When I was twelve years old, my family purchased its first computer, a TRS-80. My father was sort of a computer guy and first learned to program using punch cards on a mainframe at a local university. He wanted his sons to learn to program as well and presented us with the TRS-80 for Christmas. My brothers and I learned to program in BASIC and we stored these very simple programs on cassettes after hours and hours of “coding.” We would anxiously run the program, hopeful that no error messages would disrupt the process.
I share these nerdy holiday memories to demonstrate how far we’ve come as a society. Thirty years ago, the TRS-80 was a relative novelty. Now, almost every teenager walks around with a device that is far more powerful than that computer. The Pew Internet Research Center reports that 75% of teenagers (ages 12-17) own cell phones. While educators often complain about these devices being huge distractions in classrooms, I think we miss the power that these devices hold. Although I doubt anyone is learning to program in BASIC on their cell phone, mobile devices can be tremendous tools, especially in classroom settings. Sites like PollEverywhere allow educators to easily create free cell phone polls to engage their students and assess their understanding. The downside of Polleverywhere, however, is that it only allows one-way communication. While its great that students can respond to a poll with a text message, the site isn’t really designed to promote teacher-student or student-student interaction.
That’s where Celly comes in. While Celly allows for student polling, it also offers so much more. With Celly, an educator can create a “cell” to promote communication and interaction across a group of students. The cell can be tailored in a variety of ways, allowing teachers to customize how they interact with their students. A teacher can create a cell to send out text announcements to students or create a cell that allows students to interact with one another. For those of you who may be concerned about privacy, Celly blocks the phone numbers from text messages so you don’t need to be worried about being texted by students in the middle of the night.
The important thing to remember is that cell phones can be powerful communication devices when used properly. While we don’t want to promote texting while driving or personal texting during class time, we can’t forget that cell phones are mini-computers with tremendous computing power. Celly can help us expand how we communicate and interact with our students and, best of all, it’s free! For help getting started, check out this Celly guide and this short tutorial.