up. Now, I had the ability to advertise dances, share deadlines, remind kids to bring books for library check in, and remind kids about spirit days (we started getting a better turnout). I would use the app for spirit give-a-ways (hide items on campus or have kids line-up by a certain door, first ten there get a spirit item).

One tip, have your students sign-up by class. For example, my current list is the Class of 2015, Class of 2016, Class of 2017 and the Class of 2018. This way, I can send a text to all groups, or, if it’s just seniors, I can send the text to just the Class of 2015.

How will you use Remind? 

Top Tips to Remind your Students

10 Mar

Over the past five years I have played with a lot of technology to keep in touch with students and make sure that the kids were connected and informed about school. With everything I have done, texting is the most effective method to connect with kids. If a student has a phone it will always be on his or her person and they will be tuned in waiting for  the next update or message that has relevancy to their world. With that I recommend Remind as a tool to help you stay connected. This is a teacher friendly app that safely connects you to students or parents to share information and content relevant to your class.

Here are some tips to get started:

  1. Have your class sign-up together as a group on the first day of school. I explain that text rates apply, kids get that, and that you want your kids to stay connected and informed.
  2. Make it Interactive right away. My first text that night is a question. The first ten kids who show up at class with the secret word or the answer to the riddle get a giant candy bar or similar prize.
  3. Tell kids to save the number you are using to sign up for the reminders as “School Reminders”. This way, if other teachers use the app, they won’t confuse Mr. Smith’s updates with Mrs. Jackson’s updates. This also goes back to not over texting kids especially if multiple teachers at your school use Remind.
  4. Encourage kids to get the app if they are able. There are additional features in the app, such as the new Chat feature from Remind, that goes beyond simple texting. Kids can use the app to communicate with you directly. This is a feature you can turn on or off.
  5. Put Remind up on your white board or screen, let kids see your admin panel, ask them when they want a reminder for an assignment. This will build trust as your kids see what you are doing and how you are managing the text messages.
  6. Create groups for each class. As hard as we try, first period and fifth period may not be on the same pace and updates may vary.
  7. Send out extra credit questions via text or leak test questions. The goal is interaction, that is more important than a point on a test.
  8. Attach handouts, resources, photos of the agenda or notes taken on the white board. Send out photos of great projects or historical events relevant to the course of study. In my class I send out video tutorials the kids can use on projects.
  9. Be aware of times. With high school kids, I target fifteen minutes before school, when the bell rings at the start of lunch, when the bell rings at the end of the school day or between 7-8 at night. I know that is when kids will have eyes on their phones and I will get the most interaction with my text. If you are middle school, I would target before school or after school. If you are grade school or below, find out when your parents are most receptive to getting info for your class.
  10. Sync your Remind account to Twitter. Now, you can group text and update Twitter with one push of the button.

Get started using Remind with one of your classes today. What are some ideas you have for using Remind in your class?

Oversimplifying Tech

12 Aug

There is a landslide of comments online on the various social media networks proclaiming, “Let kids use their phones.” It makes sense, there is more computing power in the current smart phones than there was on the space shuttle that landed on the moon in 1969. However, when I hear this phrase thrown around, I feel as if people have this mental image of a technological Moses descending upon their school with tablets and smart phones where he will utter the prophetic words, “Principal, let my students learn.” And in that one moment a pantheon of learning will take place unparalleled in the history of the world. We will enter a new renaissance which will foster in an age of discovery and advancement through mobile learning. I wish this was true. We give kids a lot of credit for being tech savvy – and we should – as they have not known any other way to live than with phones and computers. We should not get carried away in this “let them use tech they have” mentality because without training and good instruction, the technology will quickly run away on us and there will not be much teaching and learning going on in schools.

Looking at the recent history of social media, starting with MySpace, the internet was about creating a life you wish you had. Notice in the beginning it was about the number of friends kids had – even if you didn’t speak the same language – and the running gag was that everyone was Tom’s friend. Don’t have many friends in life, you can have 5000 online right now. Play a game, build up a farm or mafia. What, you got an A on your test, well my farm is bigger than yours and my mafia robbed you last night while you were studying, take that. Social media was about creating what you thought your life could be and then showing it off.

When Facebook came around, it was more about making connections. I went to a party or was at a bar, met this person I liked, when home and looked them up, “Hey, remember me, we met last night, let’s hang out.” Now, there was an evolution as Facebook, when it started, was more about connecting with people you already knew or had just met. Now, social media was about enhancing your already functioning life. Did you get a phone number? No worries, I’m sure he/she is on Facebook.

Phones have made this extended reality even more inviting. Currently, about ninety-six percent of college students on Facebook, it’s no surprise that most young people spend their time on the site. Email is no longer the primary way to communicate digitally. With a group of friends, about sixty percent of teens are more interested in the virtual friendships they have online then they are with the friendships of those sitting next to them. The phone has made it easier to be connected to more people at once. Remember that iconic scene from Bye Bye Birdie, right after Ann Margaret gets pinned in the bus (a while new meaning with today’s youth) and the whole teenage population is buzzing with excitement over the phone lines to learn the news and talk about it. Our kids are like that now, only with more typing than talking.

Talk to most safety experts, increased phone use leads to more communication between kids on campus over fights, between gangs (if you serve that population), drug sales in the bathroom and more instances of cyber bullying on campus. A few years back teacher-bating was a sport, where kids will try to make a teacher so mad they would blow-up, the kids could record it and then post to the web. These events and others are a direct result of having absolutely no plan on our campus to handle phones other than, “The handbook says they should be off, so I will take it if I see it. But since it’s off I don’t have to worry about it.”

This has been the plan for years, phones are a distraction so turn them off, end of story. The problem is that we are fighting a higher power. Parents buy phones for their kids so that they – the parents – can get a hold of Johnny or Suzy whenever he/she wants. Looking for proof, how many times has a student bypassed the office and met a car in the parking lot – usually mom – with lunch or a change of clothes for PE, between classes or at lunch? Sound like a safety concern, it is, but remember, en loco parentis may be true, the parent still out ranks you.

Then there is the friends, so many friends: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Kik, texting and the list goes on. There are so many ways for kids to stay connected that they want to, all the time, “I just had this idea, we must talk about it now!” In fact, kids spend so much time connected they don’t know how to turn it off. A 2007 study by the New York Times found that their employees who stopped what they were doing to answer an email or take a call spent, on average, about 15 minutes getting back on task. For many of our students this is all day.

While our students may spend all day online, many of our staff members do not. Some may or may not have Facebook, almost none of them Tweet and very few if any text unless they have kids or are under forty. In any workshop I do, there is always one comment, “go slow on this Twitter thing, I don’t even know what a tweet is and I’m not sure if I get it.” So now we have a staff that is unprepared to handle the tech demands of students who are so far ahead we can’t tell if the kids are texting or learning.

A little over a year ago I did a lesson with my students – focusing on my AP students. Embedded in the lesson was a QR code that would pop up at random times. Finally, a student asked what those boxes were. I explained, “That’s a QR code.” Out of sixty students only one knew what that meant. Many studies suggest that only about thirty-five percent of the population know what those QR codes even are when they see them. As with anything in school, kids need to be trained. Staff needs to be trained, and there needs to be systems and procedures in place to monitor and control the learning taking place in the classrooms.

As it is now, only about one in three students even knows how to use social networks for educational purposes.

One of the age-old arguments in education and technology is supplementation vs integration, it’s been around for a long time. The second argument is equal access which has been around a little bit longer. Sure, kids have phones, but how many students have smart phones? Most studies show fifty percent, but how many have smart phones on your campus? How many of your staff members have smart phones? What apps do your students and staff have on their phones? Do they know how to use them? I use Evernote to take notes in my class, before I made my students use it most of them didn’t know they could take notes on their phones or iTouch devices.

If we want kids to start using their phones we have to show them how. We need to have conversations about what is right and what is wrong to post online as well as conversations about when we can use our phones for personal time and when we need to be professional. Tell your kids to turn off their phones – and not just put them on silent – and when to turn them back on. We cannot assume they know anything. Show your students how to take notes, send a professional text to a boss – like yourself – and to use Twitter to gain insight into careers and research he/she may be interested in pursuing. We need to teach our students the value of a personal conversation and how the conversations we have online are direct extensions and enhancements of the ones we have in person.

I am a huge proponent of cell phones in the classroom and technology integration. I preach this constantly at staff developments, leadership trainings and anywhere else the conversation is taking place. Still, I hope people know it’s not as easy as “Just let them use their phones.” If technology use is not part of your classroom procedures then cell phones and BYOD (bring your own device) may not be for you. We have this fear of liability and students accessing sites they should not be on at all let alone at school – but kids are doing that anyway on their phones with 4G. That’s why we need AUP’s that state it is the student’s fault for accessing sites and not the gatekeeper who does not have much control any more.

Have these conversations with your students, have them with staff and have them with your parents. Having a smart phone does not make one smart, but utilizing a smart phone to gain access to information, produce content, track notes and collaborate just might make one a little more intelligent and successful.

Google Voice Again

7 Jan

I started texting for the same reason most guys do anything, I met a girl. After a date one night I got a text the next day saying she had a nice time and enjoy our evening out. I texted back, warily, because I knew this exchange was costing me about thirty cents as I did not have a text plan. Five hundred texts later, I knew it was time to look into a texting plan. Continue reading

Cell Phone Karma, It’s Real

4 Jan

About two years ago, right after my daughter was born, my wife and I managed to escape for a night to a movie, our first one in months. As the previews started I noticed the faint glow of Facebook on a smart phone beneath us. I ignored it at first, but it was distracting in the dark theater. When someone behind us yelled, “turn it off!” I decided to do the same and asked them to turn of the phone. About ten minutes later after the previews, the phone was on again back to Facebook. I had to ask again, got a rude reply, but did not see the phone till after the film. Constantly in social settings more and more people are oblivious to acceptable social norms when it comes to technology. Schools are not addressing the issue as many districts ban the use of phones due to fear of liability. The downside are students who enter the world with covert cell phone skills as they text like ninjas all the while oblivious to the information they have access to through their phones. Additionally, these same students are ill prepared to take jobs at corporations who expect them to be able to use the resources available to problem solve, communicate as to use professionally.

Keep in mind, that we are not only fighting the kids but the kids’ parents: the ones who bought the phones, pay for the phones, expect their kids to answer anytime they call the phones, and any other number of reasons parents want their kids to have a phone. Think about how many times you have students who go to the parking lot to meet a parent during lunch or between classes? Or, a student comes up during class and says, “My mom is here can I go to the office?” even if you have not gotten a call or note from the office stating that someone is here for the student. If you were to ask them, “how do you know your parent is here,” the answer usually revolves around a text. I was getting tired of this behavior, so I knew it was time for a little professional development with cell phones and my students.

My first lesson was when students could have their phones on and off. So, I would ask kids to take out their phones, and done one of two things depending on the lesson:

1. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned off right now as we won’t be using them for a bit. Once your phone is off please put it on the left hand side of your desk so I know you are ready.

2. Everyone please take out your cell phone, make sure it is turned on, and when you are ready please place your phone on the left hand side of your desk.

The left hand side is key as most students are right handed. The motion of reaching across a desk for a phone will be awkward and noticeable, plus it was a visual cue for me to know when kids had their phones and were ready. If students felt more comfortable putting their phones in their bags while they were off, that was fine. However, if the phones were out or not where I expected them to be, the phones were mine.

In the early days I did not do much: some texting, a few surveys, definitely Twitter (fast follow is one of the best inventions ever) which I will touch on later.

One of the most common questions I get is access. When I started this, over half my students had phones, about half could text during school. So, for certain projects students partner up or work in groups. Over time, I have more students with smart phones or the ability to text so that number has gone down over the past two years. As early as 2008 Nielsen reported that over 70% of students had a phone while over 80% had access to a phone. That number has risen significantly.

Smart phones are a game changer. Where I had one or two kids with smart phones I now have over half my class with smart phones. Now, I can have the students do research, look up films, find articles or do basic research as necessary. Some studies I have read estimate that as of December of 2011, over half of all phones that students use are smart phones.

As tech savvy as we think students are, they are not as good at technology as we give most of them credit for. Students are only as good as their needs, and most of their needs occur on Facebook. Basic skills such as searching, analyzing, filtering content, or even recognizing marketing trends are deficient. Much like the old musical number from Bye Bye Birdie – it’s not the phone lines that are tied up but how many text messages one person can send in a minute.

As for AUP’s, I will include one I got from Ron Ippolito – a fellow teacher with an amazing blog – who is doing some great work with phones and other items: AUP Policy. After researching all over, the basics are this: you can have it, you may use it with teacher permission, it’s a privilege to use your phone at school, we are not responsible if your phone is lost or stolen. Keep in mind, phones are a part of the curriculum, they are not the only way to complete the curriculum, therefore phones enhance the learning process but are note required for the learning process.

In the end, my students enjoy have greater access to me via their phones either through texting or through Twitter. I’ve noticed that the level of understanding, respect and responsibility with technology has gone up immensely while the lessons I am able to figure out from basic social skills to applicable career skills is astounding.