Review by Amanda Finkelberg, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2014

Athena's Workshop

Texting platform for students, parents, has extra classroom features

Subjects & skills

  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Thoughtful tool allows two-way texting and group breakout chats between instructors and individual students.

Cons: Texting may not be the best medium to reach all learning types, and the digital divide may present equity issues for some classrooms.

Bottom Line: With creative use, this robust platform could help close the gap between in- and out-of-classroom learning.

Keeping everyone on the same page is a great way to help students take accountability for their learning. Through simple messaging, teachers can blend learning into students' lives in a small but ongoing way. Remind students about upcoming tests and assignments, send unique to-do's or messages of support.

Beyond simple reminders, Athena's Workshop could also promote texting as a creative teaching tool. Teachers could text daily questions, or create contests to help diversify assessments, tapping into kids' variety of learning styles. Another fun idea would be to use the platform to make a clue-based game that could be played in the classroom or on a field trip. With tools like this, there are myriad ways to capitalize on students’ love of texting to get them engaged in course content. Last, help your students build awareness about texting as only one of many genres of digital conversation. Discuss both the benefits and limitations of this type of short-form communication.

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Athena’s Workshop is a texting platform designed specifically for classroom teachers, allowing them to communicate with students and parents via SMS texting. The platform attempts to ensure privacy by masking numbers and allowing for anonymous messaging.

Like another similar service, Remind101, Athena’s Workshop’s primary tool gives teachers the ability to send text messages to groups of students and parents. But Athena’s Workshop also goes a few steps further in functionality, as students or parents can then respond to texts with questions and begin a private thread. According to the platform's developer, these threads are logged for safety purposes -- students under 12 can not receive messages unless a parent has signed up, making the system COPPA compliant. Moreover, Athena’s Workshop offers a Spanish-language texting plan, which costs a bit more per year and automatically translates texts from English into Spanish. Note: If you’re already using Edmodo, Athena’s Workshop has a feature that allows integration between the two platforms.

Like any tool that gets students' attention in today’s digital culture, Athena’s Workshop could be a very useful resource. Gone are the days when kids intercept the mail before their parents get home. Texting can help teachers extend the classroom to the devices students (and many parents) use most. The ability to send identical SMS messages to students and parents simultaneously means everyone has the same information at the same time. With everyone on the same page, the increase in accountability can help boost students' participation and achievement in the classroom. Also, the ability for students and parents to easily respond and initiate a dialogue is a positive feature.

Still, texting is not for everyone. Many teachers, students, and parents might do well to be mindful of everyone's at-home, family, or personal time. Furthermore, the digital divide is an important issue to consider here. The developer's website cites a Pew report stating that 75% of teens have unlimited texting plans, and that 67% of low-income teens have text-enabled phones. Teachers will need to assess how well this type of system will work, based on their classroom demographics. Also, keep in mind that savvy students can often filter out messages they don’t want to see.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The medium will grab students' attention, but texts themselves may or may not engage. Thoughtfully crafted short-form correspondence can go a long way toward sparking interest.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

When everyone's on the same page, there's generally more accountability for students. Remember that students (and parents) may already receive a barrage of text messages; it's important to craft school-related messages thoughtfully.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The two-way texting feature makes it easier to ask questions, but also opens up possibilities for using text as a learning tool, both in and out of the classroom. With creative use, there's a lot of fun and learning that can happen here.

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