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Texting students: Help or hindrance?

 Teachers, if you’re serious about communicating with your students, forget about making announcements in class. Don’t bother with assignment sheets or reminders on the board. Posts on your class website won’t work, either, and neither will updates on a Facebook group. And whatever you do, if you really want to talk to your students, please don’t call them on the phone.

You have two choices: talk to them in person or text them. That’s it.

This year, I noticed that I needed to maximize my students’ time outside of class. We had excellent classes, filled with deep thought and discussion, but the bulk of the work — like in many college-prep courses — came after school.

When I noticed in October that many of my students had stopped doing their homework every night, I started mass texting them.

It was simple. Google Voice made it free. SmashText made it easy.

It worked. At first, my mass texting was infrequent — only when I’d forgotten to say something important, or right before a major deadline, just to make sure I’d get 100 percent turn-in. But then I got a little text happy, and before long, I was texting my students (at least) once a day.

After a while, I wondered if I was annoying my students with all of my texts. It turns out, I wasn’t. Apparently, my once-a-day texting habit did not faze them.

My end-of-year evaluation confirmed it. Here are the results:

  • Did you find my texts helpful? – 100% yes, 0% no
  • Did my texts cause you to do homework more often? – 85% yes, 15% no.
  • Should I reduce the number of texts I send? 30% yes, 70% no.

So maybe I could stand to limit my texting a bit, but otherwise, this poll was overwhelmingly positive. Even though I appreciated the positive results, they led me to another question: Was my texting merely enabling my students to be less organized and less responsible?

This is a tough question. On the one hand, yes, some students may have become reliant on my texts instead of depending on their notetaking skills. And it’s sad in some ways that my students wouldn’t have completed as much homework had it not been for my daily reminders.

On the other hand, it’s my job to get the best results out of my students. If that means texting them once a day — which takes all of 50 seconds of my time — then so be it. Sure, I’d like my students to do more on their own, but it’s more important that they succeed.

If I’m not going to accept failure, then I’m going to find out what works.

Was that convincing? I’m not sure. Please let me know what you think. Am I helping my students, or just helping them be lazy? 


  1. Angela

    I think we are helping our students by texting! Not only is it a current and valid form of communication for our students, it teaches them how to communicate appropriately with others and it also gives them a means to initiate contact with us when they need “something,” be it clarification or help with an issue. I especially enjoyed using text messaging over phone calls because it is non-intrusive to both parties.

  2. Mark Isero

    Hey Angela! I totally agree with you that texting is a good thing, but I just wonder whether mass texting — to the whole class — is actually leading students not to check their other resources (e.g., assignment handouts, their friends, the website) for answers to their questions.

    It’s good that I don’t allow my students to fail, but how do I help them such that they will be able to take care of themselves after my class?

    • Mark Isero

      Matthew, I’m sorry that the website is down, but thank you for letting me know. I’ll make sure to keep spreading the word about the power of SmashText for teachers and students.

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