Followup on the Texting Students Question
While answering a tech question earlier in the week, I discovered an existing app on my Android phone that allows me to send one text message to a group of people, students in this case. You can read, Tech Question of the Week: Group Texting here. The app was Go SMS Pro. We ran into a slight problem in the testing phase. The new question now is “how do I send a message “from” my Google Voice number in Go SMS. I never considered this because I’m always replying back to students. I never initiate the text, and there is no issue with that. So before I answer that question, first a bit more information about Go SMS and Google Voice. Essentially the way Go SMS works is you use it in place of your stock sms program, and it will handle any and all sms/mms messages coming into your phone. It will take messages from your regular cell phone number and from your Google Voice number and put them in the Go SMS program. When you send a message out from Go SMS, it uses the numbers you have in your existing address book and sends from your regular cell phone number. There is no obvious way to send it from a Google Voice number. However, the way that Google Voice works actually eliminates this problem. Here’s an explanation from Whitson Gordon at Lifehacker.
The number from which you received that text is the number through which Google Voice routes communication with that contact. We’ll call it their “alternate number”. If you text this number back, they’ll receive that text on their phone—and it will have come from your Google Voice number instead of your phone’s number. Add that number to your contacts as “Mobile 2” (or something similar) for that person. That way, when they send a text to your [Google] Voice number, you’ll be able to see that it’s from them, and not from some number you don’t know.
So what that means is that the way Google Voice works is it creates a new 406 or 976 number for everyone who calls or texts you (I’ve actually seen other numbers used as well). This 406 or 976 number replaces their real phone number. So if I text you a message to your GV number. Pretend my cellphone number is 1-(555) 123-4567. When GV forwards the text to your cellphone, it will seem as if it is coming from 1-(406) 123-4567 or 1-(976) 123-4567. This 406 (or) 976 number will be linked to my phone number 1-(555) 123-4567. So each time you call or text that number (from a cellphone attached to your GV), it will show as if the call is coming from your GV number.
Walla! There’s the answer. Okay, it’s not that easy, but what that means is you have to have ALL your students text your first before you can add them to a group and send a group text message to them. That really sucks, but it’s not impossible. It’s actually a good way to allow students to opt into receiving text messages from you. Here’s what you can do. Email or print out a message to all of your students telling them to opt into receiving text messages by sending you a text to (602) XXX-XXXX (Your GV number). Tell them to text something like: “Add Angela Jones to text reminders please” or just their name would work. Then go into Google Voice online and add all of the new text messages to your contacts list, and create a group at the same time. This is very easy to do on the website. Make sure you add the GV number and not their real number, as you will be able to see both. You will be able to tell which is which because the GV number will be a weird combination or the 403 or 976.
So there you go. This would work great in a face to face class because you can have them all text you right there at the same time, and all those messages will be grouped together in your inbox when you go to add them. And I highly recommend adding names to the numbers in your contacts. I didn’t do that this semester it’s hard getting texts from students when you don’t know who it is. I’ll never skip that step again.