Sunday, August 15, 2010

IT to the Rescue


The following is a recent chat conversation with one of our district's IT guys (name changed and conversation slightly modified) prompted by the critical need to have a reliable way to communicate with all the families of our Project Based Learning students. 
Me: Earnest? You there?
Earnest: Yep.
Me: as he so often is, ready to assist
Last spring I asked you if we had the capability to mass text parents - you thought you might look at that in the future.
Earnest: Well, it is on hold now because of $$
Me: sigh   Okay, gotcha, that is too bad. How much does a system like that cost?
Earnest: $$$$$$$
Me: gasp!  Okay, that option is out. Sooo,,, with the new PowerSchool system we put in last year, we apparently lost the capability to make a mass recording call to parents. Is there any way to access a service like that again with the system we have? 
Earnest: That was all tied into our old service  - phone, text, email, everything.
Me: frown Right, crud. It's too bad we lost that capability and I am surprised the new system doesn't have that.
Earnest: It has the ability, but the dialer you have at school is too old to talk to the new program.
Me: sigh ,,,,and a last ditch attempt to find SOME reliable way to mass message our parents  Could we enter a group of parents into our own cell phones so that we could text them? 
Earnest: Actually, you can text to a phone via email

That means we don't have to use our personal cell phone numbers, (which is problematic for more than one reason) and our messages will come from our legitimate school email.

This may be basic knowledge to some but that was a magical moment for me. I have been lucky enough to experience the like, countless times this summer as our IT guys deliver solution after solution so that we can truly deliver a transformative learning experience for our students.

If you are interested in this method - you simply need to find out the cell phone carriers for your contacts and add it as an extension to their phone numbers. This becomes the email address that you use. They will receive your email as a text and they can text you back. Be certain to ask if they have unlimited texting so you don't cost them anything - the idea is to improve communication and relationships.  

Here are the extensions for the most common carriers around my neck of the woods:
US Cellular:
This includes Straight Talk with a TracFone from Walmart since Verizon is the carrier.
 iWireless : (yes - that is right - the format is bit different)

I haven't tested all of these but I did call each carrier to verify.

 This will be the most comprehensive communication method we have at our disposal because not every flyer gets home, and not everyone has internet/email  but most everyone these days has a cell phone. 

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