Back to school texting

Back to School SMS?

August 15, 2023

Often, SMS is better for parents, better for teachers, and, therefore, better for kids. That’s why Farmington Public Schools switched to MultiLine, which you can read about here. There is a need for SMS in schools.

The difficulty of voice communication in school

When I was in school, the district would release snow day memos notorious for being incomprehensible. A monotone, robotic voice would trumpet an automatic message. We assumed that it meant a snow day even if the actual words “snow” and “day” could not be deciphered. (I swore that she was talking about sausages.) That’s just one example of ineffective voice communication that could have been easily solved by texting.

In addition to the general fact that voicemail has fallen out of fashion, (1) SMS makes sense for school districts because of sociological and cultural needs. For example, with SMS, parents can opt into the language that is easiest for them to understand. Further, texting can happen to more than one parent at the same time. If, hypothetically, a child is growing up in a split-parent home, both parents can receive a text message at the same time, rather than implicating the school administration in a domestic spat over who gets called first.

In some school districts, there is one phone number for the school, and teachers and administrators are extensions. If the principal needs to contact an individual parent, the phone number would be the same as a soccer coach or perhaps even a general voice memo. That could certainly cause miscommunications.

Sample school SMS communications

Communications like the ones listed below are just easier on parents and on teachers when accomplished over SMS:

  • “Report cards need to be signed tonight.”
  • “Permission slips need to be turned in.”
  • “Jackson’s phone was taken because he was texting in Algebra. Please come pick it up from the office.”

Or, in the case of remote learning or prolonged absence, communication to a student on a secure line is needed to keep the parents appraised of the curriculum. A second-grade teacher texting a kid’s mom, “The class misses you and we hope you’re able to come back when you feel better!” is solidifying a social-emotional connection with a sick child, imparting that the student is wanted and belongs in school. However, that same message might verge on overly sentimental or even inappropriate if it was conveyed on the wrong channels. In fact, that type of message is more appropriate to text than to call.

A middle school teacher texting her class, “You must read the assigned chapter. There will be a quiz after Thanksgiving break,” is also perfectly necessary as long as it’s happening on a secure and recognized channel. It’s better for parents, it’s better for teachers, and, therefore, it’s better for kids.

The pandemic’s impact on school SMS

During the pandemic, parents found themselves homeschooling whether they wanted to or not, only to find a brief reprieve when the teacher successfully captured their child’s attention on whatever interface the school district chose: Zoom, Google Hangouts, or a special interface.

As the pandemic persisted, even though educators and administrators were a bit slower to embrace the use of technology to support students’ social and emotional needs, they eventually recognized the need to nurture social-emotional development remotely, even over virtual platforms. For many districts, this meant giving more personal communication: one teacher online with one student, one student on with one student, and social events. (2)

Education Weekly says that the “Pandemic Tech Tools That Are Here to Stay,” include Zoom and Google Classroom. Many school districts deal with prolonged absences or medical leave, and communication with students who are not in the classroom is much more easily facilitated when the teacher can shoot a text to the parent. The absent student could be more involved if the district provided the appropriate communication channels.

Secure, compliant messaging for schools

Almost all universities have mass texting to their students: technology that has saved lives in instances of violence on campus. Many school districts do, too.

We need secure, compliant, open communication. Banning texting and messaging is unlikely to work because it’s just so integral to way society works now. Banning school SMS can cause miscommunications with parents and prevent students from receiving personal instruction and helpful reminders, but there’s also an obvious concern about personal communication or even nonpersonal communication over inappropriate channels such as Facebook Messenger. Therefore, the solution is to provide an appropriate channel.

MultiLine™ by Movius puts a second, dedicated number on any smartphone. Two numbers, one phone. MultiLine can help give a university or school district an appropriate communication channel to address:

  • MultiLine provides FERPA-compliant texting and calling. Providing secure communication between teachers and families.
  • Bring Your Own Device. Just download the app on your personal device! MultiLine is software-based, so no need to buy or give additional hardware to your employees – and if a teacher or administrator leaves their position, you keep the number and, more importantly, the contacts, voice, and SMS data—all for a very low monthly subscription cost.
  • A Separate Business Number on the Same Phone. No need to give your personal phone information, MultiLine creates a separate, work number to call and text students or parents from. Advanced security features safeguard sensitive information: End-to-end encryption; SMS opt-in; SMS redaction. And no more carrying two phones.

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