Social Media in the Classroom

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Whats Your ‘App’etite for Tech in the Classroom?

Click on the links below to learn more about these ‘Tech Tools’ for use in your classroom.

Post #1 – Introduction to Socrative, platform, ease of use, and what is involved in creating your own Socrative account.
Post #2 – What are the tools, available in Socrative for use in the classroom?
Post #3 – Using Socrative in the classroom

Post #4 – Introduction to Kahoot!, the basics identified for a first time user.
Post #5 – Tools and uses of Kahoot!
Post #6 – Kahoot! in the classroom

Post #7 – Introduction to Popplet
Post #8 – Popplet in the classroom

Some further things to consider…

Post #9 – Privacy and Terms of Use
Post #10 – Gamification in the Classroom




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Privacy and Terms of Use

So it comes to this…  The big deal.  Its why I can’t have Google Classroom.  Its why I don’t have e-mail for my students.  Its why I’m often hesitant to Tweet, blog or comment on anything I do in the classroom.  Its all about: privacy.

As mentioned in my post on the Scariest Things About Technology in the Classroom post, the proliferation of online ‘tech tools’ for use in the classroom has led to concerns, as outlined by this NY Times post, regarding the dissemination of information via their use.  The information gathered through the use of the apps I reviewed: Kahoot!, Socrative and Popplet, is mired in legalese.  The learning curve required for educators to ensure their students online safety is a steep one.  Knowing what information to protect, and what information to release is neither clear nor specifically defined.  This makes the foray into the digital environment one to be considered carefully.

All apps I reviewed suggested that information collected would be used to enhance the experience of using the defined resource.  However, how that information is used is determined by the discretion of the provider.  Often this consideration is also prefaced with the statement that: the terms may change.  Knowing that information is permanent in the digital environment, this becomes an important consideration.  Add to this the issues surrounding students use criteria as defined by

Watching the documentary: We Steal Secrets, was an insight into the permanency and fluid nature that data exists in these days.  Information can no longer simply be shredded, and how information can be used isn’t even static anymore.  Information shared today may be available for future uses in ways we can no longer anticipate.  For this reason it is vital that every precaution be taken to keep students information theirs to share and not to share.


All of the apps I reviewed are based in the US, and as such are governed by COPPA (Childrens Online Privacy and Protection Act).  Canada does not yet have a policy specific to information and children.  Rather the concerns regarding information are governed by PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act), which does have a ‘recommendation’ as to the tracking of child generated data: ‘PIPEDA requires meaningful consent for the collection, use and disclosure of personal information. It is difficult to ensure meaningful consent from children to online behavioural advertising practices. Therefore, as a best practice, organizations should avoid tracking children and tracking on websites aimed at children.”  but nothing specific to children as a requirement.  Stemming the flow of data generated by online behaviours of minors is difficult to do as the type of information gathered is seen to be ‘passive’ in that it tracks, for example, actions rather than specific data such as addresses, date of birth or names.  This makes the job of the educator even more challenging.  Where we may be diligent in ensuring what was traditionally thought to be important personal information, is now less valuable than the seemingly innocuous ‘passive’ data.

*Click here to read a great article on Canada’s current online protection policies, and debates.

Reviewed Apps and Privacy

Use really determines what to be aware of in the apps I reviewed. Socrative and Popplet both stated in their privacy policy that the sites require consent for use by children under the age of 13, while Kahoot! does not.

This changes for Socrative and Kahoot! if you generate an account, which is required to create and adminster quizzes and questions.  For students to participate in activities generated by Kahoot! and Socrative no account is required.  This means that the students, and their information, remain relatively anonymous. However, it is important that the educator consider how they identify students in the collection of results and data.

For example both Kahoot! and Socrative generate results and data that are very valuable for adjusting instruction and confirming concept attainment.  Attaching student names, to these results puts the students information, at least one aspect of it, back into the mix, and should, in my opinion, be avoided.

Popplet requires a subscription to be used, and the use of data by Popplet is quite a bit more open than it is with the non-account based apps.  For example Popplet has the discretion to use ‘anonymous’ data (passive?) in the following ways:

What I take from this as an educator is that any application or software that requires an account should be accompanied by a parental permission form.  This seems to be another hoop to jump through, however it is a great opportunity to explore the value of data as we work to develop rounded awareness and digital citizenship competencies in our students.



The idea that students bring their own devices to school is something that I have always been an advocate for.  However, after reading the Privacy policies of my reviewed apps this no longer seems as appealing as it once did.

Cookies and the gathering of information off of devices is quickly becoming the norm for apps.  Anyone visiting the Google Play store may wonder why an app would require access to the camera, microphone or contacts…and regardless of their age or position they should.

To avoid this pitfall have students generate a school nickname, and use this to participate in the activities generated by Kahoot! and Socrative. Use school devices to interact with any required application.  If personal devices are to be used discussions should be had as to the reason for using the tool and permissions gathered from parents regarding the apps to be used on personal devices.

*A special note on Popplet:  if students are to generate Popplets through the application they will be required to create an account.  I would avoid this step as it requires and e-mail account.  I did e-mail Popplet to ask about their use of information (I even requested a free trial…no bite there).  This was the response:

Hi Shaun,
Thanks for your interest in Popplet for education! We appreciate your questions and your support.
Popplet’s policy for children under 13 requests that the educator or parent in charge create the Popplet account and oversee its use by the child. Our terms of use policy is in compliance with COPPA, which can you read more about here: http://business.ftc.gov/privacy-and-security/children’s-online-privacy.
Since Popplet does not collect any private information about the user beyond the basic login information (unlike Facebook or Gmail), this use is in compliance with COPPA.
If you have any other questions about using Popplet with students, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

Thank you for your support!
Rebecca from the Popplet Team

Very friendly, and I did get a response in less than two days.  I also appreciated the suggestion that Facebook and Gmail (some of the most universally used digital applications) require more…if you use them you can use us..right?

However the free trial (3 Popplets) requires the following information:

Popplet login

If Popplet is something you would like to try, I would recommend your school spend the $50.00 to get a small subscription and use it as a generic pool of student users within the school.  Ensuring that students keep the information they generate on the actual Popplets devoid of personal info as well.  This will ensure that students can use the application while ensuring privacy of information is respected.

Terms of Use 

These are also a great talking point to use with students as they seem to represent a sort of ‘Charter of Rights and Freedoms’ for each app.  Defining what can and what cannot be done on the site, as well as what the rules of ownership and behaviors considered acceptable, are all great talking points for identifying good digital citizens.

From the educators perspective be aware of the potential for change of terms.  If the company that owns the app changes, terms of use and privacy may change with limited notice.  Ensuring that the most up to date agreement is considered is the responsibility of the user and educators need to stay aware of changes.


Well first of all privacy is not something I have really considered before this…  New tech tools get recommended everyday in the staff room on Twitter, through tech consultants…really everyone has a new favorite.  However, the buck stops at the classroom door, and the final opportunity to avoid a privacy issue rests in the hands of the educator (check your divisions policy regarding the use of online apps).

So, be careful, be aware, be informed.  Start the year off with a menu of apps that you use in the classroom and send it home to be reviewed by parents.  Have all stakeholders aware of the need for active awareness in online behaviours, and information protection.  At the same time protect and inform your practice as one that generates true safe and productive digital citizens.




Popplet in the Classroom

As mentioned in the previous posts on Kahoot!, Socrative and Shout it Out!, Popplet is limited to the definitions of its programming, however, these are not the boundaries of its potential.  Popplet is a tool for both teachers and students.  Additionally the app is marketed to business as an interactive organizational tool, lending credence to its value as a learning tool, and transference to ‘real world’ skills.

For Students

Graphic organizers are commonly used in classrooms to help students to organize and coordinate their thinking.  A visual tool, organizers are benefit all students.  The benefits of graphic organizers are even more profound for  students who work better with the visual dimension activated while working in subject areas that require connections and scaffolding, ELA, Social to name a few, to experience success.  Popplet is to graphic organizers what SMART Boards are to the traditional whiteboard.

The uses for Popplet in the classroom could include, but are not limited to:

  1. Note taking – Popplet could function as a virtual binder for concepts covered in any subject are.  While there are actual virtual binder tools on the web.  I do not know of one that would work as effectively for students.  The ‘at a glance’ aspect of Popplet would function as a great way for students to keep track of concept progression in subject areas.
  2. Writing – From sentence, to paragraph, to essay, Popplet is a fantastic tool for developing and organizing writing.  Evolving organically or in a linear fashion, student would again, at a glance, be able to see the connections, or lack thereof, in their writing.  Additionally, using Popplet would allow students to access their notes as a structural tool for cumulative responses and summative assessments.  Rather than flipping through page after page of note paper, students can quickly identify key ideas and supporting information from class, or individual supplemental connections.
  3. Access to Existing Popplets – A little sideline, but worth a mention is the existence of a growing repository of Popplets for students to access as a research tool.   I am certain that this will grow, substantially, as the app gains traction.  No tool to search these yet, so it does require some ‘browsing time’ (I’m sure its coming soon).
  4. Collaboration – Of course one great aspect of Popplet that paper can never achieve is for students to collectively contribute to a Popplet.  As identified in the Introduction to Popplet…Popplet,  students can collectively contribute to a Popplet.  Whether in the form of ideas in formulated in class, or contributions stemming from personal connections, Popplet opens the door for class-wide contributions from students who may be hesitant to contribute in class.  This, of course, deepens the relevance to students and helps move the position of ‘knowing’, and knowledge formation, from the teacher to the student.

These are just a few ideas of how Popplet might be incorporated into the classroom.  Again, once the app gets in to the hands of teachers, and students, innovative and creative ways of using it will develop…consider it a ‘Remix’ for apps.

For Teachers

All too often we as educators see the value of tools in the classroom, but forget the role they could play in our role as learners.  Popplet also functions as a great learning tool for teachers who all to often get caught up in the same stale methods for working on and developing ideas for use in the classroom.

  1. Planning – Popplet offers a great tool for planning.  Many teachers spend hours organizing and creating plans for lessons, units, or even the whole year.  Often these are generated in different formats that are specifically geared to: division office, administration, teachers, then students…How great would it be if we had plans that were decipherable by all tiers of of the educational hierarchy?Imagine a year plan that could be navigated by students?  Or a lesson plan that showed progression and sequence of ideas, that could be posted for students and parents to navigate and reflect on when needed?   No more would it be necessary to make these documents two, three, even four times, and in different formats.  This would save time and and increase student access to information.  who, out there in the teaching community, couldn’t use a little more time, while at the same time potentially leading to increased student outcomes?
  2. Collaboration – OK, this builds on the previous point, but it is a valuable aspect, and perhaps a great place to start using Popplet in a professional manner vs. one that is strictly educational.I know that I have had conversations around the idea that myself and other teachers need to get together to plan.  We are all doing great things in our classrooms, however, all to often they stay in our classrooms.  Popplet allows teachers to work collaboratively to create concept maps on content or outcomes.  Teacher groups could work in grade alike PLC groupings that would allow them to share lesson plan ideas, resources, and activities, without ever having to meet (particularly valuable to divisions that cover large geographic areas).  No longer would teachers need to scour the web for effective activities as they would be collectively gathered and vetted in a common and easy to navigate format.  All the while becoming more comfortable with the platform, and its use, for students in the classroom.

Some Challenges

There are challenges to Popplet.  There is no way to store, that I know of, locally.  This means you are dependent on the internet and connection speeds for work to be both generated and accessed.  You can save in image formats jpg and png.

Not really a big deal in this day and age with cloud storage, and remote data for adults…becomes a tricky issue when working with students.  However there are connection issues in schools as they often do not enjoy the same access to bandwidth that other, sectors can afford.

Then there is cost.  I will be honest the cost is minimal and I think Popplet is making an effort to keep costs down for educational institutions (Popplet if you read this…thanks for that).  However, convincing those who hold the purse strings that it is a valuable tool can be challenging without evidencing its potential benefits.  Trial periods would be nice, and the investment would, I believe pay off for both teachers and Popplet.

Finally, its new.  There are bugs to iron out, like inserting pictures (still haven’t had success in that endeavor).  However, I think back to Voicethread.  When I was in university VoiceThread (@voicethread) was a ‘big deal’, but it was tricky to use, not very flashy and connection speeds were, at the time, slower than molasses in January.  VoiceThread now?  Whole different kettle of fish (OK that’s the last euphemism…promise).  Flashy and quick, Voicethread is something I will have to look into once again.  Popplet is in a similar phase.  However, much like VoiceThread, I am certain that Popplet will undergo revision and refinement, as it transitions from beta, to better serve its users in both the professional and educational fields.


Ultimately, Popplet is a pretty cool app.  Its usage is simple, and the results are valuable.  Little input has the potential for some great outcomes.  Your kids will undoubtedly use it with more vigor than the countless versions photocopied only to one day festoon our, lets be honest embarrassing, recycle bins.  So head over to Popplet, and visit @poppletny to see what they are cooking up next for this useful little tool.




Using Socrative in the Classroom

Primarily I used Socrative for the quiz feature.  There are many different ways to use Socrative, in both traditional and non traditional ways.  Even though this particular platform lends itself to a traditional model, the uses can be adapted to fit a less traditional approach.


From my experience with the app, employing it as a check in tool or even bell work as students enter the room is invaluable.  A quick concept quiz can provide very useful information, and if you have a bank of multiple choice or true and false questions, the ease of use makes this tool one that every teacher should be aware of.

If you don’t have access to banked questions, and would like to try Socrative there is an extensive number of pre-made publicly available assessments in the Socrative Quiz Sharing site.  Getting started with the program is supported by a great network of users on the Socrative Garden Site.  Tips and Tricks abound, and the experiences of other teachers found on the Socrative Twitter page is also a great place to start or extend how you will use Socrative in the classroom.

Less Traditional…

This is where all the developers and programmers efforts, no matter, how thoughtful or well tested will meet their match.  When analyzing a classroom teachers have an uncanny ability to see ways to use tools in manners for which they may never have been intended.

Take for example the Socrative space race.  A great feature that races teams of unicorns, bumblebees, rockets…etc, across the screen while students answer questions.  Really a great, way to engage kids for a while… but to be honest the novelty wears off in time.  The first time we used this it was fun and new.  However, before long the interest had faded and the novelty wore off.  Yet the tool itself was still valuable…it needed a remix.


What we did was throw in a scavenger hunt component that required students to find information hidden in the school while completing the quiz.  Sounds like chaos I know, but we deputized the principle and a few other teachers to distribute: speeding tickets, and noise violations in the form of 15 second penalties.  After that, we had no issues with movement, volume, or general behavior.  What this looked like was 24 kids completing a reading comprehension assignment, while getting exercise and competing to have a digital unicorn beat another digital unicorn… The result: probably the highest outcome in a reading comprehension assignment this year, with no grumbling or complaining, and 100% participation.  Sounds like a win to me.

Whether, using survey, short answer or quiz, the key with this, or any other app really, is to ensure that it is kept fresh by varying the way it is used.  This sends two messages to the students:

  1. technology is adaptive.  It can serve purposes and be valuable in ways other than those intended by the designer.
  2. Skills are transferable and dependent on the situation.  Being proficient at one use of a tool does not automatically mean mastery…having an iPad does not mean you understand its total potential.

This less traditional use of apps in the learning environment does require a level of comfort, and to be honest, it took a few times before we hit the right ‘mechanics’ to make this use of Socrative work.  However, students enjoyed the activity, and as a benefit worked in the refinement of the activity to make it work better.  They too saw value in what we were doing and were invested in ensuring it was an activity we would do again.

We, as a learning community, have not exhausted the possibilities, of Socrative, and will continue to look at new ways to use this in the classroom.  By getting more teachers to use this tool, new uses will be found to ensure that the shine does not fade from this valuable tool.



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Ok, full disclosure… at the outset of this class I was a strong skeptic when it came to the gamification of learning.  While I’m not implementing Minecraft into my math classes, (sorry @everclyr) I am much closer to the idea.

While it was my intention to do my review of Socrative, Kahoot!, Popplet and Beanpod, the restrictions of the installation of software onto school computers, and the process of applying for (and paying for) applications limited my exposure to Popplet, and completely eliminated any interaction with Beanod.  The result is that I spent more time working with Socrative and Kahoot!.  This was both unfortunate and seruptitious at the same time.  One door closes and another opens…kinda like choose your own adventure.

Having two apps to work with instead of one meant that I had more time to think about their value, and the reason for that value in the classroom.  Why were these tools effective in engaging students?  Were the effects lasting and meaningful, or were they simply a distraction?

The Real World’s Not a Game

Well, simply put… thats baloney.  We are all colecting and leveling up everyday.  Acquiring new toys, extra points and achievement levels.  Even if you dont believe that life is a challenge, we are all trying to beat, we need only look forward to see what might be in the future.  Watch the following video to have a look at what the future might be for our students…(or us if we’re lucky enough to see it happen.

Ok so the ending is a bit weird… but is it really unlikely?  The fact is that navigating digital environments  is not simply limited to the field of entertainment any longer.  Gamification is quickly gaining traction not only in education but also the field of professional development.

From badges  (seriously you should check these out…they are apparently a pretty big thing) to videos everyone seems to be hoping on the Reading Railroad to gamification (ok that was a bit cheesy)… guess I missed the boarding call (that was even worse)?  I guess the real world is a lot more like a game than I thought?

But, Teaching is a Serious Endeavour

Maybe that’s part of the problem?  I guess I have to admit that the obese alien running down a poorly constructed intergalactic hallway doesn’t constitute a math game (this exists btw…find it here… at your own risk).  However if we look at this from an academic perspective the basis for this approach makes sense, kids like to play, kids don’t like work, make work more like play, get more work done.  Its kind of like when your mom hid your medicine in jello…your mom did that too right…right?

Even more academic than that is the work of Karl Kapp.  Kapp has much to say about they way we teach and why it may benefit from the introduction of a game based approach.  I wont belabor the point as it is well summarized by Kapp himself in this YouTube video (it even starts with a Minecraft Lego commercial):

The idea of gamification as it relates to content vs structure was very interesting to me as it really does, and has, applied to education for a long time.  Long before technology ever played a role in the classroom as a learning tool, I remember chasing stickers on a poster to earn rewards in the classroom.  The math was the same as it would have been without the stickers…but those stickers, oh those stickers changed everything.  Kapp refers to this as structural gamification (4:50 in the video).  Structural gamification is the ‘gateway’ step in moving towards a truly gamified approach to teaching.  Most educators are already doing this even if it does not involve technology.

Content gamification transforms the actual content (6:25 in the video) to reflect elements of gaming.  A classic version of this in most schools is The Real Game.  However, even role playing in health may be considered a gamified version of content.  Of course a great example of this can be seen in the Hour of Code.  Hour of code (believe me you nor your class will stop at one) requires students to think logically, spatially, and at times cooperatively to achieve goals.  In the process they learn the basics of what code is and how it plays a role in their daily lives.  The result is students gain a skill, a valuable skill, while playing a game.  No wasted time here.

The Big Boss

Of course just like every game there is always a big boss to defeat at the end before victory can be claimed, and gamification in education is no different.

There is money in education…lots of money.  Knowing this, it seems like there are exists an army of programmers and developers creating software that claims to be educational.  Unfortunately the tools that keep the kids quiet are not always the ones that are best for learning…remember our obese alien?

Go Play!

It falls then, to the teacher to analyse the tool to determine its value as a learning opportunity, or medium. Just as every book does not fit every child, every tech tool does not fit every environment… just because it says its educational doesn’t mean it is so.  There always seems to be some new ‘more interactive’ tech tool that will allow your students: “greater success and increased outcomes”.  Better graphics and more show and glow doesn’t not equal a cure all for the classroom blues.   There are many ways to make education fun that involve the fusion of apps, or even simply the suggestion that math is taking place in a candy factory, and each correct answer is a repair to the magic candy machine…

So get out there and try something to ‘gamify’ your practice, and level up in the eyes of your students.  Try a Kahoot!, a Socrative space race or a scavenger hunt for ideas hidden around the school …or just get some stickers.  We all have to move off of START sooner or later.


Tools and Uses of Kahoot!

There are, much like Socrative, categorized into three categories: quizzes, surveys and discussions.  However, there are differences that will serve different needs in the classroom.


In this mode the best feature of the app comes to the forefront.  Without a doubt the competitive timed nature of Kahoot! will appeal to those who are most  disinterested in the more traditional assessments.  In order to ensure that frustration does not occur, ensure that your questions and responses are concise, or adapt your Question ‘time’ to reflect your students ability to read.  This quiz mode is perhaps better for review, or team based reflection.

One benefit of the quiz feature in Kahoot! that is not part of Socrative is the pace is determined by the teacher.  Students are not able to move on to a new question until it is activated.  At times this is a great feature, as some students have a tendency to rip through digital assessments just to get done.  With the ability to control the pace and progress it is possible to teach concepts, maximize a minimized Kahoot! ask a question and have an immediate idea of where the students are in relation to the content delivered.  This allows the teacher to reteach if needed, or note who may need individualized attention post instruction.  Throwing in some music clips as each question begins, or having a dramatic introduction to each question, when combined with the  colours, sounds and shapes of Kahoot!, allow students to ‘level up’ and enjoy a mini brain break… and we all need more of those!

Discussion and Surveys

IN my opinion the discussion and survey component in Socrative outperform those found in Kahoot!.  If the intention is to have students select a particular response on a polarizing issue which could be addressed through the use of : Yes/No response or Agree / Disagree type responses, then Kahoot! will serve.  However if differentiated and more detailed responses are encouraged, the ‘four choice’ limitation of a Kahoot! survey  or discussion feature may not suffice.