Saturday, December 29, 2012

7 Ways to Send Group Texts to Parents and Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012. 

People, particularly teenagers, have an almost compulsive reaction to open text messages when their phones beep or buzz. So if you want to quickly deliver an important message to student or parent today, sending a text message is the best way to do it. Managing a list of cell phone numbers can be a daunting task. Here are seven services that educators can use to easily send and manage group text messages.

Class Parrot is a service that enables teachers to send text messages to groups of students and parents. Using Class Parrot teachers send text messages from their computers. Class Parrot keeps the students' and parents' phone numbers private. Here's how Class Parrot works; teachers create a different group messaging program for each class that they teach. Each group that a teacher creates is assigned a unique opt-in code. Teachers give that code to students and parents. Then if a student or parent would like to receive messages from the teacher, they can simply opt-in by texting the opt-in code to Class Parrot.


Class Pager is another service that teachers can use to send group text messages to their students. Using Class Pager teachers can send text messages to their students without either party seeing each other's real cell phone number. To get started using Class Pager, register yourself on the site. Class Pager will then provide you with an enrollment code to share with your students and their parents. When a student or parent sends a text to Class Pager with that code, he/she will be added to your roster. Then when you write a text message it will be sent to everyone who has opted into the service. A couple of fine print things to consider about Class Pager. Class Pager is free for your first class. Additional classes are available for a fee. You should also bear in mind that if your students don't have unlimited incoming text message plans, they could incur charges.

gText is a new service offering free group text messaging. A neat piece of information about gText is that it was developed by a high school student. gText allows you to send text messages to groups that you have created in your gText account. Your texts can be sent from your phone or from your computer. By default gText keeps group members' phone numbers private. Group members who want other group members to see their numbers can allow that. Beyond simple text messaging gText offers options for sharing files (although that could consume a lot of space on a phone), sharing images, and sharing calendars.

Kikutext is a service for keeping parents informed about your classroom and or school through text messages. The service is an opt-in service for parents. When you create a Kikutext account you're assigned an opt-in code to distribute to parents. Parents then send that code in a text message to register to receive messages from you. Kikutext keeps the phone numbers of parents and those of teachers and principals hidden from each other.

SendHub is the latest group text messaging system that I've discovered. To use SendHub give people the opt-in code to join your contact list. Once people opt-in you can put them into a group within your account. Then when you have a message for a group you can send it out to all members of that group without sending the message to your entire contact database.

WeTxt offers free group text messaging. WeTxt works with ten major cellular service providers to offer you the ability to send text messages to large groups at once. In addition to creating and sending initial messages, WeTxt offers an option for sending "reply all" messages. Messages can be sent from your mobile device or from your email account. A mobile calendar helps you keep track of items that you need to send out as text messages.

Remind 101 allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer. Like most of the other services in this list, Remind 101 uses an opt-in system. Students and parents who want to receive messages have to enter a code to sign up to receive messages.

Friday, December 28, 2012

10 Awesome Android Uses and Apps in Education

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

This morning I gave a short presentation on Android apps for education. The slides for that presentation are embedded below.

3 Places to Find Online Children's Audio Books

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

This post is born out of a request for help from someone that I met at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. She was looking for some free online talking storybooks to use in her grade 1 class. I didn't have anything coming to mind right off, so I searched Diigo and my blog archives to find these three places to find and free online talking children's storybooks.

MeeGenius is a nice source of free and paid ebooks for kids. There are lots of sites that offer the same thing as MeeGenius but MeeGenius distinguishes itself with one excellent feature. That feature is automatic word highlighting to accompany the narration of each book. When children open the ebooks online, on an Android tablet, or on an iPad they can choose to have the story read to them or to read the story on their own. When the story is read to them each word in the story is highlighted on the page. This should help children follow along with the story.


The Woodlands Junior School is a school website based in the UK. I've previously featured their site as a good place to find educational games for elementary age students. In my search yesterday, I discovered that they also have a nice collection of links to free online talking storybooks.

Magic Keys is another site with a good collection of talking picture books for children. Magic Keys seemed a bit tricky to navigate at first so I would recommend that you use it to find storybooks for your students rather than sending your students to the site on their own.

I know there are a lot of good iPad and Android apps for talking storybooks, but web-based versions are a little more elusive. If you have a site that should be added to this list, please leave a comment.

Use the Three Ring App to Digitize Your Students' Work

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Three Ring is a new free service offering free Android and iPhone apps for digitizing and organizing student work. Using the app teachers can take a picture of a student's work and upload it to a free Three Ring account. Three Ring offers teachers a lot of organizational flexibility. You could organize artifacts by student name, class, date, or just about any other tagging system that works for you.

A short video overview of Three Ring is embedded below.

Applications for Education
Three Ring could be a great way to collect hand-written work without actually collecting pieces of paper. Just go around the room snapping images of your students' work. You can add notes to each image before and after the upload so it is possible to grade work using the notes field next to each image.

H/T to Audrey Watters

5 Ways You Can Use Wikis With Students

This week I'm taking a few days off to ski, play with my dogs, visit with friends and family, and generally recharge my batteries. If you're on vacation this week too, I hope that you're having a great vacation. While I'm away I'm rerunning the most popular posts of the year. The selections are based on pageviews during 2012.

Today I had the privilege to participate in Discovery's Beyond the Textbook forum. One of my take-aways from the day's conversation is that most of the technologies that we want to use to make textbooks interactive and meaningful for students already exist, we just need to organize and utilize them in a way that makes sense for teachers and students. I've combined that take-away with a recent request from a reader to delineate some ways that teachers can use Wikispaces to create this list of ideas for using wikis in classrooms. Please feel free to add your suggestions, with links if possible, in the comments below (please note, I'll be on planes for the next 18 hours so there will be a delay between your comment submission and its appearance on the blog).

1. As a digital portfolio of student-created videos.

2. As a place for students to share notes on each unit of study in your courses.

3. As an alternative to textbooks. Work with colleagues in your school or department to create a multimedia reference site for your students. Include YouTube videos that use the "choose your own adventure" model to allow students to pursue areas of interest.

4. As an alternative to textbooks. Have students create reference pages for units of study in your course. When you do this students become responsible to each other for creating accurate and meaningful content that they can refer to when it comes time for assessment. For example, when I get to the 1920's in my US History curriculum I have each student create a page on a wiki about a theme from that decade. Some of the themes that the students cover are fashion, entertainment, and sports. I mentioned this briefly on a podcast that will be published soon by Steve Dembo and Dean Shareski.

5. As a place to track, document, and manage on-going community projects. In my district every student is required to complete a community service project before graduation. As a homeroom or "common block" advisor teachers are supposed to help their students take the necessary steps to document that work. By creating a homeroom wiki you create a place where students can make weekly updates about what they have done to complete their projects.

How are you using wikis in your classroom? Please leave a comment below. 

If you're not quite sure what a wiki is or what makes it different from a traditional website or blog, watch Wikis in Plain English from Common Craft.