There are times when you need to contact students quickly with an update. Perhaps the weather’s ambiguous. Perhaps you’ve just remembered that the class would be double-plus good if everyone brought book C as well as book B. Perhaps you’re sick, or your kid is, or your dogwalker. Maybe a student who’s come to you for advising is having a genuine crisis and you need to stay with them until they get help from someone appropriate. Things happen–and, for many students, the best way for them to receive such urgent information is via a text message on their phone.
For any of the services below, remember that you will definitely need students’ permission to text, because it might cost them money. Remember also to keep group text messages to high-priority messages only–you’re not coordinating a mass outing, just sending a blast announcement about class.
- Swaggle.mobi Swaggle is free, lets you send text messages easily to groups, and has both web and phone interfaces. Swaggle groups can be private, and can be set to broadcast-only, to avoid the dreaded ‘reply-to-all’ problem. It looks as if they’re limiting groups to 60, but for most people that shouldn’t be a problem.
- You can usually do this from chat: Gmail has a “Labs” (read: experimental, still not-quite-beta) feature that will let you send SMS messages through the chat interface to any US cellphone. Yahoo has a similar capacity, as does AIM.
- You can also do it via e-mail. If you know the phone number and carrier of your students, then you can just send ‘em an SMS message via your preferred e-mail client.
- Twitter. Set up a Twitter account for your class, and instruct your students to set “device notifications” to ON. You can then update the Twitter account from any client that you like, and your students will receive a text message. This is pretty handy, but because it requires students to possibly sign up for a new account *and* to remember to turn on device notifications, it complexifies the process a bit.
- Facebook. If you have a Facebook page for your course, then your students can sign up to receive its updates as text messages. As with Twitter, students who aren’t already on Facebook will need to get an account . . . and, of course, you would have to be on Facebook. Ew.
Of these, Swaggle seems the easiest to manage, although none of them are truly difficult. If nothing less than voice updates will do, you might give Phonevite.com a whirl. I’ve used it to contact parents for the past several seasons of soccer and baseball, and it has shaved hours off my prep time for coaching.
Do you send your students text messages? Got a better solution? Let us know in comments.
Image by flickr user kate_at_yr_own_risk / CC licensed