Text messaging has been used by educational establishments for quite a few years now. In the early days most people had a 1 way system set up, where the tutor could send texts to the learners, to notify them of things like room changes or reminders to turn up. Then some systems allowed for 2 way communication which opened up all sorts of learning opportunities, but either way there is a cost attached. Most services charge between 5p and 12p per text, which doesn’t sound a lot, but when sending a message to say 30 students once a week, this quickly adds up. I personally used to manage the text messaging system for 1 team in 1 college, and we were spending an average of about £6 – £7 per day, and looking at the history of messages being spent, many were either unneccessary, or really essential (and the problem with that is some learners don’t have phones want to give out their mobile number).
So back to Jaiku – Jaiku is a hybrid of micro-blogging and social networking, a bit like FaceBook but without the zombies, snowballs, various types of wall and all the other things I don’t see the point of. Jaiku is much purer – it is primarily text based, with each person created an ‘account’ and then connecting to other people. You post to the site giving an update of what you are doing, and everyone who is connected to you sees that. But the beauty of Jaiku is that it can be used in conjunction with a mobile phone. So I can send a message to Jaiku from my phone (this costs me 21p so I don’t do it very often – other people on different data plans this is less). But more interestingly I can set Jaiku up to send any messages that my contacts post, to my phone – and this is completely free.
There are then 2 ways to play this:-
1) A tutor could create a Jaiku account to support a group of learners, the learners can then create Jaiku accounts, set themselves up to receive text message alerts. They then connect to the tutor so when he/she posts a message to Jaiku (from their computer) they get the message sent to their phone – with no cost to either party.
2) A tutor could have 1 Jaiku account, and then set up something called channels – with 1 channel for each group of learners. With channels, what the tutor has to do is identify which channel they want to send a message to, so the right learners get the right message.
The thing that I like about this model, is that it puts learner in complete control of what they recieve. They choose whether to create a Jaiku account, they choose whether to connect to the tutor or not, they choose whether to get messages sent to their phone or not. When I have suggested this model at training sessions, some staff are concerned that if some learners don’t do all the steps they won’t get the messages and this is a serious problem – but in reality a learner has always had the right to not provide a mobile phone number, so wouldn’t have got messages anyway. This also makes staff think about the way they use these technologies. we need to move on from reminding learners that its a Monday and therefore they need to get to College.
And then there are the people saying that having invested so heavily into a VLE that we should be using some function in that (just because its there), well with Jaiku you can get an RSS feed, which means if you use for example Moodle you can add an RSS block that takes that feed – this way people not accessing the messages from their phone will still be able to access them.
And when you start using Jaiku, and realising that you can add in RSS feeds from other sources (Flickr, YouTube, Veotag, Gabcast…..) you can create a very rich learning environment.
Oh and did I mention this is all free.