Using Technology to Create Community

capturing manhattanHow do you communicate with your learners outside of the classroom? How do they communicate with each other? Have you ever needed to quickly send a message to all of your students?

Some smartphone apps may be able to improve your ability to communicate with your students outside of the classroom and give them a semi-public forum to interact with each other. One that I have used in the past with great success is WeChat. WeChat is an app that allows you to send videos and images, hold groupchats, or even send voice messages all for free.

On the first or second day of class, I walk students through how to download the app and I create a groupchat that I add each of the students to. As new students join class I make sure to add them to the groupchat. We then all have the ability to communicate with the entire class at a moment’s notice. If class is canceled due to weather or illness, I can contact all of my students at one time. If I know of a good education opportunity or job opportunity for my students, or if my students have something they’d like to share with each other, WeChat can facilitate that discussion. Students also have the ability to send messages individually to each other or to me if they need to. While teaching at the Ohio State University, I even had one student use it to see who might be interested in a Spring Break road trip.

Of course, all of this requires both you and your students to have smartphones, and for your students to be willing to participate. If you decide to use WeChat or a similar app (I’ve heard that WhatsApp works in a comparable manner) let us know how it goes in the comments below!

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