What Teachers Should Know About Messaging Apps

Tuesday, August 30, 2016 -- Scott Sterling

Messaging apps are one of the most popular segments of the different app stores. Everyone is looking for functionality not provided by the stock messaging apps on phones and tablets. This includes students, who are always on the cutting edge of finding ways to communicate with their friends.

Although there are limited uses for apps like Facebook Messenger, Snapchat, and Kik within a lesson, there are a few things teachers should know about these apps and how students are putting them to use.

You don’t need a data connection

It used to be the case that the only way devices could message each other was through access to the cell phone network or Wi-Fi. For most messaging apps, this is still the case. But one is becoming extremely popular among students because it needs no connection at all. Jott uses a phone’s Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radio to create a network of devices within a close proximity. That means that if you think you’re safe from texting in class because cell service in the building is terrible and your Wi-Fi is secure, that’s no longer the case.

Anonymity has a certain appeal

Above all else, teens just want to blend in. There’s no better way to do that while still connecting with others than through anonymous messaging apps. Yikyak allows students to anonymously chat and send pictures to people within their general proximity (using the device’s GPS radio and a data connection). Students are able to talk with people they know are around them, but who may or may not identify themselves. This is one of the ways school gossip can spread quickly.

On the other hand, a site like Ask.fm can be a double-edged sword. Anonymous polls are posted and readers respond. This could be great during a lesson, but students could also get off-task quickly.

Temporary messages are a fantasy

Students like Snapchat because they believe their pictures and messages are temporary if they activate the right settings. The thinking behind Snapchat was always to make people more likely to share deeper thoughts because those messages would go away, never to be seen again.

Of course, nothing leaves the Internet. Between data mining apps like Snapsaved and the ability to pay Snapchat to see Snaps multiple times, nothing is deleted forever. And don’t forget the ubiquitous screen shot–no app has figured out how to keep people from taking pictures of their screen.

Looking for more pointers to help navigate the ins and outs of tech in the classroom? Check out this post on 21 Tips, Tricks, and Ideas Every 21st Century Teacher Should Try!