How Teachers are Using Technology to Communicate with Students

If you have a child or have been paying attention to education news lately, you may have heard the term "common core" being thrown around. What is common core? Common core is a new set of standards designed to make students more college and career ready by the the time they graduate from high school. What makes common core different than many states' previous standards? Among other things, a strong emphasis on technology. When discussing technology in education, I routinely encounter two basic misconceptions:

first, that the students know more than the teachers when it comes to technology. 

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I can assure you that is not the case. Each year I must spend precious classroom time teaching students how to do some very basic things with technology such as uploading papers, downloading photos, and using voice memos. While 90 percent of them have smartphones, my sophomores don't know much beyond how to post on social media sites and download free music. 

Second, that technology makes learning more "fun" for students and therefore they are more excited to learn. Nope. Like I said, I have sophomores and they are not excited to learn. It doesn't matter if they take notes on paper or on their cell phones; they don't want to take notes. Reading on the Kindle app is still reading and therefore not fun. Last year I began implementing online tests only to be met with "Can't we take tests like normal kids?" from one of my students. When you're fifteen school isn't fun. I'm pretty sure they only show up to socialize at lunch.

All the same, I adore my new students. They are bright and intuitive, and I can already tell that I'm going to enjoy my year with them. Here are some of the ways my students and I will use our iPhones throughout the school year that you may not have realized. 


1. Remind 101 (free):

Remind 101 is a great resource for teachers. It enables teachers to text their students without any personal information being exchanged. I'm sure some parents might find it creepy if I were to give out my phone number to the entire class. When teachers sign up for Remind 101 they can create classes. Each class is given a code. Students text that code to the Remind 101 number and are added to the class roster. I can then text all the students at once to remind them to study for a test or I can text a few students at a time to remind them that they are presenting a project the next day. The number that shows up on the students' phone is the Remind 101 number. The texts can only go one way, which some might consider to be a drawback, but from my perspective, this is an advantage. I have 200 students; if I send out a mass text reminding them about a test the next day, I really don't want 200 texted complaints coming back to me. 


2. Google Drive (free):

Oh no, not a Google app! Yes, it's true, Google drive is essential for high school students. Gone are the days of "I forgot my homework." I encourage kids to put as much of their homework on Google drive as possible, that way they have access to it anywhere. Remember the days when you could be absent from school, miss an assignment, and then get extra time to turn it in? Technology has taken that away from students. I can upload assignments to our school's website or share them via my Google drive and students can work on them from home and send them back to me. It's a beautiful thing…for a teacher, not so much for the student. The Google drive app lets students create documents directly on their phones so they can begin taking notes or writing an essay on the phone and then continue when they get home. 


3. Socrative (free)

Socrative is an amazing tool that allows a teacher to write online tests and for students to take that test using any Internet-enabled device. There is no app to download, nothing to install, and no specific phone model needed. Last year one young man was the unlucky recipient of his father's hand-me-down Blackberry. It was actually a punishment for some undesirable behavior; Dad took away his iPhone 4 and saddled him with the Blackberry. I thought it was pretty creative. But the Blackberry worked on the Socrative system just as well. Teachers can even import their tests into the system; meaning that you don't necessarily need to create anything new, and if your test are multiple choice, Socrative will grade them for you and give students instant results. I've moved a majority of my exams onto Socrative and now give the students the option to use the paper or the online version. One major drawback to Socrative is that students can't go back to check their work or change an answer. And as a teacher, you need to be vigilant and patrol the room to make sure that the kids aren't going online to look up answers. 


4. Skype (free)

This year I have my first Skyped-in student, which sounds really cool except for the fact that she's Skyping to class because of an injury and I can't wait until she's healthy enough to come back to class and be with all of her friends. But I am thankful that we have this option. Thanks to Skype she's able to participate in class discussions, come to lectures, and interact with classmates. I've offered up the service to any student who has to miss class for any reason such as  illness, injury, or a death in the family that involves traveling and time away from school.


If you have a child who is in high school or about to enter high school, I can not stress enough how important it is to get them a smart phone. And if I had to recommend a phone, I would encourage you to invest in an Apple product. The iPhone 5c is a perfect entry-level phone for a teenager. The entire school ecosystem is Apple. I have two classroom Macs and the library is armed with about fifteen. I give projects that ask students to use these computers to create iMovies, and importing from an Android device is a nightmare. You're also giving students an added layer of protection with an Apple product thanks to the Find My iPhone app (free). One of my students lost her iPhone last year and we were able to track it to a patch of bushes near where she was hanging out at lunch. Kids will be kids and if you're going to invest your hard earned money, it's nice to know you have a way to track down an item they may lose (or track down the kid themself, if you so desire). The sooner we teach students to use technology appropriately and productively the more college and career ready they will become. 
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As an educator, I am always interested in new and exciting ways to engage my students and prepare them for life outside of a school setting. Technology not only improves the quality of education, it helps indoctrinate students into the professional world. As an actress in Los Angeles and freelance writer, I juggle the responsibilities and commitments of three careers. I depend on my iPhone and a myriad of apps to keep me ahead of deadlines, on time to auditions, and ready for each day ahead.