I have been teaching ESL for five years and have continually tried to push myself to learn about different technologies. Though I am not naturally all that tech savvy, I think technology serves multiple, critical purposes in ESL and we have a responsibility to use it and find new technologies (especially free ones!) to help us and/or our students. Some of the uses of tech in ESL:
· as something to talk about the way we would with friends (what do you think about your iphone/ipad/cellphone/computer? compare, contrast, evaluate, etc.);
· as direct tools for English learning (e.g. Rosetta, but I prefer all the great free stuff out there);
· as resources which students need to master, in addition to English, in order to get a leg up in their professional and personal capabilities (e.g. the English keyboard and MS Word, Excel, Power Point, etc.). This is the use I am writing you about today.
First off, I want to say I am not employed by any site. I am a genuine bona fide ESL teacher and administrator who uses the technology I describe below. The technology I am speaking of has multiple providers. If you don’t like the particular platform I describe here (found at "pulse.to"), I am sure you will find a similar technology provided by another company. That is the first one I came by and I have loved it.
I recently discovered this free group SMS texting application which easily allows you to send cell phone text messages to a group of people simultaneously (via your phone, social networks, or from the website associated with the program). This has been wonderful for me not only to send fun English tidbits of information, like idioms, fun & interesting vocabulary, cultural facts and more, but to remind students about assignments, tests, and more once they are out of class. I also used this technology as the Director of an ESL Institute in Atlanta to communicate school closings and have an emergency system in which we could communicate to all students at one time. I have also begun using the service with my own friends and family. The service I have been using is pulse.to, (yes, dot "to", not dot com!), because it is free, non-spam, and I have had incredible success with it. The rest of this writing explains it in more detail and outlines different uses I have had for it in ESL. If you know of other ESL applications for group texting, please let me know and feed this forum!
For those of you who text a lot (or a little), you may experience having to scroll through all your contacts names and click on them when you want to send a text message to more than one person at a time. With Pulse.to, you can create different groups of friends/contacts (called "Pulse groups") and send them text messages (called "pulses") by sending the message to a single phone number. You can control whether or not Pulse members can reply back to the Pulse – some Pulses can operate as one-way communication to the Pulse members, while other can allow all members to communicate to the Pulse. There is no app you have to log into or buy either... it is much more straightforward even than Twitter or other interfaces which you have to log onto or click on to use. This just works right on any cell phone (basic or smartphone) using the cellphone's normal texting method.
Once your text is written and addressed to the Pulse group name of your choosing (ex: @eslatlanta), you just send it to the Pulse phone number. The phone number is the same for every one of your Pulse groups; it just knows which group to go to by the unique name of the particular Pulse group you sent it to. Wild! There is no inputting or checking off multiple phone numbers or names – you set that up on the site when you create your Pulse and invite members – once that is done and your members accept the invitation, you just write one message and send it to one number! It works perfectly for groups you will interact with for an ongoing period or to communicate for a one-time event.
For example, if you have a group of 12 students for, say, 2 months, in the first few days you can get all their mobile numbers and input them into one list... you can call it "DavidsESLclass." They can sign up directly from their cell phone or you can invite them directly from your cell phone (depending on how you set up the Pulse). If you want to send them anything, like tidbits of English language or culture info (e.g. how much do you tip at a restaurant?), you can just send a group Pulse and they will get your text instantly. I love using it to remind students of test and essay dates, as well as homework assignments. In turn, students started making Pulses with their friends and family. In other words, I wasn't the only registered member of the site, the students all started joining too, and using it among their contacts outside of class. I use it now with my poker buddies, and I have another Pulse group to text my whole immediate family at one time. You can have a Pulse with just a couple friends, or with a huge group, even an entire ESL school or university.
Well, try it out! Let me know if you know of other similarly easy types of technology we could use in ESL admin and teaching!