Nothing gets a kid more excited than when you tell them you will be using their cell phones in class. Talk about instant interest! AS IF you are actually going to let them text and “get away” with it!
I tried this experiment today with my 8th grade classes. We talked about Wiffiti, a dynamic bulletin board that is sort of like Wallwisher on steroids. It provides a place where a person can create a “board” with a specific address to text to. It looks like this:
Students can contribute to the board in one of three ways. They can text to the number at the top of the screen. They can send a “tweet” from their twitter account. Or, they can go to wiffiti.com and search for a discreet tag you have put to identify your board. Because they come up anonymously (unless they have a twitter or wiffiti account), a discussion needs to be had about responsible use.
Give your wifitti board an unusual tag. This will make it easier for your kids to find it (it will be the only one with this tag if you do it right) and will make it difficult for others to access without your knowledge. You may end up with a sabotaged board if you make the tag broad or vague.
Results post in quickly from texts, and a bit more slowly from twitter messages. I see a bunch of ways to use this in class:
- 1 minute math problems
- brainstorming activities
- “backchannel” chat for questions during presentations/lectures
- observations during explorations- field trips, science experiments
Some other thoughts and suggestions:
- Using this technology requires students to learn some self control and focus. I wouldn’t use it as a class long project- the posts tended to get off topic once an initial post was made.
- Set clear expectations for the content of texts ahead of time
- Understand the developmental level of your students- most middle school and high school students will not be able to ignore incoming texts during this time. How will you handle this?
- Be careful not to shut off developing conversations. As my sample board went on, students started asking questions of each other. Although it did draw some other students off task and into “silly-texting,” the value of the conversation outweighed the offtask behavior.