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Mobile Tool Review: Twitter

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Courtney Greenley, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Twitter

New Twitter users will be pleasantly surprised by how the tool can be seamlessly integrated into classroom lectures and other coursework.

Cost

Free

Platform

Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as a free Twitter for iPhone app and Twitter for Android app.

What does it do?

Twitter allows students to contribute and collaborate in real-time discussions inside and outside of the classroom. Unlike face-to-face discussions, Twitter allows conversation to flow through specific classroom hashtags anytime, anywhere, and with no limits to the number or kind of contributors. For more information on hashtags and using them correctly, visit Using Hastags on Twitter.

Which class can you use it in?

Instructors can use a projection screen at the front of the class to keep a running stream of questions and thoughts organized via hashtags during lectures (also called a “backchannel”). Students can also follow information that is associated with a specific course (or with specific Twitter accounts) outside of class.

Advantages

  • Students can collaborate on projects and keep track of changes by using a specific hashtag
  • Twitter can make engagement and discussion easier for students in large lecture classes
  • Introverts or quiet students may be more likely to contribute to text-based conversations
  • Twitter is a concise medium that operates in real-time

Disadvantages

  • Not everyone already has a Twitter account, and some students are hesitant about creating a new social media presence

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

 

Mobile Tool Review: Google Drive

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Kate Burns, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Google Drive

Google Drive is flexible, easy to use, and excellent for collaboration.

Cost

Free, although upgraded storage space can be purchased.

Platform

Online through all modern Internet browsers as well as free iPhone and Android apps.

What does it do?

Google Drive is a cloud storage system and document-editing tool that provides 15 gigabytes of free space for over 30 different file types. With Google Drive, you can create text documents, surveys, spreadsheets, presentations, and drawings—and then share and/or collaborate on these documents with colleagues or classmates. This means that students can work on one document simultaneously. Additionally, users can view, comment-upon, and/or update a file depending upon the document’s settings. Instructors can collect and respond to homework electronically and without the need to attach files through email (and worry about opening attachments).

Which class can you use it in?

I use Google Drive during lectures and in writing intensive courses. I use it as a tool to take notes, share drafts of essays with peers, and give/receive comments on written work. I find Google Drive to be an excellent tool for peer review.

Advantages

Google Drive offers 15 gigabytes of free storage space, compared to Dropbox’s 2 gigabytes. If you need more space, Google Drive also has the advantage, as its about half the price for 100GB extra space. Unlike Dropbox, Google Drive offers multiple-user editing—meaning that more than one person can view and edit a document synchronously. In addition, Google Drive is integrated into students’ American University Webmail, which is hosted by Google. Unlike Blackboard, Google Drive can sync with your desktop files so that they are always accessible and documents are always saved automatically by Drive. Also, with Google Drive, you do not need to upload and/or use email or share files.

Disadvantages

AU Gmail and Google Drive is currently only available to AU students, so staff and instructors will need to set up a (free) private account. In addition, functions like grade book and email are already available through Blackboard and are integrated with each other.

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

Prezi Example

Mobile Tool Review: Prezi

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Deni Koenhemsi, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Prezi

Prezi is a virtual whiteboard that turns linear presentations into interactive, collaborative, and multi-linear narratives.

Cost

Free

Platform

Online through Internet browsers as well as a free iPhone app. Prezi has not released an official Android app yet.

What does it do?

The tool offers a three-dimensional canvas to convey ideas through text and multimedia. Users have the ability to zoom-in for details and pan-out to view broader themes.

Which class can you use it in?

Prezi can be used in any class where students or instructors professors craft presentations. It offers more options that traditional slides and can be very visually stimulating.

Advantages

  • Non-linear – content is not limited to a “flat box”
  • Ability to add and showcase content through zooming in and out
  • Entire presentations can be created, edited, and saved entirely online
  • PowerPoint presentations can be imported
  • Direct multimedia embedding capability (e.g. images, YouTube videos, and audio)
  • Presentations can be saved as PDF documents for printing
  • Presentations can be downloaded to computer for offline use

Disadvantages

  • Internet connection needed for embedded online material
  • Audio voice-over needs to be recorded in advance for each frame
  • Some uses experience motion sickness

Overall Grade

A-

Additional Information

 

Piazza logo

Mobile Tool Review: Piazza

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Courtney Greenley, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

Piazza

Piazza is more engaging, consistent, and provides more options to facilitate learning (both inside and outside the classroom) than the default Blackboard discussion board.

Cost

Free

Platform

Compatible with all modern Internet browsers as well as free iPhone and Android apps.

What does it do?

Piazza engages students through a wiki-style Q&A with anonymity options. It eliminates redundant student e-mails and is accessible through AU’s Blackboard course pages.

Which class can you use it in?

Piazza encourages questions, discussion and student collaboration in large courses through easy-to-navigate comment threads. Anonymity options may make students more confortable sharing personal thoughts or asking questions.

Advantages

  • Handouts and homework can be posted to Course Page
  • Participation statistics give instructors the ability to track student participation
  • Mathematical and scientific equations/formulas can be posted correctly through LaTeX editor
  • Diagrams, images, videos, and other multimedia can be directly embedded within forums (as opposed to linking out to another site)
  • Instructors can allow students to post anonymously to their peers. (Instructors can view identities even when peer anonymization is selected)

Disadvantages

Piazza does not have direct access to AU Library Course Reserves.

Overall Grade

A

Additional Information

WordPress Blue Logo

Mobile Tool Review: WordPress.com

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Cathryn Panganiban, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

WordPress.com

With a wide array of features and capabilities, WordPress is a great platform to use whether you are interested in starting a course blog or promoting your research (or both). Those who have limited experience in blogging platforms or website management may find the platform confusing at first, but the tool is easy to learn. With these advantages and more, it is no wonder WordPress is used by many popular websites today.

Cost

$0-$30 (depending upon upgrades)

Platform

Compatible with any Internet browser as well as iPhone and Android smartphones through the (free) WordPress app.

What does it do?

WordPress allows you to create your own website within minutes. Users can manage and update content with a single click. Furthermore, its accessible features enable the user to customize the look and feel of their site—HTML/CSS/web-design experience NOT necessary. Building your online presence has never been this easy!

Which class can you use it in?

While Blackboard allows instructors to facilitate online discussions through its own blogging feature, accessibility to this content is strictly limited to those with AU Blackboard access. WordPress offers the ability to create a public website, one that can garner an audience from around the world and extend a course outside the confines of the physical classroom. With that said, I could imagine a WordPress-operated blog to be a useful tool for students to learn how to participate in online discourse through commenting and tagged posts. The added ability to share multimedia posts may also be helpful for courses interested in ePortfolios, especially ones that focus on the arts, current events, and/or social issues.

Advantages

One of the many strengths of WordPress, when compared to other blogging platforms, is the myriad of features offered to users. Each individual user can craft a website that satisfies a particular goal (e.g. communal discourse, ePortfolio). I personally like WordPress for its many themes (templates)—many of which are completely free. Themes can be changed to update the overall look of a website. Its clean interface and the ease of creating new posts are major pluses as well. It’s also worth noting that AU marketing and communication blogs run exclusively on WordPress.org. BONUS: The mobile app is handy for those who are always on the go.

Disadvantages

The “myriad of features” also come at a cost—the seemingly endless number of options can get overwhelming and confusing for those who are new to any blogging or website design platform. In addition, editing capabilities for existing templates through the free version WordPress.com is limited. Users can change the color or background image of the template, but that’s about it. Purchasing CSS editing packages or templates costs money.

Overall Grade

A

Additional Information

Mobile Tool Review: Poll Everywhere

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Paul Prokop, Online Learning Trainer and Curriculum Designer, and James R. Lee, Associate Director for Technical Support and Training.

Poll Everywhere

Cost

Free for 40 (or less) participants and education pricing plans available for larger groups

Platform

Available on Apple’s iTunes App Store, Google Play, and on any Internet browser through www.polleverywhere.com. Participants can respond through text message, Twitter, an Internet browser, or the app.

What does it do?

Poll Everywhere allows anyone to gather instant feedback through multiple-choice and open-ended prompts.

This app is a useful product. Faculty should, however, think about using in sensible ways and not simply because it is a flashy technology. It works well for faculty that teach larger classes or desire anonymous responses.  It can illustrate different attitudes towards key issues, get reactions to assignments, or demonstrate an understanding of basic course concepts. On the other hand, Poll Everywhere may not be worth the effort to those teaching a small seminar class that doesn’t require anonymous responses. Rather than waste the time and energy needed to set up a poll, isn’t it  easier and “greener” to ask students to raise their hands?

Which class can you use it in?

Any class that would like to visualize instant feedback, anonymous responses, or a back-channel discussion.

Advantages

  • The best feature is the ease and look/feel of the app.
  • Faculty can use Poll Everywhere to ask many types of questions. For example, an instructor could ask students to offer their interpretations of class material or quickly poll the room to gauge understanding of course content.
  • Faculty can also create questions on the fly and provide a more personalized educational experience.

Disadvantages

  • Students must have charged and functioning mobile devices (smartphone, laptop, or standard text-enabled phones all work). Also, students may not wish to participate in the activities or discussion questions. This tool should be used for inclusion not for exclusion.
  • Additionally, students may face SMS charges through their cell phone carrier. However, they can use free tools such as Twitter or  Poll Everywhere’s website interface.
  • Faculty may need a subscription for large classrooms.
  • Faculty should take time to craft well-designed and thoughtful questions ahead of time through the web-based site.
  • Piazza has a polling feature that works well and does not require cell phones.

Overall Grade

B+ for students, B for faculty

More Information

Mobile Tool Review: Blackboard App

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Blackboard’s mobile app allows access to content from the Blackboard System on a mobile platform.

Cost and Platform

American University has no university-wide mobile license at this time. The app costs $1.99 a year or $5.99 for life. Available in Apple iTunes, App store, and Google Play store. There appears to be no discernible differences between features on the iPhone versus the Android.

Advantages

The advantage of this app is that faculty and students can access the Blackboard site on the go. The user interface is aesthetically pleasing; in some cases even better than the online version. It can do the basics – view Word documents or PDFs watch videos, and track discussions.

Disadvantages

Students can access most all features with the mobile device. Faculty, however do not have access to the “Control Panel” which greatly limits their options. Thus, creating a new thread, posting a new document, or adding a new user is not possible. Collaborate (BB’s synchronous tool) requires a different app.

Overall

The best feature is the ease with which you can download and view documents on BB. But limiting access to only passive activities such as viewing materials reduces the usefulness and utility.

Grade: B+ for students, B for faculty

Other Resources

Learning Technology Blog

Blackboard Guru Blog

Google Play Review (2.5 out of 5 stars)

Iona College

Mobile Tool Review: Piazza Mobile App

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Piazza’s mobile app links to a wiki-style discussion board forum that has been established for a specific class by an AU faculty member. With Piazza embedded in Blackboard, students, instructors, and TAs enrolled in the class can stay updated with real-time posts and announcements on this mobile platform.

Cost and Platform

Free.  Available in Apple iTunes, App store, and Google Play store.  There appears to be no discernible differences between features on the iPhone versus the Android.

Advantages

The advantage of this app is that faculty and students can access Piazza on the go. The user interface is aesthetically pleasing. Faculty can do the following:

  • respond to student’s questions and edit student’s responses
  • endorse student’s answers
  • enable/disable anonymity settings for student posts
  • utilize the LaTeX editor for formulas and equations
  • designate “tags” for easy search capabilities

Disadvantages

Both students and faculty need to register with a .edu e-mail. Videos do not appear to be embedded on the mobile app as they are on the desktop version, but the hyperlink of a posted video will appear. The polling option is not available through the app. Finally, the app requires that you log in to Piazza separately from Blackboard even though it is integrated into Blackboard.

Overall

The best feature is the ease and look/feel of the app.

Grade:   B+ for students, B for faculty

Other Resources

Collaborative Research using Google Drive

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The importance of peer collaboration keeps rising, for students, business, and research. Fortunately, the tools for collaboration keep improving, too.

One great tool, available to all AU community members through Google Apps for Education, is Google Drive. If you think you know Google Drive, but haven’t used it for a few months or a year, you should check it out again – Google is continually adding features to Drive products.

google drive

Google Drive is a cloud-based software and storage system that allows users to create, upload, and save documents online in multiple formats. That means you can either use it just as a storage drive, by uploading your Word documents, pictures, or many other formats, or you can create new documents using several native software formats. These include Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Forms, and others. Users at American University can access Google Drive through their american.edu email account. All you need to do to collaborate using the Drive is to share your document or folder with other users and set their level of permission. If all shared users can edit, you can all work on your research at once, with no need to email multiple copies back and forth.

Here are a few of the newer features that unique to online software systems like Google Drive, rendering them great collaboration tools:

1. Research in Documents

One of the previous shortcomings of Google Docs/Drive was that it did not allow for footnotes or connection with citation programs, like EndNote. Now, using the “Research” tool located under the “Tools” menu in a Document, Google Drive allows users to search for their sources directly from the web, or from Google Scholar, and then insert that source directly as a citation. You can even select the citation format, including APA, MLA, or Chicago. It’s really one of the easiest ways to cite sources around. Plus, it allows for you to conduct and save online research directly in the document, which means that multiple users can work together in both the researching and writing stages.

research tool

2. Comments in Documents

Writing is a part of the research process, and one that’s especially hard to perform collaboratively. Microsoft Word has some useful collaborative tools such as Track Changes and Comments, but usually only one user at a time can work on the document and you have to keep track of multiple versions. In Google Documents, multiple users can make edits at the same time, and inserting comments can be a great way to communicate about the edits. If the issue in the comment has been dealt with by everyone, then the comment can be marked as “Resolved.”

Comments

3. Creating Lists in Google Spreadsheets

This is a cool feature that really takes advantage of the fact that the software is online. If you type in two related items in adjacent cells in the Spreadsheet, highlight both cells, Click on the small box in the corner of the highlighted cells, and then press CTRL while dragging the box down to later cells, Google spreadsheets will pull information from the internet to auto-fill a list based on the items you’ve entered. Excel can do this with certain items, like numeric patterns or common entries like days of the week. But Google will pull lists from Wikipedia or the CIA World Factbook, too. (Maybe it’s not as much a collaboration tool as it’s just pretty cool.)

anigif_enhanced-buzz-27983-1362612794-16(gif from http://www.buzzfeed.com/justinesharrock/a-glimpse-into-googles-brain-hidden-in-a-spreadsheet-app)

4. Google Forms

This software allows you to create custom surveys, set your fellow researchers as editors, and then email the link to your survey respondents. Once you get all of your results in, you can convert the data to spreadsheet format or export them to your preferred data analysis software. The respondents you send the survey to don’t have to be Google users, and you and your research partners get to share and save all of the results in Google Drive. The tool is meant more as a planning tool, like Doodle, but it can be used for data collection, like Survey Monkey – the advantage over these programs is that you don’t have to create and keep track of separate accounts.

form

 

That’s all we’ll cover in this post, but please, share with us what your favorite features of Google Drive are in a comment, or let us know about other online tools for collaboration!