Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Texting in the Classroom

I almost titled this post "Can we do more of this tomorrow?" More on that later.

Texting in the Classroom? Crazy? Out-of-line? Not in my classroom? Ban cell phones?

Let's take a step back. How do our middle school and high school kids communicate when they are outside of school? How many news stories have you heard about parents having to bail out their kids who run up huge texting bills? Yep, these two questions go hand-in-hand.

Now, on to texting in the classroom. A few weeks ago, I was given a set of Promethean's Activotes. Basically, these are handheld student response "clickers." Each student gets a clicker, I post a question on the board and click start. Then each student votes. The questions have to be multiple choice, true or false or anything that they can push A, B, C, D, E, or F. Good idea, but limited.

Yesterday, I was given a set of Promethean's Activexpressions. Same idea but so much better. These have a cell phone-like keypad that allows all types of answers. They can text in up to 120 characters for an answer.

Today, I used these at the end of the hour to have students submit an exit slip on what they learned during the hour. It the quietest 5 minutes of classtime in my 7 years of education. Everyone was engaged, everyone was doing the task, everyone submitted an answer.

One of my students stated, "Can we do more of this tomorrow?" How often do you hear that from a middle school student? That might just be the biggest indicator of the effectiveness of this type of student response system. I can't wait to use these more and really see the impact of student engagement, learning and achievement.

I'm a long way from endorsing cell phones in the classroom. I haven't actually made a decision on that subject yet. However, a device that allows students to use the skills they have to answer the questions they need to learn, well, that just seems to make perfect sense in my head.

*Pictures courtesy Promethean World, http://www.prometheanworld.com.

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