Tech Grant Updates
Welcome to our Newsletter! Please read the list below to see this month's updates related to the website and the deliverables.
We have an upcoming PD on Wednesday, April 27, 2022 titled Wakelet: Blast Off! with Ratosha McBride from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. Click here to register
We have an upcoming PD on Forms for Student Onboarding, Exit Tickets and Feedback 2 by Shelly Leduke from 10:45 AM to 12:15 PM. Click here to register
As a participant in the EdTech Maker Space Project on the Digital Skills Library that was released at the end of March, one of the aspects of the project was to work on the technology resources available in other languages with the purpose to assist students in building their digital literacy skills through their native language. The WES posted a blog titled Making Digital Learning Accessible to Immigrants and Refugees that presented the experiences of a few collaborators on working on the project and how the library can be used in the classroom.
You can schedule an appointment with tech support to receive assistance in instructional programs or in any of the resources that we have available on the website. Click here to schedule your appointment.
Talking Points is a two-way based communication program that allows teachers to communicate with students via text and/or messaging through the app. When adding students to a class list in your account, you can select their language. This is an optional feature that allows the program to translate all your announcement and messages to your students in the language you selected. Students that download the app will have the interface translated to match the language as well. While messages are translated to the selected language, you can switch the language on the same message to see the original message that was translated! Both the student and the teacher can change the language in the profile through the app or on the website. AI and human translation are available for free in 100+ languages.
The interface is very intuitive and the app is easy to use. Teachers can share announcements, send polls for students, schedule messages and more. Teachers can open a free account that allows teachers to create 5 classes and add up to 200 students. Administrators that would like to add Talking Points across all agencies can request a quote for additional features like having a designated account manager, unlimited class/student enrollment, downloadable reporting and districtwide messaging.
As part of their Resources section, Talking Points divides the resources by teachers and school and districts to make sure teacher accounts can follow the resources that match the features available on my account. You can find here start up guides in most languages for students that walkthrough how to setup Talking Points on their devices, as well as tutorials on how to navigate the different features in their program.
Setting Up Text Messaging in your Agency to Get the Results You Seek
I wanted to use this week’s digital strategy to bring up one of the most relevant ways to reach out to students: text messaging. There are many texting messaging systems out there that have very similar features and can provide the same results. I have seen effective strategies being used in What’s App, Remind, Talking Points and even Google Classroom (which is not a text messaging system). Today, we will explore a few ways you can implement the use of text messages to reach out to your students in your agency and get the results you seek.
Set up the program and walkthrough with staff and students. This may sound obvious, but part of the reason text messages are not as successful is because students could easily mislabel them as spam messages. When you select a system for your agency, make sure to support all staff members in the implementation and use of the program. This brings uniformity across the agency by offering the same tool of communication with students. Students can receive assistance with setting up the program or app (if its Remind, Talking Points, etc.) and more importantly, recognize that the incoming messages are from your agency when they receive texts. It is also helpful to introduce the staff that will be involved in the messaging within your agency to help make connections with students.
Be consistent with the messages. I would like to talk about two points here: Scheduling text messages and guidelines. Consistently scheduling messages, like a message released at 9:00 AM on each day the class take place, gives students the opportunity to anticipate, plan and follow up for the class. Many apps offer the option to schedule when you would like to send a message you already composed. Last year, we were using the announcements from Google Classroom as a uniform way to communicate with students. Some teachers did not notice that they had announcements posted on 12:00 AM on the day of the class. Since we assisted students on setting the Google Classroom App on their mobile devices, students were receiving messages at that time. While this was fixed with the teachers, it is important to have the guidelines and tutorials to assist staff on what and how students are being contacted.
Guidelines are important to avoid mistakes like the one just mentioned, but they are also key in making sure messages are including key information that we would like students to know. Text messaging scripts can assist in keeping the messages formal however, it also needs to align with the audience you are sending them to. A low level ESL text message may need simpler vocabulary when compared with a CDP student for example. Programs like Talking Points include free and seamless translation to other languages. These are factors that need to be taken into consideration. Please look at one way you can incorporate guidelines in your agency:
I prepared a Progress Report script in Google Sheets for CDP in New Britain Adult Education for the last couple of years. The script would include their attendance and the total of assignments that the student has completed. The teacher will fill in a comment section that would include any additional information the teacher wanted to add in addition to what was on the script. Google Sheets then would combine the three pieces of information, in which the teacher would then copy and paste in Google Classroom as a personalized email for the student. This gave the agency two benefits: 1) All students were receiving the information about their attendance and assignments and, 2) All the messages were recorded in the Google Sheet in case there were any discrepancies down the road of a student that wasn't aware about a failing grade or being dropped from a class.
Be specific. Make sure that the messages sent are clear and specific. Messages that are too complicated can be misinterpreted or not understood. A good point of reference is "if you need to explain it, it can wait until class." If there are messages that you know a student will receive and they may not understand, try to present them in advance to students, like presenting to low level students a message that talks about a class being cancelled due to inclement weather.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like assistance with text messaging in your agency.