Thursday, 28 November 2013

Working The Cloud With Mobile Edtech

a 7" Asus Android tablet for $99?
Yes, yes it is!
I got a couple of android tablets for the department... $99 each at Factory Direct!  You could pick up a class set of twenty-four of these for about $2500, or about the cost of a single Macbook Pro... crazy.

What could you do with them?  Well, my grade 9 intro to computers class are doing a review of information technology.  We're using wikispaces.com to build shared notes for review.  What's so good about shared notes?  You can't trust them, so instead of reading something and blindly accepting it, students are reading it critically because their peer might have done it wrong; a much better review process.

wikispace live assessment/engagement tool

If you get a wikispace up and running check out the assessment button in the top right corner - it shows you a live feed of student activity on the wiki.  I threw this on the projector and it turned into a race to see who could get the most material down (the engagement graph updates every ten seconds or so, it's almost live).

I set up the tablets with their own gmail and then linked a dropbox account to it.  As students take pictures and make video using the tablet it is automatically shared to the dropbox account so they can pull the media out of the cloud and include it in their wiki-pages easily.  Automating this process is fairly easy, and means that only seconds after taking a photo with the tablet, students are able to easily access it online for use.

Every android tablet I get now can be signed in to that single gmail address and then auto-linked to a shared dropbox account.  Any media generated from the tablets is immediately available online.  Transferring media has always been difficult for students, this makes the whole thing much easier.

The rules for the wiki were specific:  all notes had to be in your own words.  Students got acknowledged for:

  • media: using original photos and video to explain their focus
  • media: using the snip tool in Windows 7 to snip screen shots of various parts of our etext
  • content: explaining their focus in their own words
  • links: to other material online that support understanding of their focus (all links had to include an explanation of the site and why it was useful.

The benefits are many.  Students get to use a new device and recognize its uses in a learning context - this often led to more effective use of their own devices.  A number of them have since set up their own dropbox backups on their own devices.  Because media is easy to create and access students are able to focus on the material at hand instead of worrying about their spelling and grammar in a google doc.

Being open Android tablets, the apps available are many, and I've only begun to scratch the surface of what they could do.  Next semester in introduction to coding I'm thinking we'll use them to run the flash games we design and build.

TEJ wikispace: students learning about information technology through an etext shared on UGcloud.
Notes are created in wikispaces and dropbox is used to quickly and automatically share student-made media.

All told this set up uses three cloud services (ugcloud, wikispaces and dropbox) and some open, accessible and shockingly cheap mobile tablets to offer students a media rich way to tackle note taking.  If we can set up a fluid, information sharing environment like this now, imagine where we'll be in five years.