I am always in search of new ways to improve collaboration among my students and to make things run more efficiently in the classroom. Today there are so many technology platforms and apps to choose from such as Google Drive (docs, slides, etc.), Google Hangouts, Padlet, Canvas, and VoiceThread just to name some. Recently I came across two free and easy to use collaboration tools called Bai Board and Dotstorming.
Bai Board is a free app available for iOS devices that serves as a collaborative whiteboard. What is cool is that students can contribute from any number of devices all at the same time to a common place. I wanted students to be able to work in small groups while discussing the pros and cons to social media and how it influences teen relationships. Sometimes for this activity I put posters up in the room and I have students walk around and write their thoughts down on each one. While there are advantages to this method, some of the things I liked about using Bai Board were:
- Less prep time for the teacher and less transition time from class to class
- Easier for all students to see the comments on each slide
- Easier to save student work as a PDF
- Do not need an iPad for every student (in fact, it is easier to designate 1-2 group leaders to post onto the whiteboard versus all students contributing at once…this can actually present a problem with too many people contributing at once)
A PDF can be inserted onto the whiteboard and students can contribute thoughts all at the same time. We did experience a 5-10 second delay in student comments posting. Andrew Steinman’s overview and instruction sheet does a nice job explaining how to use this collaborative tech medium.
Dotstorming is a free technology that has some similarities to Poll Everywhere where students can respond to a question and the teacher can project the results onto a screen. Richard Byrne’s tutorial on how to use Dotstorming does a nice job explaining the basics of how to use this technology. The teacher simply creates a Dotstorming board, invites to students to join, and they can then post their thoughts and ideas to specific questions. Dotstorming takes it one step further where students can then vote on their favorite responses from other students. For example, let’s say you did a pre-assessment with your students about skills or topics they wanted to learn more about in the upcoming semester. Students would post their responses and they could vote for other student ideas. The topics with the most votes could then be addressed in more detail during the upcoming unit or semester. This technology provides teachers with another way to conduct formative assessments. There are many other ways you could engage students with Dotstorming. What I like about Dotstorming and Poll Everywhere is that it gives each student a voice in the classroom in an emotionally safe way. One goal in health education is to have students understand what it means to be “digitally literate” and practice appropriate “digital citizenship.” So, you should let students know about your expectations when it comes to appropriate and mature posts and allow them the opportunity to show you they are capable of understanding this skill and concept.
I hope you can find some value in using either one of these technologies in your classroom.