New(ish), cool, tool review — Bob

Review of Quia.com.   Quia is pronounced “kee’ah’ if it matters… it is a mnemonic for “Quintessential Instructional Archive’.     I sensibly read the “About Quia’ page first after landing on the site.   Quia is more than a site to make quizzes, or learning activities it is an archive of such objects.   The site has been active for 10 years (so not new)  this and its international popularity results in a huge set of resources.   While the site claims to serve students of all ages, I would be hesitant to use the kinds of activities and games beyond elementary or middle school age learners.

I created a 30-day trial profile and immediately linked to activities and created a deer hunting word jumble activity.   I listed 20 words related to the topic and clicked the next button a script generated the activity.   I made it:   https://www.quia.com/jw/481545.html   this quiz however, I simply linked too: https://www.quia.com/quiz/303980.html.   The tools are simple to use and the outcomes are significantly better then what I remember for elementary school — think drum mimeograph duplicated work sheets.   That said, are they snazzy enough to capture the attention of more privileged students?   On the other hand, perhaps this is appropriate technology?   I think the answers to those questions depends on where one is teaching and what age group.

My original intention was to beat this resource up, however, the more I think about it the more generous I am with it.   If I had internet access but no real IT support, was teaching children, and had $50 dollars to spend, this resource could really have some potential.   I can see this being a treasure trove for home schooling.   I am perplexed that they offer a corporate subscription rate of $200 dollars…   I can see how some of the tools would be useful for HR departments, how supervisors training skills might use it, but the site is clearly for children, or elementary teachers, that impression just does not fit for corporate setting.   A teacher can create and manage a class, in many ways identical to using any other learning management system.   They can link activities and quizzes to that page.   The teacher can enroll students or the teacher can opt for self-enrollment.   I spent a bit of time clicking through to see if the material was fresh and current or older, perhaps outdated.   I found a lot of current material a lot being created and used by elementary schools in the US.   Interestingly, many teachers have made their profiles public and have provided work contact information, hence, creating a learning network for educators.

Along with the core, service described here comes an e-bookstore sub-site that lists materials available online from Quia.   The IXL sub-site appears to be a huge library of learning activities in math or language arts — again, my mind went to home schoolers, but any learner needing additional problem sets or review could benefit from the resource.   Both the e-bookstore and the IXL sites have materials appropriate for high school age learners.   If I were working with K-12 age learners, I would take  the resources the site offers seriously.

Review of PhET.colorado.edu:   Immediately on landing on the page, I concluded that it was for elementary age learners.   I then clicked on the link “For Teachers’ and watched the promotional video https://youtu.be/FeiUtg7v72M; I will wait here while you view it, hmm, hmmm, hmmm.   Therefore, again we see how wrong first impressions can be.   This site is aimed at high school and college students.   The simulations are created by a team of designers at University of Colorado Boulder I figured out that I would not be making a simulation but rather using one, for example, this one:

 

Each simulation has a page from which you can download the particular simulation.   Accompanying the download is a chart of teaching ideas, which appear to be teaching resources submitted by folks using the simulation with their students.   There are also translated versions of the simulations to support international learners.
I played around with the simulation on the introductory level.   I was intrigued with the slider adjustments balancing snowfall and air temperature trying to find where the glacier broke into advance or retreat with each variable.   I could see my classmate using these in her unit on ecosystems.   Alas, I found the toolbox perplexing although I eventually sorted most of them out.   The advanced mode offers graphing tools that far exceeded my interest and attention span — perhaps, an assignment that required me to answer questions that the graphs explained would tease me into understanding.  Since, I am not making a simulation.   I guess I am left to make an assignment….       Maximize one slider variable or the other, snowfall or air temperature use the other variable to stabilize the glacier’s advance or retreat.   Repeat with the other variable.   Explain how these experiments help you understand climate change.   Measure the ice thickness at its extremes measure, the temperatures at these points offer an explanation for the temperature variations.

I do not know, I am making this up, I am no earth scientist.   However, I will wait here will you play with the simulation… hmmm, hmmm, hmmm.  Simply this web site and these resources are the bomb.   I am sure that if I had more of a clue about the topics I would think they were even better than that.   You gotta get some of this.

Review of Google apps or, more specifically Google Classroom.   Google Classroom is an LMS integrated with the Google apps/drive.   On one hand, it is weak tea now.   There is currently no compelling reason to leave Moodle or WordPress, however, given how powerful and pervasive the suite of Google tools is it is just a matter of time for it to become a serious contender too.   Combine it with Chromebooks and with Google Hangouts and it just keeps getting more interesting.

There are quite a few video presentation on using Classroom:

I can see early adoption by K-12 programs, particularly those committed to putting iPads, Chromebooks or laptops in the hands of their students.

Colby is a Google shop and a ton of work is done in this way.   Here I am thinking about administrative as well as academic.   Having a single login and accessing communications, collaboration, storage/archiving, scheduling, word processing, spreadsheet and a classroom is seductive.   It is seductive in terms of ease and relative transparency in getting work done.   It is seductive as well from an IT and management perspective, licensing and installing software is expensive and iterative, whereas having Googles tools in the cloud for all employees/students to access is easy and less expensive particularly for education customers.   As Google builds functionality into Classroom, it will take some time to gain momentum but for sites saturated with Google this will be an easy and logical transition even as  the tool becomes robust.   In addition, increasing pressure will be felt to adopt it in higher education as students matriculate.   In truth, I did not make anything with Classroom because I do not have access to it yet.  However, we make stuff with Google apps everyday, all day, so nothing sexy here at all, and yet I am really hopeful that my employer turns Classroom on.  I will seriously consider migrating my employee instruction developed in this class, to it.  According to some of the reviewers, folks with personal domains could set it up and experiment with it.   Personally, I work with Google apps all day long and I do not really see the big deal… what learning curve?  For folks that have a lot of experience with LMS systems I likewise think that once the functionality is more developed it will be as easy as falling down.

3 thoughts on “New(ish), cool, tool review — Bob

  1. Owen

    Bob,

    Great reviews. I passed along the PhET link to some of my other contacts – seems a great site to keep handy. I am often discussing various online lab simulations and resources. I had a good time playing with some of the voltage and physics sims (the ones that would load quickly in HTML5).

    Quia is interesting as well. Like you, I take that kind of tool generally for granted. But, as I’m working at developing a course with an instructor at the moment who wants specifically to embed some simple web-based quizzes for a very rural audience, this might be jus the ticket. I did reasonably well on your deer-hunting quiz…but some of the words I failed miserably at.

    Google Classroom. I’m sure Blackboard is watching this pretty closely. I do hope this develops quickly and deeply. From what I’ve seen, at the moment, it seems fairly shallow. One thing I’ve been following, however, is a partnership between Google and EdX. Google’s CourseX, I believe is the beginning of this effort as is Mooc.org.

    Good stuff, Sir!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: New(ish), cool, tool review – Bob, Online Pedagogy, ED 655 – Scholarship

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