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Google Plus in the Classroom

In case you missed it, Google has announced that they will be releasing their own social networking site. The project, which is called Google+, is currently available on an invitation-only basis and is not yet available to the public. Still, many people have been able to try it and are saying Google+ could be a very useful tool in education.

A Wired Campus article by Jeff Young highlights the following key features on Google+, which may be beneficial to both students and faculty:

  • Google+ allows “selective sharing”, meaning that users can choose which circles of friends they would like to share specific content with. This feature could come in handy when professors would like to add their students as friends, but are concerned with respecting their privacy or personal lives.
  • Friend circles could also work as small group communication, possibly for class projects.
  • Google+ “hangouts” (casual video conferencing) can be used in place of office hours or face-to-face tutoring.
  • One assistant professor at UT Dallas even predicts that Google+ may be an alternative to the traditional LMS.

It’s hard to tell exactly what Google+ has in store for education. Since the social networking site is still in the developing stages, it may take some time before it’s widely used in the classroom. The site is expected to be released for public use on or before July 31st, 2011.

Evernote Releases New iPad 2 App

Evernote has released a new app made especially for the iPad 2 and its Smart Cover. The app, now available on iTunes, is called Evernote Peek and is a memorization tool similar in functionality to digital flashcards. It’s the first app to be made for and operated by the Smart Cover.

Once the app has been installed on the iPad, the user can sync it up to their Evernote or StudyBlue account. Each flashcard set appears on the app in its own notebook. The user chooses a notebook and closes the Smart Cover to begin the exercise.

The app takes advantage of the 3 different folds in the iPad’s Smart Cover. When the user “peeks” by flipping up the cover to the first fold, the iPad reveals the first question or clue of the set. To reveal the answer, the user flips the cover up to the second fold. To move on to the next question, the user simply closes the cover completely, then starts the process again.

This is indeed an interesting use of one of the new features of the iPad 2. It will be exciting to see what other apps the Smart Cover may influence!

Want to see the app in action? Check out the video below:

Free Technology for Group Projects

It is not uncommon for college students to dread group projects. Why? Within their first year, students discover that half of the battle in any group project is finding ways to communicate and collaborate. Sometimes in-person collaboration is not an option, so students turn to technology–usually combinations of phone, email, Google Apps, Skype, and various other tools. Although these are all tried and true methods of communication, it may get difficult to keep track of things when using so many different programs.

We have recently come across two (completely free!) tools made specifically for group projects that are worth taking a look at. These tools manage to put most, if not all, of the aspects of group projects into one convenient place:


Wiggio is a very straightforward group tool that allows group members to post comments, links, messages, to-do lists and polls. Every time something new is posted, it shows up on your feed. There is even a built-in calendar to mark important due dates. The site is a great place to compile information and divide up tasks for the members of the group. The layout is so simple and easy to use–a great feature if you don’t have the time to get too acquainted with a new tool. Wiggio even lets you test drive the site without the commitment of registering. Take a look for yourself!

Enter the Group

Enter the Group is a collaborative group management tool that is a bit more in-depth than Wiggio. However, the functions are still similar: chat, messaging, file sharing, calendars, etc. The main distinct feature of Enter the Group is the virtual classrooms, which can be used in place of or in addition to the physical classroom. Once the user registers, they can create new project pages or join already existing ones. The pages are similar to a Facebook profile (see below) and all group members can contribute to them.

Although these tools may work well in a student group project setting, they should not be restricted to them. Faculty may also find some of these tools useful in expanding communication outside of the classroom. The more organized a group project is, the better the final project will be.

Using Cell Phones in the Classroom

These days, nearly every college student owns a cell phone. In the classroom, cell phones are generally seen by the instructor as nothing more than a distraction. Step into any college classroom during a long lecture or in-class film, and chances are you’ll see a handful of students typing away and sending text messages to their friends. With this behavior becoming all too common, it is no doubt why professors despise the devices and are asking students to turn their cell phones off completely during class.

However, what students and instructors aren’t always realizing is the potential of cell phones in education. Students have access to very powerful devices, especially with the rising ownership of smartphones. An article published recently by Edudemic questions the next step of cell phones in education and offers the following interesting ways to harness the device’s power for effective use in education:

Text Reminders: Since students generally check their cell phone more frequently than their email, the website Remind101 has come up with a way to reach students when they are away from their computer, but not their phone. The site allows instructors to create assignment reminders that are sent to students via text message. All the students have to do is register with the site and subscribe to the class’ reminders.

Using the cell phone as a study tool: For students who want to study on-the-go, but don’t want to drag their heavy computer around there’s sites like StudyBoost. Once the student registers, they can create their own series of study questions. Then, using their phone, they can have the questions sent to them via text message. From there, the student answers the questions by replying to the StudyBoost number, and will instantly receive their results.

Voting: Using Poll Everywhere, instructors can gather opinions and votes in their classroom. This tool also provides real time data, which is especially appealing to professors looking to save time.

Accessing Twitter: Interestingly enough, Twitter is becoming increasingly present in the classroom. Obviously, smartphones have the ability to instantly access Twitter via apps or an internet browser. However, there are also easy ways to access Twitter with a basic phone! Users can tweet by registering their phone and sending a text message to their country’s short code. If the user isn’t able to send text messages, TweetCall is also an option. TweetCall is a free service that lets the user call a phone number, speak their tweets, and have them transcribed into text.

Scavenger Hunt: Educational scavenger hunts are already a popular activity with cell phones in the classroom. There are many different programs and apps to run your scavenger hunt on, but the recommended program is SCVNGR. The program is compatible with both basic cell phones and smartphones, as many scavenger hunt apps are designed for smartphones with a GPS function.

Back up, share and access files with Dropbox

How many times have you taken the extra steps to email yourself a document? How many times have you left your flash drive at home? Do you remember what it felt like the last time you lost a precious document on accident and had no back-up for it? For those who see these as all too common occurrences, we have a service to bring to your attention:

Dropbox is a totally free web-based file hosting service. It offers 2GB of storage and anything you upload will be instantly accessible on your other computers or smartphones (as long as Dropbox is installed on those devices). All you need to do to upload a file is drag and drop it from your computer into your Dropbox folder.

One of the more valuable features of Dropbox for instructors and academic professionals is the ability to share certain folders with anyone, whether or not they are on Dropbox. More information can be found about that here.

Dropbox is also one of many “cloud storage” services on the web right now. If for some reason you find Dropbox is not for you, give Amazon Cloud Drive, Google Docs, or SugarSync a try!