SMS (Text Message) Notifications for my band students!

UPDATE – After taking Joe PIsano’s great advice, I checked out TextMarks a little more closely.  I could not find any specific information on their site regarding the ads they send with their messages, but I have realized that the ramifications of these ads going to students may not be good.  So, at this point, I have put this project on hold, and am continuing to search for a service that will do this for free with no ads at all.  If anyone can point me in the right direction, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I think this could be a really powerful communication tool!

After attending the PMEA Summer Conference this year, I starting thinking a lot more about how I could integrate technology into my band program.  More specifically even, I started thinking about how I could use technology on my students’ level.  It is clear to me that many students use text messaging as an important method of communication.  So, I started wondering if there was a way for students to subscribe to a band text message alert service for my program.

After many hours of searching the net, and failed attempts to use many different services, I finally found what I’m looking for in TextMarks.  This service allows the students to text the word “sharonband” to a specific number, and then they can receive any alerts that I post as the manager.  This service also gives me the ability to either allow or disallow the subscribers to send a message to all other members of the group.  I have disabled this feature, as I only want students to be able to receive messages.

As far as posting messages to the subscribers, I can either do this from my mobile device or from the web.  This service allows me to use 120 of the 160 text characters, as I believe the rest are reserved for short advertisements. (That’s how they keep it free.)

This is very exciting to me.  I notice how much students use text messaging, and I think it is just another great way that we can “meet students on their level” and keep them informed of the important information that we need to pass on to them.

I can foresee this being useful to any teacher that wants the ability to reach out to their students “outside of the school walls.”

Check it out, and let me know if you would consider using this with your students!  I can’t wait to get this going with my students and report back later on how it is working!

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9 thoughts on “SMS (Text Message) Notifications for my band students!

  1. Doug,

    I know your excited about this service, but I would caution you or anyone from not reading their privacy policy and the content of the ads service. Their privace policy states:

    Children
    The TextMarks Service is not intended for children under 13, and TextMarks does not knowingly collect information from children under the age of 13.

    ****

    And also, I think you could find yourself in a board meeting at some point explaining why your kids were texted an advertisment about “meeting singles” or materials that are not school friendy….

    As of now, they do not offer a paid service for removal of ads… Just a heads up so you know what you may “getting into”.

    As far as a service goes… it is pretty neat. The only thing holding me back from endorsing it whole-heartedly is the above…

    J. Pisano -mustech.net

  2. Joe, Thanks for the advice. I will check out the site closely to make sure that students will not be receiving anything inappropriate before I really launch it to all of my students. And, as far as the age thing goes, I do not plan on students under 13 using the service, either. It may be appropriate to consult with the appropriate administrator in my district. Thanks, Joe!

  3. Technology is amazing (well, MOST of the time), especially in classrooms. Had a class that was based on discussing/researching different technologies that can be used in the classroom.

    Question about that site though…Can students receive updates through e-mail or any other form besides SMS? Although most students have cell phones some still do not, and even then they may not have text messaging. Some students may feel “left out” if they are not allowed/are unable to get the text messages.

    Are you going to be doing some type of form for the parents to sign – in case someone doesn’t have free text messaging, etc. =D

  4. HI April,

    These are all things that I have been pondering when using this service. This particular service does not include an email service, but the idea here is that the SMS service would merely be used as a reminder-type system…not necessarily a sole method of disseminating information. It would just be used as an extra way to send info. Great thoughts – I appreciate it!

  5. Hi Joe & Doug,

    To clarify TextMarks ( http://www.textmarks.com/ ) ad policy:
    * We DO include small ads in the footers of messages sent out, to offset our messaging costs.
    * We DO NOT send ads unsolicited — only in footers of messages sent by our users.
    * And best of all, stay tuned… Within a couple of weeks (Sep ’08) we’ll have an easy to use system for ad-free service, perfectly suitable for professional/enterprise or sensitive (education, religion, politics, etc.) contexts.

    And if you’re especially motivated and technically inclined, check out our developer center too, where you can easily integrate TextMarks more deeply into your web applications with our powerful SMS API: http://www.textmarks.com/dev/

    Dan Kamins
    CTO, TextMarks

  6. Thanks Dan, for the clarification. Your service would be extremely valuable to me, but I’m concerned that the ads could cause some minor problems, since we are dealing with students. I will be looking forward to an ad-free version soon! Your comments are greatly appreciated! If I wasn’t using this for a school-based organization, I would absolutely use it!

  7. The offers like described in the posting, when used at the Higher Education levels have been debated for a couple of years now. At quite a few colleges and universities who looked to minimize their cost agreed to include marketing items or to allow the provider to send unsolicited marketing messages to the groups, in some cases has resulted in less than 10% participation by the students in the emergency alert system. So the alerts are not getting to the students.

    A survey done in the 4th qtr. of 2007 showed that as much as 72% of the students do not want marketing messages sent to their phones.

    There are companies, like Agile Communications Group, that facilitate the small users by offering no setup fees, no monthly fees, just an inexpensive per message fee. You get all the same and more bell and whistles like the larger users but with greater participation.

  8. UPDATE 2 –

    I have been using Upoc.com for several months now with no problems. The kids love the text message alerts, and in fact, they even call me on it when I forget to send out a rehearsal reminder!

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