In our college EdTech class this week, students had the task of researching several Web 2.0 tools and blogging about the three that were most exciting to them. I’ll readily admit that it doesn’t take much to get me excited about EdTech Tools, so in the spirit of learning with my learners, I too will be blogging about a favourite EdTech tool.
I’m not sure where I first encountered Spiral.ac a few months ago, but Mark and Marli at Spiral are certainly doing a fine job on Twitter of asking teachers to try out their new tool; several of my pre-service teaching students have been asked to try it out via Twitter and they’ve been able to reply that they’ve already used it as a student! If nothing else, it has been exciting for my students to have these kinds of interactions as a teacher on Twitter!
So what is Spiral? It’s billed as a “collaborative” app and has several distinct features. Some of these features are similar to other tools or apps like Socrative, Poll Everywhere, Padlet, or even Edmodo or a blogging site, but they have some neat “collaborative” aspects that set them apart.
“Quickfire” is one of the two modes publicly available on the app. Students login to their teacher’s account using a join code the first time, or username and password given by the teacher. Basically then they wait for the teacher to “fire” a question at them. What I love about this as a teacher, is that the questions don’t have to be pre-planned so you can really ask what ever question fits the flow of the lesson. I can ask it orally, or type it in for students to see. Once I launch it to them, they submit answers that appear anonymously on the white board so we can compare responses, test theories, answer basic fact-based or review questions, make predictions…the possibilities are excitingly endless. There is also a “pie graph” view which works best for shorter one or two word answers or if students are asked to pick between a few different choices. Here’s one of the neat parts: as answers appear, I can give them a check mark, or send them back for revision…”Mrs. Kannekens would like you to revise your answer.”
Here’s an example: In my EdTech class, students all sit at computers and many are distracted by their own screens. I find this a challenging aspect of teaching adult learners in a computer lab. Spiral lets me throw questions as them on a regular basis so I don’t have to rely on the same 2 or 3 students to respond to my questions…now everyone has to answer. A questions this week to start the class was “What is Web 2.0?”. Our Spiral response quickly showed me that almost no one in the class knew the answer. This surprised me, but I then knew I needed to go into more detail in my description. Spiral can thus lead to great lesson customization!
“Discuss” is the second mode available. I tried this for the first time 2 weeks ago in a different lesson with my EdTech class. Students basically write/create a written response to a pre-planned question. (In this case, I had students briefly describe their experience in their first-ever Twitter chat). So far, no big deal…but then I get to press the “shuffle” button! Each student receives the anonymous response from someone else in the class and is able to respond. And then we can shuffle again… I can “star” exemplary responses to examine merits, or just discuss orally as a class. I can’t wait to use this for peer feedback in one of my English classes! Responding to each others written ideas is a process that we have done in different ways through Kidblog and even Google Slides in this course, but Spiral made it very quick and efficient and the anonymous component has some advantages (although I can always identify a student -publicly or privately– if need be).
Those 2 very versatile features are very exciting. I would be using this product at my high school if our internet was reliable. When I tried it on two separate occasions with one of my English classes, only about 2/3 of students were able to log in. When internet reliability is restored, this will quickly become a very useful tool in my classroom to increase student engagement.
Because I’ve been using Spiral, they’ve sent me a third Beta tool to try out called “Team Up”. According to their website, “Team Up improves the process and outcomes of group work. Students work in teams during one or more lessons – contributing ideas and building shared presentations in the form of slide shows or posters. Teams can work from individual or shared devices to create high quality outcomes that the whole class can learn from. ” Again, this tool seems similar to outcomes that can be achieved in other platforms like Thinglink, Glogster, Padlet, etc, but the collaboration piece does seem intriguing. And maybe this is what the “team” function is for when I create a class of students??? If not, it’s another feature of Spiral that I have yet to discover.
I’d love your comments if you’ve experience Spiral as a teacher or student!