Skip to main content

Teaching Through Text?

By Jamie Elmasu

In this digital age, texts, tweets, apps and tags are becoming a main mode of communication for youth. Technology is becoming less bound to desks and is more mobile, accessible and versatile. More and more youth are beginning to own some type of mobile device. According to a new report by the World Bank, about three-quarters of the world’s inhabitants have access to a mobile phone; usage is especially prevalent in developing countries where mobile phones are often more reliable than landline phones and internet infrastructure. Mobile learning, or m-learning, has enabled many people to access information wherever they are, whenever they want.

My question is: How can we embrace mobile technology to complement classroom learning? I believe mobile technology can offer creative ways to deliver information through a medium that youth already love to use. Teaching through text messaging? Yes, it’s possible.

Let’s look at a few m-learning applications. Dr. Math is a math tutoring program in South Africa that enables students to text message their questions to a tutor who then helps to answer the problem. As a complement to traditional classroom teaching, this program promotes community-style education by engaging local college students as tutors for middle and high school students. In the SMILE (Stanford Mobile Inquiry-based Learning Environment) program, educators engage students in interactive learning in the classroom by asking them to create and share questions using mobile phones.

The possibilities are endless. The reality is that students who have phones, want to be on them. So, how can we create m-learning applications that are fun and relevant to their education? Think of an m-learning program that prompts students in the outdoors to interact with the natural environment and respond to questions on a mobile device. Or, think of a situation where students text field experts questions while learning about a particular topic. Think field-trips, think collaborative learning, think cross-country interaction, think global…