As I have been preparing for back to school in recent weeks, one of the things that I’ve noticed is that all of the trusty apps that I use in the classroom have been modified, updated and in many other ways reconfigured. Now, of course apps always are being improved upon and modified as companies respond to user suggestions and requests. It does seem however that this year at back to school time, changes are everywhere and for a teacher who is busy getting ready for a new school year, learning or re-learning an app due to significant changes can be somewhat overwhelming. I almost dread opening an activity that I’ve previously prepared because I’m afraid I’m going to have to relearn the program before I can confidently use it with students!
So here are some of the changes I’ve noticed this fall to the ed tech tools I regularly:
#Edtech changes that have caused me great rejoicing!
- Plickers has added folders! This is a HUGE improvement and just makes their tool easier to use. I used it with my 12th graders this week on an ideology survey and one student said, “We should just skip our other classes and keep doing this all day.” This change addresses one of the challenges with Plickers that I previously wrote about: “The bursting of my Plickers bubble”
- If you haven’t used Plickers before, my favourite feature is their real time graphs of student answers. You should check it out.
- Remind is constantly making tweaks and improvements. Most recently,
- they’ve again improved the clock system they use for scheduling
- you can now add icons to help differentiate your classes
- they now allow you to “edit” a participant’s name, but only once. Previously, when a student, despite being asked not to, entered your class as Donald Duck, the name change process was very cumbersome. This is a great improvement.
- Remind has had their “chat” feature for a while now. It sure makes it convenient to connect with that student who has been absent for a few days.
- Remind has also had stamps for quite a while. As most of my students use Remind via text message instead of using the app, I haven’t really put this feature to work, but I hope to give it a good work out with my college students this semester!
- Socrative is much more useful that when I started using it years ago.
I love the functionality of their “live results” feature. It was very powerful this week when we did an opening “Current Events Quiz” and students were asked to identify some continents. When we looked at the live, (but anonymous) results, the students who had no clue where Asia was or couldn’t identify our provincial premier in a multiple choice question, quickly realized that they might need to start watching the news!
- Padlet has added a feature that lets you follow “activity” from your teacher home page, as opposed to having to be in the open padlet to see what’s happening. This would be especially useful if you use the link for people to add posts to over time, as opposed to using it with everyone at once.
- Polleverywhere made lots of big changes last year…quite unexpectedly! I launched a poll that I had used several times before, but the access from iPads had changed! It was something I couldn’t work around on the fly, so I had to give up Polleverywhere for a while until I had time to sit down and “re-learn” and re-troubleshoot. I do love that multiple choice voting is now done by a single letter instead of random 6-number code, but getting students/teachers at PD to figure out how to “enter” is always surprisingly difficult!
#Edtech tool changes that cause my head to spin:
- Kidblog has been working on a significant platform update since the spring. They’ve let users know it’s coming; users could eventually sign up to preview it, too. Now that it is a new school year,the roll over is complete, and all classes are now operating in the new mode. Unfortunately, this is one of those big changes that turns your world upside down. I’m sure I’ll get used to the new configurations over time, but as I’ve been prepping for back to school over the past month or so I find that the changes are different, but not always an improvement.
- I’m having recurring problems even logging in with a new class on the app on iPads, so when I introduced one of my classes to Kidblog this week, it was all through the browser.
- Even though I had tested several student users in the class, when everyone tried to log in at once, only one of the pre-set passwords worked! I had to go in while the students were waiting and recreate 30 passwords.
- The invitation to use a header on student posts is a distraction, and the tag and category buttons are below the post, so many students posted without –out of sight, out of mind.
- If students are finishing up a blog post on a home computer and forget the class url (and forget the 3 other places I’ve made it available!) they need their teacher email to access the class. There is even less of a chance they will know that!
- Despite these frustrations, I am continuing forth with Kidblog. In fact, I’m even planning to use it as the blog platform in my college pre-service teacher course this semester (instead of having each student create their own blog on WordPress.)
Change is inevitable. Change is good. Too much at one time can be overwhelming.