More Good Than Bad in Texting In and Out of the Classroom

Even as a big fan of technology and someone who thinks that it’s only going to get bigger, I was still skeptical when I read about texting being used in the classroom. While I think that it is a good way to get students to communicate, it’s a little different when lessons are being taught via text messages. In Teaching by Texting Starts to Take Hold one study shows that utilizing texts to teach significantly improved students’ test scores. Though at this point it only seems to be just that—one study.

The positive is that some teachers are realizing that the technology students are using anyway can be used to help them learn. Trying to get students to stop using their phones is fighting a losing battle, phones and texting are just too prevalent in today’s society and it’s only going to grow in popularity. So telling a student to turn their phones off in class might work—but never in any school I’ve seen or heard of. It only took a few years for my high school to alter its policy on cell phones from not being allowed at all to not being allowed out during school hours.

But to allow students to have, and use cell phones in lessons will not only help them learn, it will reduce the time they have for texting their friends about less important matters.

There are also some negatives to this however; the picture that accompanies Texting Starts to Take Hold shows a table of students, most paying more attention to their phones than the person in the seat next to them. While the technology can be used for good, we cannot allow it to become so prevalent that we use it rather than talk to the person beside us. The quality of face to face communication can never be replaced.

Regardless of whether or not phones and texting are used in the classroom, the connection from student to student, and especially student to teacher outside the classroom is invaluable. For years, the only way to get some one-on-one time with a teacher was to get to school early or stay late, assuming both of your schedules aligned and you didn’t ride the bus. But given the ability to text your teacher makes it extremely easy.

Again, there is no substitution for face to face communication (if you can Skype, go for it!) but the ability to ask a quick question like, “Is 42 the correct answer to question eight of our homework?” is a good thing. It’ll take the teacher four seconds to say, “No, check your signs” or “Yes. Good job!” and the student is that much more confident going to class the next day.

Texting Starts to Take Hold brings up the point that “once a teacher texts a student, the student then has the teacher’s cell phone number.” This could raise a few eyebrows; everyone has heard stories of inappropriate teacher-student relationships through texting and social networking sites. Please don’t blame the poor choices of these people on the vehicle. Texting Starts to Take Hold cites a case where it is working—a case which will be in the majority if this trend continues.

Just because the students and teachers have the potential for more communication doesn’t mean parents need to be involved less—to the contrary—allowing parents to receive texts from teachers as well will help them to be more involved in their child’s schooling. When I was in elementary school, parents were sometimes required to sign off that their child had accomplished their homework for the night, obviously that didn’t work for every assignment, kids will always find a way out. But perhaps a random check of “Did Billy do his math problems yet?” showing up on parent’s phones might make that more difficult. It’s difficult for a student to explain their way out of a situation when their teacher is just a text or a click of the mouse away.

Originally published on May 4, 2010.

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