Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pros and Cons of Using Text Messages for School Announcements

Yesterday, I published a post about the pros and cons of using social media for distributing school announcements. Today, let's take a look at the pros and cons for using text message services to distribute class and school announcements.

The services you might use for sending messages:
For this post I'm going to include not only services that send SMS but also services that simply allow push notifications/reminders on students' and parents' mobile devices. Some of the most popular services for sending SMS and push notifications to students and parents include Remind, ClassDojo Messenger, Google Voice, Class Messenger,, and WhatsDue.

Pros of using text messages for announcements:
  1. Immediate broadcast of messages to large groups of students and parents. Some of these services will let to schedule broadcasting of messages too. 
  2. People have a very hard time resisting opening text messages immediately whereas email is easy to ignore for hours or days. Don't believe me, the next time you receive a text message try to ignore it for one hour. 
  3. Even households that don't have laptops, desktops, or home wireless are likely to at least one person that has a mobile phone to receive text message alerts. The Cellular Telephone Industries Association claims wireless penetration in the U.S. is 104%
  4. You can attach files to your messages to enhance and or explain the larger context of your message. 
Cons of using text messages for announcements:
  1. You have to get parents and students to opt-in to receive messages. 
  2. While great for short announcements like, "school is cancelled due to snow" or "remember your field trip permission slip" text messages are not great for announcements that require explanations. 
  3. Depending upon the service you choose, you may find yourself receiving a lot of replies that should be handled by phone call or in-person conversation. 
  4. Despite the CTIA statistic above, some students and parents won't have reliable access to a mobile device that receives text messages. This is particularly true in communities in which pay-as-you go mobile plans are prevalent. 
In response to my post about using social media for school announcement Jonathan Rochelle brought up a good point about asking students to use social media while at the same time asking them not to use it all the time, like during your class. This same issue applies to text messaging. Whether you use social media or text messaging for classroom and school announcements it's important to communicate to students when it is and isn't appropriate to be using their mobile devices.

As you venture down the road to using social media and text messaging with students it's also important to clearly communicate to parents why you're using these methods to broadcast school information. Think about drafting a letter to parents in which you explain why and how you're using social media and text messaging for communication. Feel free to use some of my pros bullet points as a starting place for that letter.