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Should we forbid teachers to text students?

From guest blogger Nick Cummins:
 
This Huffington Post article above deals with the texting issue and the ramifications of media and electronic communication.
 
In recent weeks, I have learned that some large school systems in Mississippi have programs that allow teachers to send mass texts to their students without the ability to reply. However, with the continual evolution of technology can educators and administrators continue to restrict usage?
 
Some of my colleagues in the College of Education discourage any use of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites. They also tell students never to reveal your cell phone number and never to send texts between students.
 
I understand the fears that educators have, but we must at least begin to embrace the things that our students use daily. Email is now going away with the millennial generation and texting or tweeting is the new communication tool. What are your thoughts on the use of media and communication tools...should they be banned or should we consider using alternatives in schools like Google Voice?
 
I look forward to your responses.
 
Nicholaus B. Cummins
on October 11, 2012 4:29am
I have sent text messages to choral students to remind them of early morning rehearsals and changes in schedule.  What are the risks associated with sending texts?  Is it access to one's cell phone number?  If so, one could have a basic cell for school use and another one for personal use. 
Applauded by an audience of 1
on October 11, 2012 6:03am
Every time I read an article about the wonders and benefits of modern communication technologies, whether it is about texting or tweeting students, or choir members using iPads (or equivalent) in place of paper scores, the first question I always ask myself is:  "What about those who cannot afford to purchase and use the technology?" We bemoan the fact that our world is becoming ever more widely divided between the "haves" and the "haves not" (and the numbers of "haves not" are growing, not shrinking), yet those who can afford the latest gizmos blithely talk about their wonderfulness without giving any thought to those who might be completely cut out.
 
For example, one line in the Huffington Post piece reads:  "While not every student has a computer or a smartphone, most have phones with texting functions, she added."  This makes me wonder how many students are in the "most" category, and how many are not, and how the ones who are not must then be either ignored or embarassingly singled out with communications done the old-fashioned way.  And is a text or a tweet really, truly, indisputably better than, for example, simply asking students to write down a question on a piece of paper, take it home and think about it, and come to class the next day ready for discussion?  Can you think of any situation or circumstance where a text or a tweet is truly necessary and more effective than another method, another method that can reach everyone, not just the privileged?  
 
Unless a school, or a choir, or any other organization that requires its members to use the latest technologies can provide everyone with the appropriate gizmo, my vote goes to the old-fashioned ways of communicating every time.  And, finally, it is my opinion that the abbreviation of communication that occurs by necessity with texts or tweets also serves to abbreviate thinking; everything is reduced to a "sound bite," or rather a "text bite."  We are becoming a world of "bites," and the facility for deep, comprehensive, critical thinking is being eroded away, one text and tweet at a time.
on October 11, 2012 10:47am
This issue is too easily generalized.  What works for me, a college professor, is not necessarily appropriate or workable for a high school or middle school educator.  Personally I do not Facebook friend students.  I tell them that, once they graduate, I will befriend them on Facebook.  But until that point, I am their mentor, their instructor, their drill sergeant if necessary.  Instead I created a Facebook group for my choirs to which both alums and students are welcome to join.
Applauded by an audience of 2
on October 11, 2012 2:24pm
I don't see a problem with texting or emailing students.  Calling them on the phone or meeting in an online group class are also useful tools.  These are modern useful tools.  Social networking is a different matter entirely.   An excellent rule of social networking safety for everyone is "Never friend anyone that you do not share equal power with."  Students, bosses and the parents of your students are very dangerous Facebook friends to have.  Children under the age of 13 are violating terms of use if they have an account on any social networking site including Facebook, YouTube and blogs.  As teachers/directors we should not use these tools to communicate with children 12 and under.   Over the age of 12, I still feel it is a very bad idea to use sites where choral leaders post private and personal information, to communicate with students of middle school through and including undergrads. 
on October 12, 2012 3:36pm
In addition, libraries (school libraries included) provide internet access to all, regardless of income.  I agree that it depends on the level of the students also.  At the college level, first, students are spending a lot of money to be there and are eligible for student loans to cover "personal expenses"--I can't think of a single college student who doesn't have a cell phone.  I think the solution is going to have to be unique depending on each situation, the demographics, and what works best for you and your students.  Personally, I've learned to only put information on Facebook that I don't mind ANYBODY reading--and that goes for ChoralNet, too!  This is a public forum, and while it may be easy to complain about our administration, a tough new job, or lack of support in our current situation, I try to keep in mind that my administrators may read anything I write on here, as may future employers.
Nicholaus, I agree that as electronic communication becomes the norm, we need to be thoughtful about its use, but not be afraid to use it.
Heidi
on November 9, 2012 7:30am
Absolutely not.  Technology is here.  We need to be in the 21st century.  Perhaps better regulations need to be in place, but ccommunication is important.  Professional and appropriate is mandatory.  Some of this needs to be addressed in hiring and screening of applicants.  Bigger issue than a simple yes or no.