I’ve claimed that a tech tool should lead to new thinking. However, perhaps this was somewhat hypocritical, because before I can wrap my head around a new tool for the first time, I need a familiar jumping-off place.
This past month I taught a short story I’ve taught many times before (“Rikki Tikki Tavi“) and used several characterization graphic organizers which I’ve used before (linked below). They provided the context with which we explored nine technology tools. However, in what has been described as a cardinal sin of tech in education, these tools did not necessarily provide a new perspective or process for students in thinking about the content, in this case the characters.
Pragmatically, when I throw a new tool at them (or in this case nine) I choose to start with an assignment with which I am familiar because I want to navigate only so many new unknowns at once. Judge me if you must, and feel free to admonish me in the comments.
In groups, students linked the work on a group padlet and provided me with the valuable feedback on each tool in the +/- data charts pictured and summarized below.
- easy to use/simple
- no account required
- make important words larger by typing them multiple times
- the “undo” button
- cool fonts/colors/designs
- worked with JAWS (screen reader for my blind student)
- couldn’t save image easily
- hard to post created image to padlet
- didn’t get to choose colors
- limited color schemes
- update/install/Java issues
- time taken to enter text
- able to shape the words
- saves easily
- color/font selection
- easy to navigate
- Limited font selection
- difficult to use
- had difficulty saving
Students had two choices for displaying a Character Traits Map for the main character of Rikki Tikki. Overwhelmingly, students chose bubbl.us, which means I have very little data on gliffy.
- formatting/customizing options (bubble color, text, size…)
- good controls & no lag
- efficient & easy to use
- neat & organized
- “I liked it because it saved [my work] every 2 minutes.”
- Hard to organize
- Bulky and awkward
- Hard to add a bubble, connect a bubble, paste a URL…
- “Easy to mess up on!”
- “I liked how Gliffy was an open field”
- Kids who tried it said, “Gliffy was glitchy”.
The slogan stuck.
Students chose two characters and completed two Character Quadrilateral with their choice(s) from these three tools.
- “I like it because it was easy to use. It was all organized. You can change the color of the nodes.”
- “I liked [it] because you get to move everything and when you click something it adds a leg for you to type. It’s also easy to use and creative.”
- “very confusing at first”
- “I couldn’t access it at home.”
- “I didn’t use this tool because it wasn’t working and I couldn’t figure it out.”
- “Very fast, fun, and easy to use”
- “It was really easy and simple to use. I was able to complete my project quickly and efficiently. It was fun to use and I thought it worked extremely well.”
- “I liked spiderscribe, it let you add dates, pictures, and maps. It was interesting.”
- “I didn’t like that I had to sign up with an email and I couldn’t get arrows to the main box.”
- “The only thing I disliked was that when you tried to print, it would be small to see.”
- “It wouldn’t go full screen. The text was small.”
“I like that you can log in and save your work automatically.”
“I didn’t like that it was acting up when I was working on it Monday. I had to copy it and then it let me edit it.
Students completed an Open Compare & Contrast Chart of two characters using one of these two mind mapping tools. Creately was heavily favored over mind42.
“I liked Mind42 because it was easy to use.”
“I did not like mind42 because I could not move and place things where I wanted.”
- “What I liked was that they have different colors and shapes and you could make the presentation more inviting for an audience.”
- Easy to use; great layout
- “I liked that creately was able to save my work easily and efficiently.”
- Sign up to use, and pay for most features
- Hard to link my finished work.
- “I didn’t like that it was difficulty to create new boxes and there wasn’t a color variety.”
- “I didn’t like how I couldn’t get the bubbles to show up and make the map.”
- “I did not like the text. When you would type, it would be font 2 and you could not change it until you were done, and then you had to highlight and re-highlight it a lot!”
- “I did not like how long it took to enter my info.”
And by the way…I did not only throw new tech tools at the students. My favorite was the one I tried out myself to score these projects: