Friday, March 14, 2008

Geek Factor 10: Getting text messages from Google

* This post was originally published on the Smoky Hill Blogosphere blog before the move to Blogger.

I know, I know. Cell phones are banned in our school (and probably most other schools). However, a cell phone is one device that almost every kid I know has. Kids with cell phones are experts at receiving and sending texts with thumbs & number pads only (being old school, I needed a cell phone with a qwerty keyboard). But, to my knowledge, few of them use the cell phone to get information. That's where Google text messages could really be a powerful tool.

This functionality is not totally new, but it is not widely used. Here is how the process is described on a blog posting about Google (TextEverything: Google SMS):
"From any cell phone, you can send a text message request to Google's short code GOOGLE (i.e. the phone number 466453, corresponding to G-O-O-G-L-E on a standard phone keypad), and you'll get back an automated text message in a few seconds with an answer to your request. Google has a lot of info available, including yellow pages, movie listings, flight status, translations, and a lot more."

A user has to know a few basics for getting a text message from Google, like what kinds of information is available and how to request that info. via cell phone. (I'd put in a link to Google's info. page about this service, but it is blocked by our district filter (!). So, kids, you can get this information from home: http://www.google.com/intl/en_us/mobile/sms/.

Highlights for educational use from Google's page:

  1. To find definitions on the Web, enter 'define' (or 'd') followed by the word or phrase (ex: define ubiquitous, d network).

  2. Enter a fact-based question or query to get facts (ex: india population, who wrote hamlet).

  3. To get translations, enter 'translate' (or 't') followed by the expression, 'to' and a destination language (ex: translate dog to french, t new to german).

As mentioned in the blog quoted earlier, other functionality is there, including directions, maps, weather, sports highlights, etc. There are some schools who are even starting to look at using text messaging as a way to get out emergency information or announcements.

This inevitably leads to another post on using cell phones for learning, but I'll save that for later date. For now, try it for yourself!