Though often seen as a nuisance or distraction, text messaging does have its practical and worthwhile applications. For example: instead of trying to phone a colleague as you walk across a busy and noisy campus, you can send a simple message to say you’ll arrive at your meeting point in five minutes. Or, you can message your favorite store and, moments later, receive a coupon or a discount code. In education, text messaging can also be used as part of a mobile technology learning plan.
Given that many of today’s students are comfortable texting one another, it follows that they’ll want to use this means of communication frequently. However, they too should come to recognize the more appropriate (and less appropriate) times that text messaging can and should be used for interpersonal and group communication. They could learn this by trial and error, but you may want to provide them with a setting that allows them to think through its benefits and limitations before they falter.
The Instructor’s Resource Manual for J. Dan Rothwell’s In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups, Eighth Edition includes an exercise that helps students weigh the pros and cons of text messaging. You may also ask students to include e-mail as part of the discussion; after all, it is a text-based form of communication!
A. Break class into groups of 5-7 members.
B. Have each group discuss the advantages and disadvantages of text-messaging communication.
C. What difficulties emerge when more than two individuals are involved in a text message conversation?
D. Report group conclusions to entire class and discuss. (242)
Reference: Rothwell, J. Dan. 2013. Instructor’s Resource Manual to accompany In Mixed Company: Communicating in Small Groups, 8th ed. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learming.
Do you use text messaging as a means of communicating with students? Do you teach students to use technology responsibly in the classroom? Share your ideas and experiences below.