- Logistical/Announcements Texting: This is the most common use of text alerts. Most teachers who choose to use this, use the alerts to announce or remind about homework, permission forms or upcoming class activities. It is usually one-way from the teacher to the student or teacher to the parent.
- Project-based Texting: This is a more powerful use of text alerts, where teachers would use the alert system as a way for students to produce or participate in a classroom project. For example, an English teacher might ask her/his students to text in their original poem for an assignment along with a visual image of what inspired the poem. Or a social studies teacher might create a virtual debate or salon where the students can text back and forth in the voice of a historical character for homework.
- Small Group Texting: Teachers can put students into groups based on reading levels, interests, or mathematic levels and then send specific messages to those groups based on the topic. In addition, teachers could open up the groups (two-way texting) so that they could text back and forth with each other to collaborate, brainstorm, or even create virtual book clubs!
- Tutor Texting: Teachers can send out one-way text alerts to help with common questions on homework. They can send out helpful links to parents (especially for elementary school parents). In addition, teachers can assign an older student (for example a 7th grader) to send out tutoring help to 2nd graders. It could be set up as a texting tutoring line (two-way-private), where students could text in when they need help and an older student or volunteer adult could text back helpful hints, tips or links.
- Text Pals: Teachers can pair their students up with other students in a similar grade/classroom from another state or county. By using the two-way-private text alerts the students can begin to learn from each other as pen pals. Of course the teacher will be on the two-way alert so they can moderate the conversation!
- Field Trip Activities: Teachers use text alerts to keep track of students as well as to keep them ON TRACK during field trips. They can send out a two-way text alert during the field trip with an activity and ask the students to text back their work (such as sending in an interesting fact or image).
- Quick Assessments: Teachers can use the two-way-private alerts to send out quick surveys, polls or quizzes to better understand how much each students knows on a topic. The responses would come back only to the teacher in their private texting file online (depending on the tool selected below). The teacher would then have an archive over time of the quick assessments that they could use to personal learning.
- Personalizing In-Class Learning: Teachers could send out private messages or alerts to specific groups to help scaffold their learning during a class assignment. For example they could send a student who has finished a class activity quickly to respond back with a summary of how they were able to solve the mathematics problem so quickly and the reasoning that they may have used.
Best tools for creating text alerts:
Below is a list of some of the best tools on the web that allow teachers to create text alerts. Fortunately there are many great tools for any budget!
Free tools (100% free)
Remind: Allows only one-way text alerts. Can easily add students/parents and class lists. Remind allows teachers to schedule text messages in advance (this works great for putting in weekly homework). In addition, messages can also be tweeted and you can send attachments with the messages. This is a great tool if you just want to use text alerts for classroom announcements and management.
Cel.ly: The most versatile by far! Allows for one-way, two-way-private, and two-way-open. You can also participate via cell phone or web. Also, messages can be moderated before being sent back out to the group. Cel.ly also allows for polls and surveys to be sent out to students. If a teacher is a little more creative they can send out the surveys as quizzes. This is a wonderful tools for text alert projects, field trip activities and text pals!
Joopz: Joopz allows for one-way and two-way open messaging service. Joopz is a very easy and clean way to do group messaging. It is easy to toggle between different classes or groups that you have set up for different alerts. Teachers can schedule messages to be sent and all messages are archived. The two-way messaging can be nice for a group discussion or virtual salon.
My Homework Now: MyHomeworkNow does one-way text alerts. This one is not as easy to get started with but once set up is very easy. Your school must contact MyHomeworkNow to set up a free account. Once that is done, then teachers can individually create their own account to send text alerts. It does integrate announcements so they can be sent via text, social media and email at once! This is a nice tool for one-way announcements and information dissemination only.
Premium tools (a free and for cost version)
Pulse.to: This service allows for one-way and two-way open messaging service. It does not have a private two-way service. You get 25 free texts to begin and then you need to pay about $5 for 100 more. You only pay if you need more credits (thus no monthly charges!). One aspect that I do really like is that Pulse.to allows for texting to other countries as part of their text alerts! This is a very nice feature if you are doing text pals!
Swaggle: This service allows for two-way open group messaging. It is free for 10 messages a month and then a cost of $7 per month. This is a very basic group messaging service but could be helpful for small text group book clubs or group projects.
ClassPager: ClassPager allows for one-way and two-way open messaging service. You can have one class for free and then any additional classes you must pay about $10 to $20 a month depending on the number of students. This service does a nice job allowing teachers to use the alerts for both announcements (one-way) and two-way feedback. They will even put the feedback into a chart or graph as it comes in. For example if a teachers would like the students to vote on something, then the teacher can email out the voting ballot and students can text back in their votes (which will show up in a graph or piechart!).
Kikutext: Kikutext has been around for a while and is available for one-way, two-way open and two-way private messages. The free version is fairly robust. It allows 2 classes with unlimited students and up to 60 messages a month. You can schedule text alerts, you can directly reply to an individual private message (and they can respond back to you). In addition they have a template system where you can send "stock" messages to students for good or poor behavior. This is very similar to Cel.ly.
SMS Matrix: SMS Matrix is a one-way communication tool that is not created for schools but can be very useful for school systems. The tool allows you to send a variety of types of messages included SMS to a large group. Thus you can also send voice messages, email, text to speech and speech to text messages to a large group. This is handy when needing communication tools that are more accessible than a simple text message. The free version allows for all forms of communication except the text to voice messaging (and you only get 5 messages a month for free!). This is a nice tool for the occasional one-way communication.
For cost tools (for cost only)
There are some nice for-cost tools out there. All of them have a free trial. Some schools or teachers might be looking for something a bit more robust thus I would recommend looking into the following three tools for those particular schools.