At the outset of this masters course we were tasked with using and reviewing a suite of apps that were either used by youth to connect with others or by teachers as pedagogical tools. I chose to look at some apps that could help students with stress, help them stay healthy and promote wellness. One of the apps I chose to review for my main project was Remind, formerly known as remind 101. In essence this is a messaging app designed to aid communication between teachers and students. It is quite simple in operation but has been very useful to me over the course of the past semester. The app allows teachers, coaches, etc. to send instant messages to students and/or players regarding upcoming events, quizzes, or homework reminders. Here’s how it works. The app allows for instant messaging direct to students cellular device in real time. Students may choose to message back but only if allowed by the administrator. There is also the option to receive email notifications. The app also includes a variety of useful features.
One of the most useful features I have come across is the ability to schedule announcements to be sent at a certain time. This means that if you need an announcement to go out at 8:00 pm and will not be available to send it, the app will do it for you at the appointed time. Another useful feature is the ability to send file attachments with your reminders. I have used it to send homework attachments, or even notes or information sheets. There is also a useful feature that allows teachers to post their available hours in order to be contacted. This allows for greater connection to home and gives teachers some flexibility with regard to when contact can be made. The app also allows for multiple users to be administrators on the site. This way teachers can collaborate together to post content or reminders. They can also see read receipts for which students have read the messages posted. In addition, teachers can choose to allow students the ability to respond to messages as well. Finally, there is an option to send group messages as well. This can be a useful feature when discussing options with parent groups, having students discuss content or posting discussion questions. I’ve used this app for both teaching and coaching and I was very impressed with it’s possible applications in a variety of situations. As a coach I found it useful for posting when games were rained out or cancelled to avoid making phone calls to all the parents. I also used it for planning purposes. As a teacher it has been very useful especially in Wellness 10 where we might be in different locations from day to day. I use it to post reminders such as, “be sure to bring your skates today” or “remember that we are starting archery tomorrow.”
Terms of Service
One of the biggest surprises when reading through the terms of service was the fact that students under the age of 13 need to have signed permission from a parent in order to use the app. This is something to in mind if you are teaching in middle years or elementary. In addition the terms state that as a user of the platform you are required to comply with the children’s online privacy protection act or COPPA. In other words, personal information collected can not be used in any way. It seems as though Remind takes these concerns seriously as they do not wish to be noncompliant with COPPA. If privacy concerns become an issue, contacting Remind directly will trigger the company to look into the allegations and possibly to take further action if necessary.
Pros and Cons
I had very few initial concerns with the use of this app. It is a simple yet effective way to send out reminders to students and allow for quick and easy communication as well. Many teachers complain about answering emails at home and constantly feeling like they have to be on call. However, with a tool such as this, I have found it allows for quick access to students’ comments or questions as well as a more immediate response to student needs. The beauty of the app is that no phone numbers are used therefore there is minimal risk of privacy issues arising. Some parents are concerned about messaging contact between students and teachers if they have not understood that there is no exchange of phone numbers and that the app is usually only one way messaging in large groups. If there are parent concerns about privacy, Remind has also written a handy guide for parents which helps explain the app and its’ purpose. With cell phones now in the hands of most students over the age of 14, this tool allows for assurances that messages will be seen. For those who teach younger children, this tool may not seem as useful but would still apply in situations where teachers need to contact parents quickly and efficiently. Another issue is the concept of digital divide. The app is rendered somewhat ineffective in situations in which not all students have access to a device. For example, I didn’t use Remind very much in my previous teaching assignment due to the fact that messages sent would only reach about a third of my students. In considering the use of this app with parents, it is also important to weigh the pros and cons. For instance, a school with a large immigrant and refugee population might mean some significant language barriers and therefore some difficulty setting up and using the app. This could be addressed with a simple parent tutorial tech night for example. However, if all students have access and can use their devices throughout the day, there should be no issues.
In speaking with students who have used the app, several things were mentioned in relation to the app. Most students mentioned that they appreciated receiving updates on things like due dates and assignments. Some also mentioned they liked the ability to post questions to the teacher or in a forum. However, some did draw attention to the fact that since Google classroom has many of the same features as well as the ability to post assignments and grades, Remind seemed, at times, redundant. One of the advantages of using Remind is that the messages stream seamlessly to students cell phones with no surrender of cell numbers. This safeguards both teachers and students from potential privacy issues. In general I have found this app to be very useful and simple to use as well. Often I will find myself at home and suddenly remember that there is a piece of information that I needed to share with students before the next day. The app allows me to send a quick message so that I know that we can hit the ground running with our next activity the following day. In closing, I would give this app 5 out of 5 Luke Heads and would highly recommend it for teachers and coaches.