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Tech. Tools & Reviews

Gmail Played a Role in Changing Higher Ed

Gmail celebrated its 10th birthday on April 1st. Reflecting back, they altered higher education more than we know according to Inside Higher Ed.

Transitioning from enterprise platforms to consumer platforms, Gmail is helping the technological world retreat from centralized technology control with a slick, free platform that any higher ed institution can use. UW Bothell has already gone aboard to using Gmail and other Google apps.

This transition is especially great for students who prefer to utilize their own technology at school. Remember only 10 years ago when schools rolled out carts of uniform laptops loaded with the same software? Now students have the option to stop relying on Outlook or Microsoft Office and use the wonders of Gmail, Google Drive, and other online applications. Because of these programs, schools no longer need to worry as much about mandatory software and their updates.

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Google Form for Peer Review of Group Members in Group Project

Teaching group work is difficult. Students often dislike group work, because one or two people carry the weight for everyone else. To solve this problem, one best practice for group project assignments, particularly those that require sustained collaboration and shared leadership over the course of many weeks in the quarter, is to build in an anonymous peer review assignment where each group member is anonymously reviewed by the other group members. The peer review assignment puts in place a system of accountability for the group members and therefore creates a more solid foundation for collaboration.

One way instructors can build this assignment into their course is to use a Google Form that is tied to a Google Spreadsheet. Each student fills out the form once for each member in their group. If the form that accepts the data is designed correctly, the spreadsheet will allow the instructor to quickly view peer reviews by reviewer and reviewee.

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Mobile Learning Practices in Higher Education

A recent study published on Educause takes a look into the mobile learning practices of students in higher education.

The study notes that mobile device usage has increased significantly among college students, and that they favor small and lightweight devices such as smartphones and tablets. However 85% of students still consider a laptop to be the most important device for academic success.

As mobile device use expands on campus, the study looks to understand how the students are using their devices. Students were given a survey to determine device prevalence and if they were being used for academic purposes. The study found that 91% of student owned a smartphone while only 58% of those students used them for academic purposes. Tablet ownership was only 37% of those questioned, though 82% of owners used them for school.

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The ‘Blue Books’ of the Future

An article by the Chronicle for Higher Education looks into a student start-up seeking to create the college blue book of the future.

As a student of the University of Pennsylvania, Alex Rattray struggled to fill his exam blue books with legible responses. It wasn’t long before he realized that he wasn’t the only one suffering, professors and teaching assistants were also struggling with reading illegible answers.

His solution was to create a desktop application that will allow instructors to administer tests and quizzes securely without the need for pencil and paper.

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Distraction-Free Editing

WordFlow is a great word processing app if you are looking for a distraction-free interface, claimed a review in the Chronicle of Higher Education. It is plain and simple and to the point with a live word count and built-in spell check. A big plus is that it works offline and automatically saves your work via Google Chrome. The only down side? It doesn’t automatically save to Google Drive, Dropbox, or SkyDrive. That’s right, you have to manually upload your files to a cloud service.

If you are a fan of the automatic upload, or easy save to a cloud service, other alternatives to WordFlow are Editorially and Draft, though these apps are not necessarily distraction free.