In a stack of papers called Technology.

  • Oct
  • 09
  • 2007

TeleParent makes communication easy with parents, so easy that students have dubbed it “Tell A Parent.” A school or district buys an account, hooks up their information system to TeleParent, and all phone numbers and native languages are stored for future use. Teachers then log into the system and send home any of a series of pre-recorded messages about attendance, homework, behavior, and grades. Administrators even have the ability to record their own original messages and send those out through the TeleParent system. This is a solid idea.

Last week, we operated without bells for several days. That got me thinking of my imaginary retirement plan: Tell-A-Student.

Like TeleParent, Tell-A-Student (TAS) hooks into any information system a school already runs (we use SASI, for instance). It pulls all student names and phone numbers, but only cell phone numbers that can accept text messages (this assumes that schools will start collecting student cell phone numbers at the beginning of each year). TAS has a deal with all major cell phone companies that text messages to their system, incoming and outgoing, are free because they are for educational use. The major cell phone companies get a tax deduction as an educational expense in the amount that they’d normally charge for the text messages.

Administrators and counselors login to the TAS site and can text message all students on their campus or in individual grade levels. Teachers can text entire periods, all students enrolled in specific courses taught by that teacher, or individual students. Easily created special groups allow schools to gather students who need to receive specific messages. Send the text out once to any number of students in any of your groups.

The text messages go out in real time, instead of being queued to go out at a predetermined time each day.

Schools might use TAS at the beginning of each school year to enforce the bell schedule. Reminders of class meetings. Event announcements. Lunch menus. PSAT dates. Maybe even a STAR test item of the day. The first correct answer wins a prize; only one text accepted per phone on that one.

Teachers use TAS to text reminders of supplies to bring to class, homework to complete, or anything else. These texts can even be quick quizzes to check for comprehension, with students able to respond and the results of those responses charted out on a Web page, through the admin area of the TAS site. In this way, TAS serves as a classroom aid and students can pass around their phones for others to use. “So I see that 83% of you think that Daisy Buchanan is more concerned with outward appearances than other character traits.”

What a way to bring cell phones into what we do each day. And not as a gimmick, but as an honest way to make education a natural part of what students already carry around with them. Who’s on board with this?


1. Jackie says:

[10/9/2007 - 8:42 pm]

Ok, I’m in. Can we have them download the graphing calculator that is available for cell phones? That way they’ll never forget to bring their calculator to class. We also use SASI, so I’m ready to go!

2. Todd says:

[10/9/2007 - 9:07 pm]

Do you have a link to that graphing calculator? Which phones is it available for? And do you keep calculators in the classroom or do kids bring them back-n-forth each day?

3. Ben says:

[10/10/2007 - 7:53 am]

That’s quite the interesting service there Todd. I could see where some schools might feel that it’s a godsend to have audio reminders sent home, but I can also see where some parents might get annoyed with the same voice over and over again telilng them that their student is tardy, without the personal touch of an actual person to respond to.

Not saying I wouldn’t love to try it, beacuse it sounds amazingly simple.

Gotta love the idea for Tell A Student, especiialy at the secondary level.

4. Todd says:

[10/11/2007 - 2:26 pm]

Ben, we’re finding that most parents who bother to give us feedback like that TeleParent is at least some kind of communication home. Before that, we had nothing but the generic autodialer and I have no idea how that was received. TeleParent allows for something more than just attendance. There are messages about when homework is due, when tests are, how the student performed in class today, etc.

I really hope someone takes my TAS idea and makes it happen because I’d love to send free text messages to my students. Oh! Especially those I catch texting in class!

5. Jackie says:

[10/11/2007 - 4:15 pm]

Todd, Here’s math for mobile. I haven’t actually tried it (of course, cell phones aren’t allowed in class). According to the site, it works on some Nokia and Sony models.

Our students are expected to buy a graphing calculator freshman year. For students on free & reduced, we provide one (obviously we don’t have too many on f & r). We used to have classroom sets, but they have disappeared over the years. I have a couple that I carry around with me for those who forget theirs.

How often do you find yourself using TeleParent? How long does it take?

6. Todd says:

[10/14/2007 - 10:47 am]

Jackie, I actually find myself forgetting to use TeleParent. Yeah, I know, bad teacher. It doesn’t take long to do (though they should figure an easier navigation system because every little click adds more time), but it is a bit of a hassle to remember where each message you want to send home is. Things are slowly improving, but it’s not organized so well. That’s what adds time to it all.

I use the gradebook and email homework reminder a lot (School Loop) and that soaks up most of my time for this kind of thing. With all the other things that I need to have done by 5:00 each day, TeleParent tends to be the last one I think of. Admittedly, it should probably be the first.

7. Jackie says:

[10/14/2007 - 12:45 pm]

Oh, let’s not get into what we should be doing.

School loop looks interesting. Does your district/admin require that you post your calender with assignments? How often are you required to update grades online? We have parents who seem to think our online system is like a stock ticker.

8. Dave says:

[10/15/2007 - 12:31 pm]

The Math4Mobile website says that the applications can run on most of the cell phones today, not only Nokia and SE…

9. Todd says:

[10/15/2007 - 4:27 pm]

Required to post on School Loop? Not going to happen. I don’t think there are many unions that would let that kind of thing slide. School Loop is not a requirement; we just ask that parents question teachers who aren’t using it. If the teacher has a good reason, all’s well. I try to post to it whenever there’s homework and to update grades as often as I collect them. Since I only enter grades into the computer (I don’t handwrite them on any paper rosters), then I publish new grades whenever I’m finished with a set of papers. It’s a problematic gradebook, though. School Loop was designed as a communication system. The gradebook just sort of happened. So they have a few things in place that don’t work so well for gradebooks. Still, it’s nice to have a gradebook that all parents, students, and staff can see.

Like a stock ticker in that it’s not important to pay attention to? Like a stock ticker in that it’s hard to make sense out of? What online system are you using?

10. Jackie says:

[10/15/2007 - 8:54 pm]

We’re using My Grade Book. Some parents expect it to be updated…within minutes of an assignment being turned in (“my student says they’ve turned in all of the missing assignments today, why isn’t it updated yet?”). I try to update once a week and my school webpage states the last time it was updated. I’ve found that seems to alleviate some of the issues.