Spiral is 3 #Edtech Tools for the Price of None

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Recently, I came across an interesting website for teachers called Spiral. It has three collaborative tools that are completely free and aimed at 1:1 classrooms. The tools are web based, and work on laptops, Chromebooks, and mobile devices. Spiral integrates with Google Classroom and includes a full set of data tools to track student progress. Here’s a quick look at what each tool does, along with some ideas on how to get started using them.

1. Quickfire

As its name would suggest, the first tool is geared towards some fast data collection. The teacher creates a question for students, (ahead of time or on the fly), and students respond on their devices. The teacher can ask for text/typed responses, or they can choose the canvas option that lets students draw their answers on a whiteboard. Once all the answers are collected, the teacher can share any answer (anonymously) with the whole class in order to discuss it further as a group. Lesson data is saved to the teacher dashboard. Quickfire is perfect for lesson starters, topic reviews, checks for understanding and more.

2. Discuss

With Discuss, teachers can create an interactive slideshow that students can follow slide by slide on their own device. You can upload an existing PowerPoint or create your lesson from scratch with text, images and videos. Best of all, questions or tasks can be added to slides at different points in your lesson. It includes a back channel type option where students can reply and comment on peer ideas. Again, individual answers can be shared to the whole class by the teacher for further discussion, and all data is saved to the teacher dashboard area. Discuss is perfect for empowering quiet students, facilitating conversations around learning, brainstorming ideas on a given topic, or for synchronous online lessons.

3. Team Up

Lastly, Team Up is a group work tool that teachers can use to sort students into groups and have them work together in a collaborative space. Teachers can set a single task for the whole class or separate tasks for each group. While working in a Team Up space, students can collect ideas and build a presentation in much the same way that the teacher does in the Discuss app. Students can work on individual or shared devices to produce their final product. Team Up is perfect for facilitating collaboration and group projects.

See all the tools and register for your free teacher account at https://spiral.ac/

Help & Further Resources

Here are some resources to learn more about Spiral:

 

Chromebooks: A Worthwhile 1:1 Device for Education?

There are a growing number of 1:1 districts in Iowa, and a variety of devices are being deployed in these districts. The Macbook is very popular, as are PC laptops and iPads, but what about the Chromebook? Is it a viable device for schools? Google certainly seems to think so. In fact, it recently announced that it was currently being used in over 500 school districts in the USA and Europe.

Courtesy of Samsung.com

Here in Iowa, Council Bluffs has deployed 4,300 Chromebooks. In South Carolina, Richmond School District has 19,000 Chromebooks, while another 3,500 are found at Leyden High School in Illinois. It has a ways to go in order to come close to the inroads made by the iPad or even the Macbook, but as a portable, viable device, it is catching on quick. Chromebooks in education are a growing force.

Device management is a major plus. The Google Dashboard console is easy to navigate, intuitive to use, and has almost all the options that schools are looking for with mobile device management software. When you compare this to what you would have to do to manage a collection of iPads, there really is little comparison. Apple’s Configurator is a great start, but it is not without its faults and random bugs.

I’ve been using a Samsung Series 5 550 for about a week now, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed using it. It is quick to start up, and even quicker to resume from sleep. The battery life is decent, but maybe not quite as good as it could be for classroom use. The Chrome OS has evolved well over the last few months, and there is an increasing number of offline apps available so you can still check your mail, write notes, or browse your calendar and docs without a wi-fi connection.

Does it take time adjusting to the Chrome OS? Absolutely, but if you are a Google Apps school, the transition will not be as big as you might think. There are apps for almost anything you want to do now, so Chromebooks in education are becoming more relevant by the day, especially with the introduction of the new $249 Samsung Chromebook that weighs less than 2.5lbs and has a battery rated for 6.5 hours of continuous use.

So, are you considering Chromebooks in your school district? What are the pros and cons that you have come up against while weighing up the merits of this platform?