Thursday, May 26, 2016

Communication Tool Rubric

Update (6/5/16):  Kristen and I added one more category onto our original rubric, an oversight on our part.  Under "User Safety and Privacy," we added "Appropriate Content" as a criteria.  After all, why use an app if it has inappropriate content, or allows students to access it elsewhere?

Kristen Cosgrove and I partnered up on this assignment, with the goal of creating an evaluation tool for examining communication tools for the classroom.  As we discovered, there are lots of factors in choosing the ideal tool, both from the teacher perspective and the IT perspective.  We tried to limit the number of categories as best as we could, but we still ended up with 11 different areas to assess these tools.  Among them emerged a number of themes, however, that allowed us to sub-categorize them under five main categories.  So, in order to get an endorsement from us as a tool for use in the classroom, a tool needs to be:
  • Low-cost or free, easy to setup, and free of third-party advertising;
  • Cognizant and protective of users' safety and personal information;
  • Easy for teachers to use;
  • Easy for students to use, and;
  • Accessible to all
Embedded below is the rubric that we came up with.  We used a single-point rubric on a 1-3 scale.  I believe very strongly that what's most important in establishing a rubric is the minimum floor at which something is considered to be meeting the standards.  I don't think the distinction between not meeting or partially meeting is particularly useful in this instance.  The work or tool being evaluated either meets the standards, exceeds the standards, or doesn't meet them at all.  Ideally, a tool ripe for use in the classroom will achieve a "Meets" in as many categories as possible.  Not meeting certain expectations, especially around safety and privacy, should raise immediate red flags for use in the classroom.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Returning to Feedly... Maybe?

I've been aware of RSS Feeds going back to my undergrad days at UMF, and subscribed to a number of feeds centering around education, technology, and politics.  I, like many others out there, were deeply saddened at the news of Google Reader's scrapping in 2013.  Like many others, too, I turned to Feedly for my RSS Feed fix.  I stayed on for a short time, but ultimately stopped using the service, in part due to what I felt like was a clunky and uninspired user interface, and in part because I was transitioning into using social media sites like Twitter and Google+ as part of my PLN.

Fast-forward two or so years later, and here I am, back on Feedly, as part of a course assignment.  And I have to say, I like what I see.

On the right side of the screen, you can find "Related Feeds" and "Related
Collections." I've found these only in Magazine View
Some of the features are very similar to what I remember from when I first used the program:  easy account creation using Google or Facebook logins; the ability to organize feeds into collections around broad topics; and the no-frills organization of articles by feed.  There are some cool new features, too, like the ability to view related feeds and public collections in magazine view, allowing you to broaden your reading horizons and learn about new blogs without necessarily needing to go hunting for them (or the RSS feed URL).  Speaking of, I'm also enjoying the fact that we can access other users' collections and troll for new feeds and people to learn from; a twist on the social bookmarking that websites like Digg and introduced as to (though, it looks like creating your own shared collections, along with other features, require a paid subscription).  Integration with Twitter and Facebook is a plus, as is the ability to view articles (with less formatting and fewer distractions) directly in the Feedly window, similar to another service I use, Pocket.  The Feedly Chrome App is handy, too; it allows you to add a feed to your collection directly from the website, instead of having to hunt for the feed URL.  From what I've seen, Feedly has made tremendous strides in succeeding Google Reader as a modern, integrated, social RSS reader.
The Feedly Chrome
App, accessible from
many websites in the
bottom-right corner of
the screen.

And yet, do I see myself continuing on with this service in the long run? Well... probably not, and the reason for why I will likely abandon Feedly in the long run haven't changed from the first time I stopped using it. In essence, social media like Twitter and Facebook already do for me what Feedly does with RSS feeds, and more. While the shared collections feature is nice, that is effectively what social networking is. I am connected with many awesome educators online, and the resources and links that they share with me are basically like an RSS feed, with a wider scope. Many of the feeds that I added to Feedly were based off of accounts for people and organizations that I had already added into lists in Twitter. And, let's face it, it's just plain easier to find a person online than it is an RSS Feed. At the end of the day, when I don't have the time to check my social media and my RSS Feeds, when I have to make the choice about what to do with my time, I'll be on social media, and the unread articles (many of which I'll be reading already) in Feedly will just keep piling on.

Well, since I'm here, and I'm writing this for a homework assignment, here is a list of RSS Feeds that I added to my Feedly account, organized by collection.

3D Printing and Design
Awesome Educators