Texting In Class

I have been playing with a couple of things lately to help me facilitate the inquiry learning that my physics students need to develop on their way to helping power rural Nicaragua. By the way, watch this powerful chapel mentioning this very problem, by one of my students. In our current investigative phase the students are designing experiments to test gravitational potential energy and kinetic energy. This involves dropping things from high places. Not all the high places are near each other or in my room. So they must go out.

One of the frustrations I have had with inquiry based lessons is students waiting around for help, especially silly stuff like may we go somewhere and get something. To that end I set up a Google Voice account. I gave the number to the students and told them that if they needed to go somewhere text me with the name of the student texting, their group members and their location. If they move, text again. If they have questions text again. If they do not have texting set up their own Google voice account and text from that.

I then used the new iPod that I have been playing with to set up TextNow (free for a little while) and integrated it with the Google Voice account using their handy instructions. If I had not been interested in using Google voice I think I would have used TextFree instead, but I could not find Google voice integration. This way where ever I am on campus I get text message updating my students locations, right in my iPod without racking up texting bills. I move from location to location answering questions and taking pictures.

I feel like this is working well. I can move quickly around campus and know where students are and what they are up to. I also feel like I am available to them if they need me. How would you do something like this? Are there other programs or services you might use?