Many language teachers who use ICT and web 2.0 technology in their lessons , especially those involved in distance learning, will be aware of Skype. It’s a handy way to make calls to many countries around the world at rock bottom prices (as low as €0.017 per minute, pretty good heh?) What’s more, if you and your friends all have Skype on your computers, you can chat for free for as long as you want.

I’m sure lots of teachers have also heard of Gmail and the Google Talk service that Google provide too. Twitter is another useful tool for teaching up and coming service that many people have been talking about recently.

“Eh, so what’s all this then, a list of silly names?” I hear you ask 🙂 No, nothing that droll.

Fring is a wonderful little program that combines all of these chat tools (or silly names depending on your point of view) together in one place. What’s more that place is your mobile phone.

“What?! My mobile phone? With Skype, Google Talk etc all installed on it?”

Yep, absolutely. No more expensive mobile phone voice calls, no more over priced sms and what’s more you can have proper text chats just like you do with MSN messenger etc (which btw is also included in Fring.) Now hang on, is this too good to be true? Well, if you have a 5 year old mobile phone, it might just be. If, however, you have a newer “Symbian” phone or a fancy iPhone (as I think the lucky Carla Arena has) you will be able to use Fring.

“So how do I find out if I can use this Fring thing with my phone?”

Fring has actually been around for more than a year now and is slowly, but surely increasing in popularity. There are many more phones that can now use Fring, and they aren’t actually all the most high tech, whizz-bang models. Have a look at this list of Fring phones to see if yours is on it. There are loads of them from many of everyday manufacturers, not just the fancy iPhone types too! 🙂

“Wow, my phone is on the list, surely there must be a catch somewhere?”

Actually yes, there is. Fring uses the data connection on your phone (your phone’s internet connection.) If you pay a lot for the amount of data you use on you phone, Fring is not for you. However, f you have a free (or cheap) data plan, or if you have a wifi connection on your mobile (like the iPhone) then Fring could be a great idea for you.

Fring for Teaching?

Imagine all the things you or your students could do with Fring. You could organise quick and simple conference calls no matter where you are (no waiting by the computer just to chat to your students.) You could organise regular 10 minute text chat sessions with your students, again you could be anywhere to do this (teaching English from the pub is closer to becoming a reality!) Fring is also slowly starting to introduce file sharing via your mobile too, so you could send a picture or Powerpoint file to your students pre-lesson, then get them to discuss it in a group text chat.

I’ve been using Fring for almost half a year now and I’ve had no problems with it at all. There are two things that I love about Fring: the fact you aren’t tied to a computer and the fact that it rolls so many chat and voice services into one. I’m sure it will take a little while for us to regularly start using it with our students, but in the meantime it’s a great gadget for us cash-strapped tech-teachers to enjoy!

Do post a note here if you try using Fring on your mobile. I’d love to hear of anyone who’s used it with their students too!
All the best,
Seth.