Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Updated Cell Phone Agreement--Celly Friendly and Safe for Educators

Updating the cell phone agreement for nonteaching school personnel as found on page 122 of "Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning" is a joy due to the use of Celly.  When using Celly there is no exchange of personal phone numbers.  All of the texts go through the Celly site and are documented, which adds a further safety net for educators concerned about texting with students.  With Celly students text to Celly at 23559 with the Cell name of the group.  For example an educator might use different names for different classes i.e. @English101 or @biology1sthour.  The students and/or parents then text the Celly number with that group name and are part of the Cell.  They are asked to choose a name, which educators can instruct how they want that to appear.  I usually use first and last name as one word or last name, first name as one word. Now the educator can text the entire group or click on a student for an individual message.  For much more detailed instructions and explanations of all the great features go to http://cel.ly.  The updated agreement follows:

Teaching Generation Text:
Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning

Cell Phone Agreement for Nonteaching School Personnel
for Group Texting via the Celly service.
(Note that this is a sample agreement only.  You will want to create you own based on your individual school and state policies).

     We will NOT be exchanging personal cell phones numbers.  All texting will be done through the Celly service.

     Sending and receiving text messages is for school purposes only.  All content must be applicable to the school based adult-student relationship.

     Messages can be sent-received from {indicate time if applicable}

     There is no guarantee that messages will be read in a timely manner.

     The group communication service is optional.  If you do not have a cell phone or your service is discontinued, the required information will be provided by other means (email, phone call, written note).

     All messages will be documented on the Celly site and are subject to the exceptions to confidentiality in regard to your safety.  I have a duty to protect and will share (with the appropriate agency/authority) messages that indicate possible harm to self or others, abuse or neglect, or in any way indicate an unsafe situation.

     Inappropriate messages will be cause for disciplinary action.

     The group cell code may not be shared with others unless permission to share is requested and is given by the administrator of the cell. 

     Basic texting is all that is required.  It is the responsibility of the cell phone owner to monitor all cell phone costs and pay all applicable charges. 

By joining the cell phone group, I agree to follow the above rules.

_______________________________________            _____________
Student name                                                                    Date

_______________________________________            _____________
Staff name                                                                         Date

By allowing my son or daughter and myself to communicate with the school staff via cell phone, I agree to the above rules.

_______________________________________            _____________
Parent or guardian                                                            Date

Celly service  Number: 23559
Group Cell Code: @webbgroup (example)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions about Using Cell Phones for Learning

As Lisa and I speak to audiences around the globe and do interviews regarding our use of cell phones for learning, we often get the following questions.

What about students who do not have cell phones?
The digital divide exists whether or not we allow students to bring the devices they own to school. It is illogical to prohibit those students who have devices from using them in a desire to achieve a sense of equity rather than to provide devices for those who need them. When we allow all students to bring their cell phones and other devices, the students without will have even greater access to school-owned technology since they are no longer competing for access. Students can also be encouraged to share, borrow, or use the phone a family or friends. Since phones these days can be acquired at little or even no cost, schools could hold “donate your device” days and partner with a service provider to offer steep discounts to families in need.

If we allow cell phones in school, how do we keep them from being a distraction?
Teachers across the globe are empowering students with the freedom to learn with their own devices. These teachers are finding that with the right strategies and building blocks in place, learners are much more engaged in connected classrooms. Building blocks include working with students to determine responsible use policies, permissions, holding one another accountable for inappropriate use, and having clear consequences in place. Teachers who collaborate with students and develop effective policies and procedures report a dramatic decrease in cell phone discipline and behavior issues. Samples of such policies and procedures can be found in Teaching Generation Text. When teachers incorporate the use of cell phones into learning, students appreciate that their teachers are trusting them and empowering them to learn with the tools of their world. As students discover how to learn with their devices, they are able to extend their learning beyond the school day and continue participating in online discussions and collaborative activities for academic purposes. This advantage encourages them to become more self-directed, motivated, and reflective about their learning, anytime, anywhere.

What are some ways that cell phones can be used in a lesson?
Cell phone technologies support and enhance research-based teaching and learning strategies. An entire chapter of Teaching Generation Text shares how this can be done and offers lesson plans as examples. Cell phones provide ways to poll students, create phone casts, use Avatars for oral presentations, encourage note taking, summarizing, brainstorming, and goal setting. They also offer organizational tools and homework help while increasing communication among teachers, students, and parents. Many of the NET Standards are met through the use of cell phones as a free piece of student owned and loved technology.

Could I use cell phones to support my students’ learning even in my school where they are banned?
The first four steps in the Teaching Generation Text “Five Step Plan to Harnessing the Power of Cell Phones” involve using the devices outside of school. Cell phones support educators as professionals in our own learning and communication with colleagues, they are a valuable tool in strengthening the home-school connection with parents, and they support students in homework efforts, often taking the learning from class into their lives in a powerful way by extending collaboration, offering expert help, and making lessons doable on the go.

How do I protect my privacy if I text with students?
By setting the stage with the establishment of acceptable use policies, establishing clear boundaries, using the tools of group texting sites, and having permission forms signed, you are in a position to avoid risk and enjoy enhanced learning. Teaching Generation Text provides samples of these policies and forms as well as a workshop for staff, parents, and students for addressing boundaries, privacy, and safety which not only creates an environment for success with cell phones, but also teaches valuable life lessons for cell phone etiquette and good decision making.

Won’t students use them to cheat?
Students who are hiding their phones in a school where they are banned may use them to cheat, however, in a school where cell phones are used for learning, they will be appropriately managed. That said, there is a growing belief by educators that what we called cheating in the industrial age, we call collaboration today. If a student can access information on their phone, why should we create an artificial environment where they can’t? For those times where using cell phones would be inappropriate, putting in place the proper classroom management tools found in Teaching Generation Text solves the problem of potential inappropriate use with fair and agreed upon consequences. By embracing cell phones for learning, the cat and mouse game ceases to exist, discipline is no longer necessary, and students are well-equipped to learn in effective and appropriate ways.

Who has cell phones?
  • According to the Center on Media and Child Health, 22 percent of young children own a cell phone (ages 6-9), 60 percent of tweens (ages 10-14), and 84 percent of teens (ages 15-18. And cell phone companies are now marketing to younger children with colorful kid-friendly phones and easy-to-use features.
  • According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project’s February 2010 study, Teens and Social Media, 74% of American teens have a high-speed Internet connected computer at home, but 93% of American teens say they go online. That same report states that 41% of teens whose family income is less than 30K, go online using their phones. That number drops to the twenty percent range for higher income brackets. Clearly, students are bridging the connectivity divide with portable devices like cell phones and MP3 players.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Get Going with the New Wiffiti!

Last week Wiffiti seemed to have gone wild (see email below).  We (Lisa Nielsen/Willyn Webb) were panicked that we would no longer be able to use a great cell phone tool.  Having students (and staff) text into Wiffiti boards has made many classes and meetings more fun, more productive, and enhanced learning.  However, after emailing LocaModa and calming down a little, there are ways that educators can still utilize Wiffiti by having students text in their responses to questions, their ideas during a brainstorm, reflective thoughts, questions, and comments IF they have an email ending in .edu or .k12.*.us.  LocaModa
Thanks for requesting access to wiffiti beta.
We're ready for you to check it out! Please visit http://wiffiti.locamoda.com 

to sign up for a new account*!

So what's new?
  • Simplified user interface - Create a board in fewer steps
  • Twitter photos - Instagram, pic.twitter.com, yFrog, TwitPic, Lockerz and more
  • Footer & Header - Add a simple single line call to action like "My Class" or "tweet #locamoda"
  • Private boards - All boards are private by default -- the owner controls sharing
  • EdTech Version- Verified .edu and k12.*.us accounts gain access to exclusive features
New features will be added on a regular basis and your feedback improves the product road map!
*new account required.

We replied to the announcement email and asked if we could still text into wiffiti boards.  According to Greg Stellato, "Yes! Teachers can still create boards that have text messaging enabled. We are working on a way for teachers that don't have .edu and k12.*.us email addresses to gain access to the EdTech version." 

So for those of you who do not have these types of emails, be patient, share this on the feedback link, and hopefully the EdTech version will be available to you soon.  For those of you with these types of emails, just get a new account and start using Wiffiti again, much as you did before.  

For those of you with these types of emails who are new to Wiffiti, here are some steps to get started and some ideas to enhance your students' learning with Wiffiti.

2.  Sign up for a NEW account even if you've had an account in the past.
3.  Use an email ending in .edu or .k12.*.us that you can then check to verify the account.
4.  Check your email, click on the link, and you are ready to go.

The Create a New Board looks like this:

Here are a couple of ideas for using the EdTech Version of Wiffiti with students starting Today!
  • After sharing information in class (via video, lecture, or reading) have students respond with thoughts, questions, or answer specific questions via text.  Display the results on the screen as the come to class the next day and you've kept the interaction with the material going.  There is no need to regroup or review.  Start with students enjoying the replies from their classmates as they move across the screen and when the bell rings you are ready to go!
  • When asking hard or personal questions use a Wiffiti, the answers are anonymous.  For example, after reading a thought provoking poem or piece of literature, ask reaction questions such as, "What were Horatio's motives?" and allow students to use their phones to text in their answers right there in class.  They will be amazed as the answers show up on the screen.  EVERY student will have a voice and EVERY student's answer will be displayed for all to read.  Even the most shy, self-conscious student will get to share.  The discussion will be enriched and all students will be engaged.
  • Use a weekly Wiffiti for "Shout Outs" to share praises, allow questions, and gain feedback.  On Fridays it is fun to allow students the opportunity to reflect (appropriately) by sharing on a Wiffiti.  This takes no class time as students text in on their own time and the Wiffiti board is show before the bell rings.  This makes good use of down time, offers students a safe way to share, and gives the teacher a way to provide recognition where all can see it without the time it would take to make an announcement, send a letter home, or make a phone call.  
The new Wiffiti is more Twitter friendly and has many new options.  Check it out at  http://wiffiti.locamoda.com/.  

For more on using Wiffiti, check out Teaching Generation Text: Using Cell Phones to Enhance Learning or get your summer professional development (2 semester credit hours) by taking our online class at http://www.coloradomesa.edu/online/gentext.html

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Texting for Literacy!

Cell phones are a terrific tool to support student engagement and achievement in reading and writing. In fact, “Children who are heavy users of mobile phone text abbreviations... are unlikely to be problem spellers and readers, a new study funded by the British Academy has found. The research*, carried out on a sample of 8-12 year olds over an academic year, revealed that levels of “textism” use could even be used to predict reading ability and phonological awareness in each pupil by the end of the year.” (Plester & Wood, 2009). Also, “…a new study from California State University researchers has found that texting can improve teens’ writing in informal essays and many other writing assignments” (Miners, 2009). In this section we’ll explain how teachers doing just that by using cell phones in the way they are most commonly used among youth -- for texting and group texting.
Our students are reading and writing more than ever. In the 21st century, this reading and writing often takes place through the lightening fast thumbs of teens. Although some parents and teachers complain that text messaging is ruining the language, research is showing that it is, in fact, a benefit to students phonemic awareness, spelling, and use of words (Yarmey, 2011; Plester & Wood, 2008, Malson & Tarica, 2011; Fresco, 2005; Dunnewind, 2003; Miners, 2009; McCarroll, 2005; Elder, 2009). When we rethink and revision what is happening when our teens and tweens text, all sorts of learning possibilities emerge.

Ideas for the Classroom
Texting has become the shorthand of the 21st century. When writing first drafts, allow students to draft on their phone or laptop if they choose and use text abbreviations to get their thoughts down. Encouraging the quick, free flow of ideas in a format they prefer can help young writers capture, compile, and create new ideas. These can be translated as they edit and revise resulting in a final draft that is written in standard language.
Translate difficult passages of poetry, classic literature, or even content heavy textbook passages into textese in order to aid students interactions with the material and understanding. The result is great summaries.
Have students use texting to journal or answer each other’s discussion questions. When the audience changes to others then their peers, have them use standard English, which educates about writing for a particular audience.
Text Talk: Biology
"I never see this with hands," is not an uncommon response when teachers see all the text messages received when asking students to text in answers like meanings of words, phrases, concepts, intent, etc. Texting has increased student's confidence and allowed them to participate without embarrassment.

Group Texting
Through the ease and time saving means of group texting, educators can connect with groups of students for many literacy activities such as vocabulary development, questions about assigned readings, polls, or summaries. Tools like Celly (http://cel.ly) provide a code for students to text in and become part of a group, no personal numbers are shared. All texts sent and received are documented on the website. This adds structure and documentation to communicating with students through the reading and writing of text messages.

Ideas for the Classroom
To encourage homework reading, a teacher sends out a critical thinking question to the students in the evening and reads their responses the next day (phone or computer) and records grades.
Put students in cooperative learning groups and have them interact and discuss questions through an open group chat. The teacher then reads the chats within the Celly site. The teacher gets to be a part of every group and every student has a voice.
Have students set up a Celly for themselves and use the @me feature for easily taking notes, writing questions, or making connections while reading at school or on the go.

Text Talk
Teachers know the benefits of cues and questions to activate prior knowledge, in school, however, class time is short. This can leave little time to cue students, ask questions, or discuss prior knowledge. Unfortunately, there is often little to no wait time. With the introduction of free group texting services, this can change. A teacher can group text for a cue or a question before school to morning classes and at lunch to afternoon classes. This can really help students come to class aware of the lesson content and ready to learn more while making learning time as efficient as possible.


Dunnewind, S. (2003, April 29). Generation text: Teens ‘IM lingo evolving into a hybrid language. Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Retrieved from http://community.seattletimes.nwsource.com/archive/?date=20030412&slug=immain12

Elder, J. (2009, October 27). Teachers putting texting to use. Charlotte Observer. Retrieved from www.newsobserver.com/2009/10/27/159701/teachers-putting-texting-to-use.html

Fresco, A. (2005, October 31). Texting teenagers are proving “more literate than ever before.” The Times. Retrieved from www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/education/article584810.ece

Malson, G. & Tarica, E. (2011). Textese gr8 training 4 poets of 2moro. Retrieved from http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/5606638/Textese-gr8-training-4-poets-of-2moro

McCarroll, C. (2005, March 11). Teens ready to prove text-messaging skills can score SAT points. Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from www.csmonitor.com/2005/0311/p01s02-ussc.html

Miners, Z. (2009, October 29). Could texting be good for students? [Web log post] U.S. News. Retrieved from www.usnews.com/blogs/on-education/2009/10/29

Patton, G. (2010). Children 'more likely to own a mobile phone than a book'. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/7763811/Children-more-likely-to-own-a-mobile-phone-than-a-book.html

Plester, B. & Wood, C. (2009). Exploring relationships between traditional and new media literacies: British preteen
texters at school. Retrieved from http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/news.cfm/newsid/14

Yarmey, K. (2011). Student information literacy in the mobile environment. Education Quarterly. Vol 34 No.1. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Quarterly/EDUCAUSEQuarterlyMagazineVolum/StudentInformationLiteracyinth/225860

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Get Students Reading and Writing with The Cell Phone Novel

Not only are people using cell phones to send texts, they’re actually using their phones to write novels! Textnovel is a free, fun way for students to read, write, and revise serial fiction in their basic text enabled cell phones (or computer). With Textnovel you can give students a real audience and the ability to read and write on the go, in class or at home. Students create an online serial story – a novel, journal, poetry, whatever. Textnovel is set up so they can invite classmates, friends, or family to rate, subscribe or write with them. With tools like Textnovel the incentive to write comes from more than just a grade. The site offers cash prizes to winners and publishing opportunities. Keep writing projects going as homework with the updates on stories sent to subscribers by email or text. Readers will enjoy voting for their favorite stories.

This is not just reading or writing via cell phone, but a whole new genre of literature, perfect for Generation Text called the cell phone novel. Cell phone novels offer short chapters full of cliffhangers, dialog, and dramatic plot twists which get students engaged in their reading. Writing cell phone novels challenges students to show narration, poetry and even visual art by choosing line breaks, punctuation, white space, and rhythm.

Educators choosing to use Textnovel will need to become very familiar with the site and the settings where the stories are given movie type ratings. More information on Textnovel can be found in Teaching Generation Text.
  • Lesson ideas
    • Even if cell phones are banned in your school, choose a cell phone novel and have students read it for homework. Choose a G rated story and encourage them to comment.
    • Collectively write a cell phone novel as a class project, or within cooperative learning groups. The social nature of the site will bring students together to create, revise, and develop their stories.
    • Use the Textnovel site for journal writing that will never get lost or destroyed. The entries are online and students are already texting constantly, now they can also journal through texting. They simply send their entries to their journal where the teacher can comment. Updates are sent via text or email. The journaling process can become an ongoing conversation.

  • Text Talk: Classroom Stories
    Krystal Swarovsk - High School
    Like most students, high schooler Krystal Swarovski was never given an opportunity to write for a real audience in school but with
    www.textnovel.com Krystal has a large fan base and was awarded the Text Novel Editor’s Choice award for her story Slices of Pie. Here is an excerpt from Krystal’s bio from the site which provides a glimpse into what contributing to the site has meant for her.

    So, most people on this site put their writing career to date in their about me section, but since i'm in high school, my writing career to date has been a short story (B-), a collection of poems(A+), and many many many informational essays and literary criticisms, grades ranging from C+ to A+. More on the A side though... :) Anyway, point is, the only writing I have ever really done has been for school, with varying degrees of success. However, last year, a good friend of mine (whose pen name here is Anabelle) was telling me all about her story and this fabulous website during study hall, and she convinced me to get an account on textnovel, and that's where I started writing. I have to say I am surprised by the amount of votes my stories have received. I didn't think I would get over 20! ;) So thanks to everyone that's read what I've. :D
For more on TextNovel and other great tools for literacy see http://TeachingGenerationText.com