A-Z Tools & Technologies: Textwall

What is Textwall?

textwallA Textwall is a simple tool that learners can send messages to via sms, email or an online web form. It’s a great tool for stimulating participation in large lectures, gathering student feedback and getting an impression of a student’s knowledge or opinion.

How does it work?

A Textwall allows you to set a question that learners can respond to. For instance you could use it as a backchannel that students post questions to about the lecture you’re delivering. At regular points in the lecture you can refer to Textwall and clarify any information the students are asking about.

Each Textwall has unique code (the Technology Enhanced Learning teams Textwall code is TEL) – this ensures that messages posted get displayed on the correct walls. When responding to the wall participants must start that message with the unique code.

As well as receiving SMS, email and web messages you can configure the Textwall to pull in tweets based on particular hashtag. All messages posted to the wall will appear in real time.

Top tip: The most common mistake that users make is to miss out the Textcode.  If you’re going to use a Textwall regularly with your student, it’s a good idea to get them to save the unique textcode with the Textwall phone number so that they remember to enter it before typing their message.

What about Teaching and Learning?

Textwall is another technology that can facilitate student engagement in seminars and lectures. A Textwall gives the student a voice and an opportunity to share their opinions – ideal for those quieter students who are not often heard in large teaching spaces.

You can use Textwall to incorporate active learning and engagement to enhance the effectiveness of the lecture, using questioning strategies to manage transitions (see Stimulating Participation in Lectures).

Textwall also integrate nicely with Moodle. Using the RSS feed feature you can pull the messages posted to the Textwall into a Moodle course.  If you wish you can also archive the discussion by exporting the messages to a CSV file.

You can also create a word cloud to highlight the key themes discussed in the messages posted to the wall. This could then be used in another session or online activity (discussion forum) to stimulate dialogue around key issues.

How much does it cost?

A single Textwall costs £30 per year. However, they can also be purchased in bulk at a reduced rate. For full detail, please visit the Textwall website.

It’s important to note that as the owner of the Textwall you are not charged for the messages you receive. User’s texting the wall from a mobile device will be charged at the standard network rate. For some user’s this may be free depending on their mobile phone contract.

What do you do to stimulate participation in lectures? How do you promote active learning and engagement? Do you know what students have learnt about the subject or about learning during or following your lecture?


Further Reading

Daniel Mackley

Daniel’s role is to identify staff learning needs and strategically design, deliver and evaluate development interventions related to the effective use of current and emerging Technology Enhanced Learning tools in Higher Education. Working to the Learning & Teaching Development annual objectives and the TEL quality framework, he pro-actively supports and develops staff in their use of technology to enhance the student learning experience. Daniel is also the lead for the teams iPad Project.

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