Teachers have been using various technologies going back to before the industrial revolution, though to a more exclusive audience. Today, the technology that people talk about is generally computer based rather than physical as in machines. On these pages, I'll be discussing various technologies that are meant for, or can be used for educational purposes. 

Several sections will be presented:

  • The Softer Side - programs that are relatively simple to use, and have usage for school settings.
  • The Hard Side - Physical items that can be used in the classroom including projectors, 'clickers' and other items that can be felt and held.
  • Run Your Web - This will discuss what is perhaps the most technical portion as these items will require operating your own website, and perhaps web server.

This series of articles explores technology available for classroom usage. Many of the packages discussed here may also have other applications. Please feel free to explore. If you need help, or have a suggestion, please contact me at your convenience.

 


Drop-It-To-Me

Where it is: www.dropito.me

What it is: A web service that allows people to upload only to a selected folder on Google drive, Dropbox, or OneDrive

How does it work:

Teacher: After creating the account, select your cloud service, the folder, and password. The password is passed on to your users to direct the file to the proper location. Other options include receiving an email when a file is uploaded, and having multiple addresses for uploading, for example one for each class period.

Student: Goto www.dropitto.me, enter the password to permit an upload, then either drag-and-drop the file into the upload box, or use a file browser to locate and select the file.

What data do they collect: Information you supply such as your email address, IP address, any communications you have with them, any info that Google Analytics may collect.

How do they support the site: As this point, partly by donations of users, and also by offering custom branded pages to those who don't want the Drop-It-To-Me logos showing.

Additional Notes: Instructions on the site are scant. Since you have given them the ability to read/write files to a particular section of your web drive, in theory, they could read anything in that folder.  

 


Kahoot

Where it is: www.getkahoot.com

What it is: A service to do quick, informal multiple choice tests

How does it work: There are actually two sites to work with:

GetKahoot.com – This is where the teacher makes their account, and creates the questions they wish to use. There are also many question sets that other people have made available to the public. On the public sets, one thing to be aware of is that I have found a few that had errors in the answers. Public question sets generally cannot be edited.

Making Questions – Can be a drag and drop affair. If you have an image, you may either drag and drop the image onto the page, or browse to the file on your computer. Enter the text for the question. The question is designed for four answers, so enter one or more correct answers with the remainder as incorrect answers. Repeat for as many questions as you want. To start the quiz, log into your account select the quiz and play. You must project the site onto a screen. Users go to another site.

Kahoot.it – This is the site where the quiz is played. Users go to kahoot.it on their own connected device, and enter the game number that is being displayed on the classroom's projection screen, and his or her name (or other identifying info). Teachers can kick out any players they don't want, for example, if a student has entered an inappropriate name. When all players are registered, or at any time really, the teacher can start the play. Once the quiz has started, players can no longer be entered. Also, if a player leaves the game they cannot reenter. 

Game Play – Each question has a time limit as determined when the question was created. That question will also end early if all players answer before the time has expired. After the question is closed, the top five players, as determined by the number of correct answers, and the speed of the answer, is displayed. At the end of the game/quiz, the top five players are displayed as determined by the right answer / speed determination. 

After the Game – Teachers can download a spreadsheet that displays the student's names, their timed scores, the un-timed scores (count of right v. wrong), as well as the individual answers for each student on every question played.

What data do they collect: Any information you enter such as name, email, questions, etc, they collect and hold. Additionally, automated information such as IP addresses, browser info, pages visited, cookie info and again, anything you add to the site. Any public information, such as questions marked public, they do not attempt to control. Other info as previously listed, may be shared and used for promotional purposes: opt out instructions will be provide.

How well does it work: In light testing, and in multiple instances where I was on the student side, I haven't seen a glitch.

How do they support the site: Currently, kahoot is running on startup money based out of Oslo, with offices in London and San Francisco. They intend on keeping the education aspect of it free, but will be creating a commercial version for non teachers which will carry fees. When this will happen, is uncertain. For more details, visit: http://goo.gl/doIH3e

 


Google Voice

Where is it: www.voice.google.com

What it is: A service to tie your voice and texting requirements together. 

How does it work: There are two aspects to this service:

Phone - You can get a telephone number in an area code of your choice, they will even give you a limited choice of the prefix and the final number. From here it works similar to any other phone number, but with enriched features. When someone calls your Google Voice number, it will forward the call to any, and all numbers that you program into the system. It's possible for someone calling your Voice number to actually be ringing your cell, home, and office phone at the same time. Whichever one you answer on, your then connected. (The calling person will not know what phone you're answering on.) If you don't answer, then the Voice message system takes over, takes a message, and sends you an email transcript of the message. (The quality of the transcript varies greatly from message to message.)  To place a call, you can initiate the call from your computer, or smartphone app. The person you're calling will see only your Voice number regardless of what phone your actually using. Each call received is saved in a record, as is each call. Each record can be individually deleted. There is also a notepad application so you may annotate each call individually. Finally, you can block individual numbers with a choice of one of several messages. Any calls and texts handled on your cell phone do incur the time/cost of your cell carrier. It is also possible to place calls from within Gmail. 

Texting - Using the same number, you can send and receive texts just like on your phone. One additional feature however is that received texts are emailed to the email address of your choice, and you can respond by replying to the email. (This type of response will appear as a normal text response to the other person.)

What data do they collect: What you supply them with, for example: telephone number, name, email, etc. Additionally, they may also collect data such as you IP address, place cookies on your system, etc. They do not disclose information to third parties. This service becomes part of your overall Google presence, so any other information on their other services will be tied in such as from Gmail, YouTube, Plus, etc. For the transcription service, you are given the option of releasing the call recording and transcription to Google to help improve the service. 

How well does it work: I've used this system for several years and it works nicely. I give student and parents this number. I don't really get many parents calling me, but they always appreciate the ease of contact. Students have never called me but tend to text an occasional question about an assignment, or other related class issue. If anything, I think that both the parents and students under utilize the service, but it does at the least provide the possibility of better communication.

How do they support the site: There are three ways Google makes money off this service:

Foreign calls - They charge for calls to foreign countries. I'm not really sure of the actual rates, but it appears to be, in general 2¢ a minute: and they provide a 10¢ credit to start.

Businesses - Businesses can sign up for paid accounts that have additional features such as consecutive numbers, shared mail boxes, etc. 

Sponsored Ads - Like Gmail, Voice may present ads on the page.

 Trivia: This service started out life as GrandCentral, and was purchased by Google in October 2009. 


 

Socrative

Where is it: www.socrative.com

Update coming - Socrative has been purchased by MasteryConnect (announced June 23)

What it is: A web based response system: It allows students to use any web device (phones, tablets, etc.) to respond to prompts from teachers. For example, a teacher can verbally ask the class a question, and the students respond via their phones. The teacher gets an instant response and can see how many got the answer correct. This allows for a quick check for understanding. Responses are recorded in a Google Docs spreadsheet and may then be used for part of a grade. 

How does it work: This is a variation of the ""clickers"", but without the devices. Students use their phone or other web device to answer a single question which can be Multiple choice, True/False, or Short Answer. Exit Tickets, and full quizzes are also supported. The Questions need to be created in advance, and the class is given a specific ""Room Number"" (all students get the same room number)  to enter at a student site (m.socrative.com). When responding, students get a screen to enter their name so the answers can be associated to the student. Teachers can see the answers as the students complete the question(s), and save the results for later grade collection.

What data do they collect:  It varies on who you are: Students don't have to sign up for an account, so they disclose limited information to respond to quizzes. (They enter a ""room number"" given by their teacher.) Teachers must have an account which requires at least an email address, and they ask for the reason for your usage. They do not disclose information to third parties, but may have links to other sites that they do not control, and their policies may differ. 

How well does it work:I cannot speak first hand as I have not tried the service. One university professor I have spoken to, and who uses it, states that it is very useful for doing a check of understanding. 

How do they support the site: The site is currently in a Beta (testing) stage. In the Terms Of Service, there is mention that when the Beta is complete, all accounts may convert to a commercial account. You will have the right to delete your account at that time if you do not wish to continue with the new service. 


 

Remind101

Where is it: www.Remind.com   www.Remind101.com

Update - Name changed to Remind as of June 2014

What it is: A site that allows mass texting to groups, specifically designed for schools. 

How does it work: First, a teacher creates an account, and then their classes. Texts can be created and sent immediately, or scheduled for a future date and time. Students and parents can sign up via text, or the website. Website sign up allows for either an emailed reminder (which also sends a verification email), or text message. This is a one-way system: You cannot see their email addresses or phone numbers, and they can't see yours. Then cannot email or text you through this service. 

What data do they collect: What you supply them with, for example: telephone number, name, email, etc. Additionally, they may also collect data such as you IP address, place cookies on your system, etc. They do not disclose information to third parties, but may have links to other sites that they do not control, and their policies may differ. 

How well does it work: I'm experimenting with it in my classes now for homework reminders, for the last two weeks. With a single announcement about the service, around 20% of my students immediately signed up for the service. (I allowed them to use their phones to sign up in class.) These were mostly students who have been late, or have missed homework assignments. Comments have been positive enough that I'll be using the service in Fall 2014 and see how it does during a full semester. 

How do they support the site: At this point I don't know, outside of investor infusions. Their Terms Of Service state that in the future, they may provide new premium features for a cost, but the system as it now runs is free. TechCrunch has an article Red Hot Remind101 Gets $15M (http://techcrunch.com/2014/02/04/remind101-gets-15m-from-john-doerr-to-bring-free-secure-text-messaging-to-teachers/) that covers this and other aspects of the service.