Friday, December 25, 2009

Using Google SMS to Enrich Social Studies Instruction

Cell phones are the most ubiquitous digital learning device available to today's students and while I've provided several ideas for using cell phones to enrich teaching and learning I have not shared actual lessons. Here is the first of what I hope will become a series of lessons to provide educators with ideas for using cell phones in education. This lesson can be implemented at school if you are teaching in an environment that allows students to use personal learning devices, or outside of school if students are banned from using digital devices.


Social Studies


Google SMS

Lesson Title:

City Guide - Anywhere USA Using Google SMS

Lesson Overview:
Use Google SMS for students studying communities around the world.

Lesson Description:
As a class the teacher will lead students through an activity where they study various characteristics of their own community including:
-Population: Find out the population of your community
-Local: Get business listings, enter what you want to find and include a city and state, or zip (ex: pizza 10013, Blockbuster boston ma). Brainstorm with your class what type of things would be interesting to look up in your community.
-Movies: Enter movie followed by a city and state, or zip to find out what movies are currently showing in your area
-Weather: Enter 'weather' (or 'w') followed by a city and state, or zip

They will do this using the Google SMS similuator which is a terrific tool because it allows the teacher to project from his/her laptop and model how to do this work. Students will be asked to research another community using Google SMS where they explore these same characteristics. Which community they explore, will, of course, be dependent on the teacher's curricular focus. It might be that they are studying the community in which their ancestors came from, or perhaps various cities in a particular state or country of study.

Once students have gathered this information they take the information they found about the community they are studying, combined with the information the class discovered when studying their own community and write a report sharing what they would like and wouldn’t like about living in this other community. Encourage students to expand upon the information you asked them to find and request that they come up with at least three additional characteristic to explore in each city. For example, they may want to look up amusement parks, churches, hotels, skateboard parks, casinos and compare that across the two communities.

The finished reports can become part of a number of larger class projects for instance:
-A map of the area could be posted on a bulletinboard with each report pinned (in a format that gets unfolded) onto each part of the map. Post its could be placed on the board so others could comment on each report.
-All projects could be posted on a Wikispaces page that celebrated the topic being studied. The discussion tab could be used on each page with a thought provoking question to readers and readers could use the tab for questions they might have.
-Students could record their report using a Voki and all the Voki's could be posted on a site (ie wiki or web page). Students could use the comment feature on Voki to comment to one another about what they heard.

Here's How to Get Started
  • Text message your search query to 466453 ('GOOGLE' on most devices).
  • Google will text message back results.
  • To use the online interactive demo visit
  • The demo enables you to view the results of a query on the phone image which shows how it would look on your own mobile device.

NETS Standards Met:

1. Creativity and Innovation - Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
Communication and Collaboration - Students use digital media and environments to communicate and work collaboratively, including at a distance, to support individual learning and contribute to the learning of others.
Research and Information Fluency - Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information.
Critical Thinking, Problem Solving, and Decision Making - Students use critical thinking skills to plan and conduct research, manage projects, solve problems, and make informed decisions using appropriate digital tools and resources.
Digital Citizenship - Students understand human, cultural, and societal issues related to technology and practice legal and ethical behavior.

Explanation of how the use of cell phones enriches this lesson.
The integration of cell phones into this lesson provides students with resources and the flexibility to find information that is not readily available in classrooms without technology. The use of this tool enables students to research, explore, compare, and contrast a multitude of different topics in a city of interest on demand. This provides at student fingertips, access to information that is not available in classrooms enabling them to compare, contrast, and make new meaning in ways not previously possible.

Contribute your lesson ideas.
If you have a lesson that you are using with your students, please share your ideas at

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