Text messaging service provides students with instant answers

By Jen Wozniak
October 9, 2008

Imagine having a friend who you could text message any question to at any time, no matter where you are and receive a correct answer back instantly? Well, now you can by texting ChaCha.

ChaCha is a free text messaging service that is helping people all over the nation by accurately answering their questions in the form of a text within minutes. ?Anyone with a cell phone can text ChaCha, at 242-242, with any question that pops into their mind. Questions are put into various categories, such as entertainment and art, health, language and lookup, lifestyle, politics and government, science and technology, society and culture, sports and travel.

“ChaCha is conversational, fun and easy to use. Simply ask your question like you are talking to a smart friend and ChaCha’s advanced technology instantly routes it to the most knowledgeable person on that topic in our Guide community. Your answer is then returned to your phone as a text message within a few minutes,” ChaCha’s Web site said.

Your text is answered by humans, called Guides, instead of just a computer database. ChaCha is extremely convenient for those with a cell phone who are stumped with a question when they are away from their computer. Only standard texting fees apply.

Examples of questions you can ask ChaCha are, “Where is a great Italian restaurant in Manhattan,” “What was the final score of the Phillies game last weekend,” “Who is the richest female in the world” or “What is the 13 amendment.” You can really ask any question whatsoever.

“It would be good for people who are arguing over something- they could just text ChaCha to see who is right,” Shannon Santangelo, senior finance and math major, said.

“ChaCha is definitely a thing to try out and have fun with,” Dr. Jeffrey Gingerich, associate professor of sociology, said. “I have no doubt that I will use it tonight and try it out again. It’s kind of like a toy.”

Although ChaCha states that it is to be used for entertainment purposes, some feel as though it could be abused by students. Robbie Cunningham, junior exercise science major, said that he could see students relying on ChaCha instead of doing their own research or studying.

“It’s innovative, but it could get to a point where it’s a disadvantage to students,” Cunningham said.

Even though there is limited space in a text message, some students may text ChaCha if they are feeling lazy and don’t want to look a question up in their textbook. However, Gingerich said that he would not be mad if students used ChaCha in addition to doing their own research. “It’s a great way to access additional information,” Gingerich said.

Many teachers are now afraid that students will cheat and use ChaCha in school, though. “Teachers will have to have rules around test taking,” Gingerich said.

This is to make sure that students do not try to cheat during a test by texting ChaCha with questions they are unsure of.

“I think students could maybe use it as a new way to cheat,” Santangelo said.

ChaCha may or may not be easy for students to use during a test. “I don’t know if students would use it to cheat,” Jordyn Baird, freshman pre-nursing major, said. “It would take a while to text a question, and it’s hard to keep a phone out that long during a test.”

Some are also concerned with how credible the information they are receiving is. “I would only be upset if students used it for information because I don’t know how reliable the information is,” Dr. Nancy Watterson, assistant professor of social justice and American studies, said. “I want to know more about the workings behind it, but I could see the use for entertainment. I’ll talk about it with my friends and colleagues.”

For helpful hints on using ChaCha, visit chacha.com. One hint is to text the word weather followed by your zip code to ChaCha, and you receive the current temperature for your location, along with that day and the next day’s forecast. You can also set up an account on ChaCha’s Website to keep track of all the questions you send them along with the answers.

ChaCha can be used as a conversation starter, a way to settle an argument when away from the computer, for homework help, the weather or to help you solve that random question that is just bugging you and preventing you from falling asleep at night. The next time you have a question, ChaCha could be a huge help.

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Jen Wozniak

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