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Texting towards Degrees: How Is Texting Impoving Education?

Texting Toward Degrees
Texting and schooling: they don't quite seem to work together. But, schools are showing us more each day, they do.

We often tend to think of texting as a plague to education, and maybe it has been, distracting leagues of students studying at home and even students who find their focus wavering in the classroom. But schools are turning the tables, embracing the medium in a number of ways to improve the students' experience at school. Could texting become a boon, not a bane, to education?

One way schools are applying texting technology is by placing it at the center of their emergency response protocol. Many schools establish emergency alert systems capable of sending a text message to the entire student body in the event of an emergency. And while the testing of emergency texting systems may be a slight nuisance bemoaned by many a college student, the power of text messaging to instantly spread vital information to keep students safe is a significant advantage to campuses.

This technology has spread into many facets of college life. Not only can mass texting capabilities help ensure students' safety, but they are increasingly used by departments and organizations within schools to communicate with their members. These sorts of mass texts keep students connected and ensure that students stay tuned in to relevant news and reminded of upcoming events.

Some high schools have also begun to employ mass text platforms. This use of texting not only allows schools to ensure students receive important information about policies, deadlines, fees, events, and any other news, but is also a fast, effective, and direct gateway to students' parents. Important school-wide information as well as individual notes on students, like absenteeism; code violations; or outstanding fees, can be sent conveniently and directly to parents in an instant.

Texting is even being used to benefit students in, yes, the classroom. Some professors have begun implementing applications such as TopHat that allow students to text in answers to questions the professor poses. This can be a clever way to put students' devices to productive use, making cell phones a tool that engage students further in class rather than distracting them from it.

One especially important rising new use of texting in educational settings is that to support high school students considering attending college. Underfunded high schools, generally in largely low-income areas, often have poor college guidance programs, if any at all, that fall short of offering students strong and consistent guidance throughout the college search, application, and enrollment process. Additionally, students in rural areas may have heightened difficulty accessing any college preparation programs and resources outside their own high school, an institution already pinched by rigid scheduling restraints. With cell phone access and texting use prevalent even among low-income youth and in rural areas, developers have begun to tap texting as a resource to help students in such schools who may want to attend college.

One such program in West Virginia, called Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs, or "West Virginia GEAR UP," is the product of University of Virginia professor Ben Castleman. GEAR UP allows colleges to text students using numbers provided on college applications, offering them critical information as well as the opportunity to text back questions or request counseling appointments, regardless of location or access to other college preparation resources.

GEAR UP uses text messaging as a medium for communication because it is direct, fast, convenient, and allows schools to communicate with most students even where communication or close guidance may be difficult to achieve. Aiming in particular to increase matriculation to colleges and college retention rates, this new use of texting holds significant educational promise for youth and especially low-income students, who are so often denied resources for success.

In addition to preparing high school students for college throughout school, texting is also being used to help students with this process in those critical months in between high school and college. During this time, students tend to mistakenly believe their work in the college process is done, a phenomenon called "summer melt" in which students often forget crucial paperwork and payments. To address this problem, Boston non-profit uApire has begun to connect pre-college students to college mentors after senior year ends and high school mentorship programs have come to a close. uApire's summer program is a continuation of college process mentorship the non-profit offers in schools during the year, and texting allows their mentors a definite and reliable mode of communication with students that is convenient, direct, and quick even when school is out.

Maybe not everyone's convinced that texting is the latest tool in crafting successful educational experiences; after all, phones remain a distraction no matter what good we use them for, and many complain that the ubiquity of texting hurts students' social lives and even grammar. But it's certain that schools are embracing texting to their benefit more and more, and the changes they're making are more than welcome.

About the Author -
Sharon Housley is the VP of Marketing for NotePage, Inc. a software company for communication software solutions. http://www.notepage.net


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