During a recent class, Sandy Riggs asked her 24 high school biology students to text her what they thought DNA precipitation meant.
What she got was a flood of text messages one after the other.
“I never see this with hands,” said the 35-year-old teacher in Corpus Christi, Texas. “This is awesome.”
She doesn’t always give her students assignments involving text messaging. But Ms. Riggs allows her students to text her about homework, absences, or just life questions and concerns.
Ms. Riggs said using texting as an education tool has increased her students’ access to her, their confdence, and it has ultimately gained their trust.
“They know I care. They are going to be more responsive,” she said.
Ms. Riggs teaches college-level classes to high school students as part of the Collegiate High School program in the 38,000-student Corpus Christi Independent School District.
Damien Cisneros, 15, said he has texted Ms. Riggs to get help on homework assignments he didn’t understand or to clarify what assignment to work on.
He said in the middle school he attended, students couldn’t use their cellphones to text their teachers. But now he can, and it hashelped him become a better student because he knows he can get in touch with his teacher outside class quickly by texting.
“It gives us more security that she’s there for us,” he said.
‘The New Age’
Maria Rodriguez, 14, said she gets in touch with Ms. Riggs through texting at least twice a week, usually with questions about homework. She said she appreciates Ms. Riggs making herself accessible to her students in that way because without that option she’d have trouble keeping up in class.
“I would be here after school probably every day,” she said.
Collegiate High School Principal Tracie Rodriguez said the science and English departments use texting the most with class assignments. Teachers can choose whether they want students to text them. The trend began with a student asking if it would be permissible to text a teacher, she said.
She said at one time students were coming to class with incomplete assignments, and texting was a way for the students to feel comfortable getting in touch with teachers outside class.
“It’s very short and concise,” Ms. Rodriguez said. “The students have a greater understanding when it is to the point.”
She said that at the school, staff members also communicate with each other through texting because some are spread out across the campus.
The school does still enforce a rule that cellphones can’t be used in class unless approved beforehand as part of a class assignment or in an emergency, she said.
In addition, parents haven’t expressed concerns about their students’ cellphone bills or texting charges, she said.
Despite those potential concerns, Ms. Rodriguez said she hopes the school can continue using digital tools and tactics like texting in innovative ways.
“It’s the new age,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the June 16, 2010 edition of Education Week as Students Text Teachers for Quick Updates on Homework, Absences