How do you stay in touch with your students or help them to connect with one another outside of the classroom? Many students in an ESL or GED class often don't have fancy technical skills - maybe you don't either! Never fear, we're here to help. Read more to learn about some apps that can make communication easier and more frequent, and only require a cell phone. We will feature here WhatsApp, Signal, Remind, and Google Classroom.
Keep in mind that everyone is different and all forms of communication are important. This article will just focus on mass communication through text. Texting can be great means to communicate with ESL students because many either know how to use a translator to translate messages that they don't understand, or they can ask a friend or family member later to explain it to them.
WhatsApp: WhatsApp is one of the more popular phone texting apps. It allows users to send messages without requiring phone service, but only an internet connection - to any number worldwide! That's why it is so popular among internationals! And several years ago, WhatsApp added calls and video calls! Many have even used WhatsApp to lead classes and Bible studies! Features and things to know:
Allows users to text, send voice messages, call, and video chat to any other WhatsApp user.
Since this app is very popular internationally, one advantage would be that your students likely already have it on their phones.
Capability to create groups, without requiring the user to accept an invitation to the group. You can create a group for your class and all users can see messages and interact in the same space.
Calls, texts, voice texts and video chats are private. However, links, photos, and status updates are not private (WhatsApp was bought by Meta, formerly Facebook). And of course, Facebook tracks your phone number and tries to collect as much information about you for advertising purposes.
Phone numbers of users are visible to everyone.
Signal: If you like the features of WhatsApp but prefer more security and privacy, then Signal is the app for you!
Remind School Communication: Remind is specifically designed for the school environment and has safeguards in place for students who are K-12. For that reason, if you have a child in school, you may already have this on your phone (or may discover that you've been added to a class and didn't know it!) Things to know and features:
You can register as a teacher, student, or parent. If your adult students already have Remind on their phones, their child's name may show instead of theirs, depending on how their child's teacher added them.
The phone numbers of students are masked for the other students for privacy.
Texting is the only means of communication. There are two types of messages that you can send:
An announcement - the message will go to everyone in the class but student replies will come to you as private messages. These messages have a character limit unless you purchase a subscription.
Group message - You will have to select individual students, but if someone replies, everyone will see it.
Since it is designed for schools, you can link other school tech tools like Google Classroom (see below).
Google Classroom: Google Classroom isn't EXACTLY a communication tool, but rather a Learning Management System. Features and things to know:
Allows you to post electronic versions of classroom materials and create assignments
Students and teachers can see what assignments have been completed and not completed. There is an option for you to enter grades for each assignment.
You can use Google Forms to create online tests and quizzes, and automatically calculate grades and share grades/results with students by enabling those options in settings.
Requires a bit more technical expertise for the teacher.
It works through email, not phone numbers, although there is an app available for it. It is part of the Google Suite and appears in your apps after you log-in to your Google account. It requires a gmail account for the teacher, but not for the students.
There is a space for posting announcements, but students will only see those announcements when they log in to their accounts.
Works best on the computer.
We hope this helps you in your efforts to stay in contact with your students! If you have any question about using these apps, we are here to help! Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org