If you follow my blog with any regularity, you know I love trying out new technology in my classroom. This year has been no except to that rule. I’ve been so busy with so many things, I haven’t spent a lot of energy telling you what I’ve been testing out along the way. So, here, in what will probably be the last post of the calendar year, I give you my round up of what technology I piloted this year, what I thought of each app, whether I’m still using it or not, and what I am looking at to pilot in 2015.
My Big Campus vs Edmodo
The state of Indiana purchased licenses for My Big Campus for every teacher in every district in the state last school year and I volunteered to pilot the LMS. Most of the teachers in my building had been using Edmodo at the time, as was I, so I am able to do a bit of a comparison of the two platforms for you.
I like My Big Campus (MBC). Its secure, well organized and functions as a website page for you group or class with sub pages for the actual learning modules. Our version came with NBCLearn videos that could be embedded into lessons as well as the ability to upload You tube videos.
Unlike Edmodo, where if a student forgets their password, you can simply access the roster list and have them reset their password, MBC has an extra layer of security that makes it impossible for the teacher to make resetting occur in the classroom. Students who have added email addresses to their accounts, can email instructions to themselves to reset their passwords, and that’s great, but what about the students who don’t have email accounts? It became very frustrating, very fast (especially after a long weekend or in our case, the “snow days hell” we experienced last winter) and I basically trained myself how to use the platform, never quite getting the Schoolwork page to work the way I wanted. The students liked it, once we all got the hang of it, though the layout of the discussion board was rarely used because the kids got tired of trying to figure out how to get to it directly from the main page. (possibly an issues of my lack of training)
Edmodo doesn’t have the website layout, however, its proved to be easier for the students to navigate the page and respond to discussions and move to groups and activity pages.
With proper PD, MBC can be a powerful tool in the classroom; I just didn’t have the patience nor the wherewithal to ensure all the students could access it at all times.
Adobe Voice vs. Google Voice
About 2 years ago, I began using Google Voice as a audio tool in my classroom. A powerful product from Google, I used it to send messages to students and parents during our snow days, give assignments that students could then respond to directly via voice mail and as an assessment tool. I love it and still use it about once or twice a month as the assessment tool.
I discovered Adobe Voice near the end of the last school year so I didn’t use it with the students. During the summer, I created a couple of videos using the product. Unlike Google Voice, which is strictly and auditory tool, Adobe Voice combines video and audio to create a creative presentation tool. I haven’t used it yet in the classroom, but plan to have students create daily or weekly weather reports with it as we begin our meteorology unit in January. Here’s an example of how I have used it.
Both Voice products are excellent alternatives for assessing understanding of concepts and providing differentiated learning opportunities for the students. I will continue to use both as they are simply fun tools and will provide ways for my students to express themselves in very different ways.
As noted above, I used Google Voice to communicate with students and parents and it worked great. Remind does a better, more secure job. Where Google Voice is a two way communication tool; I send a message, people can respond back, Remind is a one way tool. Like Google Voice, you are assigned a local phone number for all in your network to use. Unlike Google Voice, only you can send messages. The advantage of this is not having your phone notifications buzzing away all the time AND the added security of not ending up having “conversations” with students that might become inappropriate.
Phones as clickers anyone? I reviewed this app last year after piloting it. I’ve used it several times since then. I use it as a bell ringer, to do informal assessment during class and also as a homework activity. Something new that I love: Poll Everywhere has added academic resources in the form of actually poll questions that you can choose from and load immediately. I LOVE it! I used the Chemistry polls several times during that unit and noticed they have some Climate and Weather questions also. The students love it because it gives them an excuse to pull out their phones and respond as a group to a question. It generates lots of discussion on the topic and helps them to think critically about what they are learning.
I have been so busy this year that I simply haven’t had time to check out all the new apps and tools available for use in the classroom, but I will get to a few more soon. I am still making flipped videos, using Explain Everything, Educreations and most recently, Screencastify, which I will do a separate review on in the Spring.
I hope this info helps you as you look for new tools to use in your classroom. Have a great 2015 everyone!