There are a couple of other services that offer similar mass-texting abilities (Remind101.com) and text-polling (PollEverywhere.com). With Cel.ly these two services are combined, look better, and are still user-friendly. Not to mention, that it provides the group or "cell" creator many more options for monitoring the conversations and varying degrees of public/private. For the educator looking to use one service for these different functions, Cel.ly is the way to go.
- Create separate "cells" for separate groups
- Open or Restricted membership to cells
- Curated Chat: mass message, private replies (large groups)
- Open Chat: Everyone sends and receives messages (small groups)
- Alert Only: Mass message, members cannot reply (huge groups)
- Private or Public (available to view for anyone on the web)
- Send message, send polls, or schedule messages for the future
- Members can join and participate via sms and web
- Web feed monitor / connection
- Polls: add a closing time (or not)
- Discribute information quickly to students & parents
- Curate a classroom chat
- Curate small-group chats
- Quick polls
- Bellringers & Exit tickets
- Stream responses to incite conversation
- HW alerts or reminders
- PLC chat!
I have signed up with both services to check them out. Remind 101 has a minimal and simplistic interface, with the sole purpose of mass text. The thing I really like about it is that it prompts the user to enter their name, so students/parents can be easily identifiable as part of the recipients. Cel.ly is slightly more packed: more customization options for public/private, mass/personal/chat text, online/cellphone use, and polls. Honestly, I like them both. Minimalism or customization? That is the question.
Real world-application!! - A few weeks ago, I was able to do a small classroom presentation/ professional development activity in one of my classes. I presented the book "Digital Teaching Platforms - Customizing Classroom Learning for Each Student" edited by Chris Dede and John Richards. After a short presentations of the book's topics, I had my classmates participate in a think-pair-share activity with a twist! The twist occurred during the pair and share as they texted to a cell chat I created hosted by Cel.ly. As they were discussing in pairs, they texted their thoughts and questions, which (were supposed to stream on the board) for everyone to see. As new messages started streaming on the board from other groups, it would give each micro-group-pair a way to participate in the larger discussion while still keeping it to a micro-sized pair. Rewind. Due to technical difficulties (aren't there always some?) the interwebz died, and I was unable to stream the "cell" conversation. However, because it is foremost a texting service, my peers were still able to send and receive texts, so they didn't miss out on the conversation, even though I couldn't stream it.
PSSST If you've read this far then get excited about the Cel.ly iPhone app! In beta right now.