I’m attending the 2009 Consortium of School Networking (CoSN) conference this week in Austin, Texas. CoSN alternates its conference location every other year to different U.S. cities, and meets in Washington D.C. the other years. Last year I was able to attend CoSN in D.C. with my son, Alexander. It’s a great conference and caters more to school district CTOs, CIOs, and other administrators rather than classroom teachers. There have been some great sessions here so far in Austin, and I’m really looking forward to Michael Horn’s closing keynote with Clayton Christensen later this afternoon. All attendees at CoSN this year received a copy of Horn, Christensen and Johnson’s 2008 book, “Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns.” On the way down to Austin I listened to the latest Seedlings @ Bit by Bit podcast from March 6th, which featured an interview with Michael Horn about the book and it’s key ideas. Great stuff!

This year at CoSN, the conference is using the UK-based company txtools to provide conference updates via SMS text messaging for attendees. This is a great idea, and I’m expecting to see more conferences in the months ahead utilize cell phone text messaging in similar ways.

To get started with text messaging updates at CoSN, attendees were provided with instructions to send the text “cosn” to the number 24442:

SMS Instructions for CoSN09 Updates

Since CoSN is an international conference, attendees with cell phone services from other countries needed to text message a different number to sign up for the service:

International Phone SMS Instructions at CoSN09

After sending the initial text message, a confirmation text is sent to each person with further instructions.

CoSN SMS Messaging confirmation

During the day, yesterday, people who signed up for text messaging updates received notification when room numbers changed or conference organizers wanted to send out a reminder about special events.

CoSN09 Conference SMS Message Updates

The service from txttools has worked great to stay up to date with CoSN schedule changes during the conference. The one suggestion I’d have for future conferences is to provide clear “unsubscribe” instructions to conference attendees. Since the CoSN SMS service is being used for Q&A, I simply texted that question to the same number we used to sign up and am expecting to get the answer later this morning.

Textmarks is the main SMS group messaging solution I’ve used prior to CoSN this year. For SMS polling, PollEverywhere is the main tool I’ve used. Txttools does not presently support web-based, dynamic graphing of poll results like PollEverywhere does. Zoomerang is another SMS polling tool, but I haven’t used it yet.

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