Monday, October 21, 2013

Using Text Messaging in the Classroom

Which should I use at my school?
Remind101, Twitter Fast Follow, or Celly?
Please note that I have kept this information current as of October 2013. Technology changes constantly! I used to be a huge fan of Twitter Fast Follow (back in 2010 it was the only free service like this out there), but now there are other great options worth looking at. Text messaging can be used for classrooms, individual classes (Class of 2014 account for senior events only), announcements for parents, clubs, teams, Renaissance programs, teachers-only, all-staff announcements. These services can also be used as a back-channel for a silent discussion during films or lectures.

Twitter Fast Follow
Can you embed web links? Does it automatically shorten URLs?
Yes, you can include clickable links, and websites you enter are automatically shortened to prevent you from going over your character limit.
Yes, you can include clickable links, and websites you enter are automatically shortened to prevent you from going over your character limit.
Yes, you can include clickable links, but at this time there is no automatic URL shortening. You need to use a tool like or to shorten a link.
New school-friendly features on the horizon?
YES, my CADA friend Matt Soeth has heard this from the people at Remind 101.
None that I'm aware of, but Twitter FF has started sending out a form of advertising that is NOT school-friendly.
YES, I have personally heard from the Celly developer that big changes are coming Fall 2013.
Character limit
140 characters
140 characters
No character limit; will simply spill over into a new message. Be careful, because if you include a web link in your message, it might be split between two text messages.
Ease of sending an image/photo
Not easy at this time. You have to use an image hosting service to post the image online first, then get a URL, then embed that URL into your message.
Easily insert image via Twitter app or web
Not easy at this time. You have to use an image hosting service to post the image online first, then get a URL, then embed that URL into your message.
Ease of sign-up for teachers
SUPER EASY, and you can get started in about 5-10 minutes. Remind101 is definitely the easiest and cleanest user-interface of the three.
Medium. The Twitter sign-up process has been intimidating to some teachers who are not as comfortable with technology, but with guidance can be made easy.
Easy, but because it has more features than Remind101, it still isn’t as easy as Remind101.
Ease of sign-up for students/parents
Easy. Send a one word text code to a 10-digit phone number
@cadacamps to (385) 218-6778
Easy. Send a two-word text code to the 5-digit Twitter short code.
follow cadacamps to 40404
Super easy! Send a one-word text code to the 5-digit Celly short code.
@cadacamps to 23559
Follow-up marketing or advertising?
None at this time
Yes, there is follow-up marketing from Twitter once or twice a week. Twitter suggests users to follow (not necessarily school appropriate), and occasionally will send out a “Top Tweet”--again, with no regard to the age of the user. Stops when you create a Twitter account.
None at this time
Viewable where?
Text message or e-mail
Phone, Twitter app, on the web, embeddable into your website; Twitter can be viewed on an iPod Touch, in a public library, anywhere you have an internet connection.
Text message, e-mail, and Celly app. Celly app is user-friendly for both teacher and student. Option is also available for teacher to automatically publish content online so parents can find it without having to subscribe to text messages.
Ease of sending a message
Website or iPhone/Android app only; unlike Twitter, multiple accounts (classes) can be managed through the same Remind101 account
Website, iPhone/Android apps (multiple apps available), even via text message for a single account
Website, iPhone/Android app, and via text message; unlike Twitter, multiple accounts can be managed through the same texting plan on a single phone
How fast does my message go out?
Your message could go out instantly, or be delayed 2-3 minutes.
Schedule for later
Yes, from your smartphone or from the web
Yes, through a third-party application like TweetDeck or HootSuite
Yes, from your smartphone or from the web
Limits on the number of followers?
No limit
No limit
No limit
How much is it?
Free, no strings attached
Free, although there is a small advertising component, discussed above (in “Marketing and Advertising”)
Free. There is also a premium service with additional features available for a monthly fee ($5/month for teachers).
Scariness factor
Low. Remind101 is designed specifically for education, so convincing students and parents (and administrators) of its merits would be easy.
Medium to high, depending on your community and the culture of your school. Twitter freaks some people out.
Low to medium. Celly isn’t as basic as Remind101, and is definitely geared to teens. As such, the interface could be slightly intimidating to some adults. Celly was designed by a programmer who is the parent of a teenager.
Real-world factor
The skills involved in using Remind101, like other educational services and software, have the potential to become obsolete once students leave the K-12 system. Remind101 is a one-way only communication system, which is exactly what some teachers and schools want.
Learning how to use Twitter responsibly is a skill that middle school and high school students can take with them to become more successful adults. Social media is not going away.
There is a social feature to Celly which is very similar to Twitter, but in a more controlled, education-friendly environment. Students can message each other back and forth, but the teacher can block, remove, or report students who are abusing the system.
Can I find out who is following me?
Yes. All users are required to enter a name.
Only if the follower is a registered Twitter user. Otherwise, you have no way of tracking who is following you, or how many followers you have using Twitter Fast Follow.
Yes, and Celly keeps track of both named and anonymous users.
Which one do I use with my students?
I have used Remind101 over the summer as the large group coordinator for CADA Leadership Camps.
I had used Twitter Fast Follow the last three years. However, starting August 2013, I am now using Celly.
I currently manage 15 different "cells" for each of my classes, for two clubs I advise, and for CADA. For me, what I do in my classroom, for interacting back and forth with students, Celly is the perfect tool for me.
Which one do I recommend for schools?
For a school or teacher who wants to broadcast out messages one-way only, and/or you are looking for a dead-simple interface, Remind101 is the choice for you. It's beautiful, it's clean, and does exactly what you need it to do. My daughter's elementary school teacher (and her school as a whole) are using Remind101 with great success, as are many friends who work in both middle and high schools.
If you're looking for a true "real-world" experience, go with Twitter. Twitter is what kids and adults are using now, and what kids will need to know how to use responsibly for now and years to come.
For me personally, Celly is the "Goldilocks" solution. It has the school-friendliness and kid-friendliness of Remind101. Celly, however, adds an interactive component that I like. Students are able to reply back to me, and I can answer their questions. This ability for students to reply back to you via text message, without revealing their cell phone or yours, is a powerful feature, and the reason I am now using Celly.


  1. Hi Ron --

    Thanks for looking at Remind101.

    Just to clarify a few things: (1) we don't plan to ever charge for our core text messaging product, (2) you can have an unlimited number of subscribers to a class.

    If you have any questions, please reach out!

    VP Product, Remind101

    1. Aditya, belated thanks to you! I made those two corrections, but never mentioned it to you. I'm at the CARE Conference in Ontario tomorrow (Mon, 10/21) and I'm presenting on text messaging in the classroom.

  2. HI Ron, I was at your D&B training. I've noticed an item or two that should get updated/added to you comparison table:
    1) In "viewable where?", Remind101 can be viewed via email, if the student sets it up that way (I always have a couple whose parents don't want them texting, had a phone confiscated by Mom as part of being grounded, or have a "brick").
    2) It was pointed out at our meeting that we can change their username (at least our view of their username) on Remind101 by simply clicking on them. (I have one student who showed up as "potato".)

    Thanks for the intro to celly. I'm test-driving it now.

    1. Carter, thank you for your reply. I have updated my article to reflect your comments. Now that it's a month later, are you still using Remind101? Celly? Both? They're both great products, although Celly is the better solution for me at this time.