Liberty University Doctoral Program: Collaboration and Communication Apps Review

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Liberty University Doctoral Program Collaboration and Communication Apps Review

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In this review of collaboration and communication applications (apps), I discuss two apps with which I have personal experience as well as five apps researched specifically for this posting. Below are my findings.

App # 1 for Personal, Pedagogical, or Professional Use – SnapChat

The first app I chose to use fits the classification of an app that is mostly used for personal purposes, SnapChat. Snapchat is an app through which one can send messages, photos, and video messages from 0 – 49 seconds. When establishing a SnapChat account, one can set it up using your email and phone number. When selecting privacy settings, one can choose to give SnapChat access to their phone contacts, and then see who in their contacts is already using the app based upon their contacts’ settings. When setting up your account, if you choose to be located by contacts, your contacts will be able to see that you have joined SnapChat. One can also set up their account as private, prohibiting people from seeing that you have set up an account. One can also allow their SnapChat account to be discoverable by people not in their contacts. One must also choose whether their Storyline, a place to share videos and photos is viewable by the public, by connections, or by sharing the accounts Quick Response (QR) Code. Items posted to one’s Storyline disappear in 24 hours, but you also have the option to save these items to your Camera Roll.

When posting a photo or video to one’s Storyline, you can choose that only friends or anyone can see your Story. When posting to your Storyline, you can choose to take a photo or video live or post a photo or video less than 49 seconds from the photos and videos stored in your phone. The app is primarily designed to be used with a SmartPhone, but you can also access your account via a computer. Storylines are great for things you want to share that aren’t important enough to save for more than 24 hours. It’s a great way to say, “Here’s what I’m up to!”

Depending on privacy settings, yours and others, one is able to send Private Messages (PMs) of texts, photos, and/or videos to others. If your account is set that only contacts or people with you have agreed to follow and who follow you can send you a PM, you will only receive PMs from these people. PMs can also be established for groups. Streaks are developed when you and another person send either a photo or video message to someone three days in a row. After that, should you continue to send and receive at least one photo or video daily, your streak record grows and a fire emoji appears in your PM screen next to that person’s name. The partners in the streak have 24 hours from the last sent photo or video to send another photo or video to keep the streak going. Streaks are fun to start but challenging to continue at times. Breaking a streak once it reaches a high number can feel very disappointing. I currently have 130 day streak with a colleague, and this is our third attempt to keep one going. The second highest streak was in the 70s when it was broken. Sometimes we just forget, especially on a weekend morning when we slept later than our normal weekday wake-up time. Now it’s a firmly engraned habit, and one of us will make it a point to send a snap later in the day on Friday and Saturday to get us through the weekend stretch.

SnapChat can be linked and synced with your Bitmoji account, allowing fun and flexible creations of post (photos or videos). You can even make videos or Memes featuring yourself with one of your PM contacts.

With the proper safety controls in place and the awareness that once you share something, someone can capture it and keep it, SnapChat can be quite enjoyable. It is a great way to say good morning to people and feel included in their life even if they are far away. Safety concerns are paramount for youth because they can be lulled into a false sense of trust and privacy and share inappropriate texts, photos, and/or videos, trusting that the other person would not violate their privacy and their intimacy, only to have that trust shattered later when that person shares intimate communication with others.

I chose to discuss SnapChat because it is a wonderful way to keep in touch with family and friends who are far away, especially now that I cannot even see the ones who are only a half hour from me due to the pandemic. I also enjoy sharing bright spots in my day, accomplishments, and/or challenges. I enjoy seeing how my daughter is doing in Texas by watching her Storyline and following up with her on it later in the day. I enjoy seeing how my nieces and grand nieces and grand nephews are doing in Texas as I don’t get to see them but a couple of times a year. I would not recommend SnapChat for anything other than personal communication, and I do not recommend that people allow their Storyline to be viewed by those to whom they are not connected.

SnapChat QR Code and Points

SnapChat Connections (Last names have been darkened for privacy.

SnapChat Connections (Last names have been darkened for privacy.

App # 2 for Personal, Pedagogical, or Professional Use – FlipGrid

The second app I chose to use is FlipGrid. My intent is to use FlipGrid to increase collaboration and engagement in the English II CP classes that I teach via Distance Learning. FlipGrid allows the teacher to make a digital posterboard to which they pose a question and require students to respond with a video. A time limit can be set for the video recording, and teachers should be very clear about the perameters in the assignment instructions and rubric. I have heard about FlipGrid before, but I had not seen a need for it while students were meeting daily in class. However, with Distance Learning and the need to still implement Speaking and Listening Standards in the curriculum, especially for English Language Learners (ELLs) and Longterm English Language Learners (LTELLs), of which my school has a high population of ELL students, Flipgrid recently resurfaced in the tool chest of options to increase engagement while allowing students to build community and practice their speaking components and presentations.

The assignment I have recently given my students is related to our study of Animal Farm by George Orwell and is connected to our analysis of characterization. It is called a “Character in a Bag.” Students are to choose one character in the novella and choose five items that act as symbols for the character. No more than two may be photos. A drawn item may be used, but it counts as a photo. A handmade item can be used as well, and as long as it is not a drawing, it is not counted as a photo. Students are to present each item and give an explanation why the item is a symbol for the character. Students are given examples with two characters in Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespeare. Typically presentations are held in class, but with distance learning, FlipGrid will give students the ability to practice presentation skills and give the options to record as many times as necessary to feel comfortable.

The day after the FlipGrid videos are due, students will be given part two of the assignment, to watch the videos and chose the three best videos. The videos that are ranked in the top three will receive extra credit.

I do not yet have evidence of engagement, as the students were just given the assignment this Thursday, and it is not due until December 3rd, which is the week we come back from Thanksgiving break. I am, however, posting an image of the assignment the students were given and the prepared FlipGrid.

Photo of Character in a Bag Assignment

Photo of Character in a Bag Assignment

FlipGrid prepared for student responses.

FlipGrid prepared for student responses.

App # 1 – Edmodo

Edmodo is an app that lends itself to facilitating class discussions in a virtual forum and functions much as the discussion forums utilized through BlackBoard and Canvas to facilitate student engagement and interaction around a specific prompt. Designed to look and perform like FaceBook (FB), a social media app, Edmodo functions like a combination of Google Classroom (GC) and FB. The instructor establishes a class, just like GC, and invites students to the class via distributing a link, a code, or entering the students manually. Students are then able to see assignments and discussion prompt posted by the instructor. Students can comment on the discussion post, just like FB, and comment on the response posts of classmates, just like FB. In a virtually learning community, Edmodo allows students the same ease of response as FB and similar security provided by GC.

Alqahtani (2019) reported that Edmodo supports the ideas of a flipped classroom and “helps to close the gaps between students with regard to their access to education, thus improving learning outcomes” (p. 322) while “ha[ving] a positive impact on the students learning skills” (p. 322). Students also report a positive experience with using Edmodo (Alqahtani).

Regarding safety, Common Sense Privacy Program (CSPP) (Common Sense Privacy Program, 2020a) gives Edmodo a general score of 76% and labels it with a warning. CSPP calculated Edmodo’s safety score in nine specific areas, and rated it: (a) Data Collection – 65%, (b) Data Sharing – 85%, (c) Data Security – 55%, (d) Data Rights – 85%, (e) Data Sold – 40%, (f) Data Safety – 55%, (g) Ads and Tracking – 55%, (h) Parental Consent – 65%, and (i) School Purpose – 50%. Items in these nine categories for Edmodo have been marked with either a green checkmark indicated safe and clear, an orange caution sign with an exclamation point in the middle of the sign, or a black bullet point which appears to have a neutral barring on the criteria used to rank safety (Common Sense Privacy Program).

Regarding safeguards put in place to protect minors for which Edmodo receives a green check mark indicating safe, CSPP (2020a) stated that:

  1. Collection or use of data is limited to product requirements
  2. Geolocation data are not collected.
  3. Combined information is treated as personally identifiable information (PII).
  4. Use of information is limited to the purpose for which it was collected
  5. Contractual limits are placed on third-party use
  6. Two-factor account protection is available.
  7. All data in transit are encrypted.
  8. Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  9. Users can control their information through privacy settings.
  10. Users retain ownership of their data.
  11. Processes to access and review user data are available.
  12. Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
  13. Processes for the school, parents, or students to delete data are available.
  14. Processes to delete user data are available.
  15. Data are not sold or rented to third parties.
  16. Third-party transfer is contractually required to use the same privacy practices.
  17. User cannot interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  18. Profile information is not shared for social interactions.
  19. Users can control how their data are displayed.
  20. Children’s privacy is applicable.
  21. Parent consent is required.
  22. Children’s personal information is deleted if collected without parental consent.

Edmodo

App # 2 – Popplet

Popplet is a public online platform that allows teachers and learners to create graphic organizers that utilize text, photose, videos, and drawings (Popplet, n.d.). Popplet boards can then be shared via a web link (Popplet). Students can view and comment on Popplets made by instructors and/or peers (Popplet). If an instructor chooses to use Popplet, they should be aware that Popplet’s free account only allows the account holder to make one free Popplet board, but with their account, the will have access to all public Popplet boards (Popplet). If an account holder wishes to make unlimited Popplets, they can subscribe for $1.99 a month $19.99 for a year’s membership (Popplet). The paid account comes with the same access to view public Popplets (Popplet). If schools or private companies wish to sign up for a commercial account, they must contact Popplet to request pricing information (Popplet).

Kwon et al. (2018) reported that “graphic organizers facilitated students’ higher levels of cognitive engagement, and encouraged students to consider alternative views” (p. 1479) and that Popplets created by instructors generated great levels of engagement and resulted on “higher scores on the comprehension test than the group with student-generated graphic organizers” (p. 1484). Graphic organizers are especially beneficial for online and distance learning (Kwon et al.) Kwon et al. reported that “two specific approaches are identified from cognitive theory and activity theory: an emphasis on reducing learners’ cognitiveload by providing graphic organizers and learner’s active engagement in a cognitive process by creating graphic organizers” (p. 1484). Popplet is reported to be solid support tool for making and sharing graphic organizers, especially to support visual learners (Kwon et al. & Tomaszewski, 2012).

While Popplet is open to the public and does not approve postings, it has an option where people can report inappropriate content (Popplet, n.d.). When making a Popplet, the creator can choose to make their Popplet board private or public (Popplet). When making their Popplet public, anyone can find and view the content (Popplet). When making a Popplet private, the crator must share the link to the popplet with those who they wish to see it (Popplet). Popplet suggests that parents have conversations with their children about what is and is not appropriate content to share.

In reviewing the app, Bindel (n.d.) rated it four out of five stars, and it received a green check of approval for ages 13 plus. Parents also have submitted their review of the app on Commen Sense Media’s website, also giving it four out of five stars (Bindel). While a minor may give the app a review as well, at the time of this publication, no review has been submitted from a student perspective (Bindel). For educational value, the app received three out of five stars and an A+ grade (Bindel). For ease of use, the app received four out of five stars (Bindel).

Popplet

App # 3 – Socrative

In its review of the Socrative app, EdSurge (n.d.) described it as “a cloud-based student response system… [that] allows teachers to create simple quizzes that students can take” using any variety of technology that can connect to the internet. Quizzes can be given in real time as students use their technology to report their answers (EdSurge). It offers the opportunity to conduct checks for understanding at which teachers can respond and decide on what material students need to be re-engaged (EdSurge). Munusamy et al. (2019) reported that “60% of students indicated that it helped them to be more active in class” (p. 79). Socrative is best recommended for quizzes or checks for understanding, and is not designed to be used to supplement lectures (Munusamy et al.).

Regarding safety, Common Sense Privacy Program (CSPP) (Common Sense Privacy Program, 2020b) gives Socrative a general score of 79%, and labels it with a warning. CSPP calculates Socrative’s safety score in nine specific areas, and rated it: (a) Data Collection – 50%, (b) Data Sharing – 90%, (c) Data Security – 55%, (d) Data Rights – 65%, (e) Data Sold – 70%, (f) Data Safety – 50%, (g) Ads and Tracking – 65%, (h) Parental Consent – 65%, and (i) School Purpose – 55%. Items in these nine categories for Socrative have been marked with either a green checkmark indicated safe and clear, an orange caution sign with an exclamation point in the middle of the sign, or a black bullet point which appears to have a neutral barring on the criteria used to rank safety (Common Sense Privacy Program).

Regarding safeguards put in place to protect minors for which Socrative receives a green check mark indicating safe, CSPP (2020b) stated that:

  1. Collection or use of data is limited to product requirements
  2. Use of information is limited to the purpose for which it was collected
  3. Contractual limits are placed on third-party use
  4. Third-party contractual security protections are required.
  5. Industry best practices are used to protect data.
  6. All data in transit are encrypted.
  7. Users can control their information through privacy settings.
  8. Users retain ownership of their data.
  9. Processes to access and review user data are available.
  10. Processes to modify inaccurate data are available.
  11. Processes for the school, parents, or students to delete data are available.
  12. Processes to delete user data are available.
  13. Data are not sold or rented to third parties.
  14. Users can opt out for the disclosure or sale of their data to a third party.
  15. Users are notified if their information is transferred to a third party.
  16. The vendor describes their deidentification process of user information.
  17. Contractual limits prohibit third parties from reidentifying deidentifies information.
  18. Users can control how their data are displayed.
  19. Children’s privacy is applicable.
  20. Parent consent is required.
  21. Parents can withdraw consent for the further collection of their child’s information.
  22. Parental consent notice and method for submission are provided.

Socrative

App # 4 – VoiceThread

VoiceThread is described as “a collaboratie, multimedia slide show that holds images, document, and videos and allows people to navigate slides and leave comments in five ways” (University of Wisconsin Whitewater, n.d., p. 1). Presentations can be shared with family and friends, and viewers can leave comments and feedback (University of Wisconsin Whitewater). Delmas (2017) did a focused study “on the ways in which VoiceThread… can be used to promote community in online learning, particularly through social presence” (p. 596). Delmas reported that “instructor’s comments when delivered aurally” (p. 597) were better understood by students. Delmas reported several benefits with the use of VoiceThread: (a) “increased levels of emotional connection as compared with text discussion using Blackboard” (p. 596), (b) “increased social presence… in online learning” (p. 596), and (c) “assist[ance] in developing student presentation skills” (p. 597). Both students and professors commonly give positive comments when asked about their experience with VoiceThread (Delmas).

Regarding safety, Common Sense Education (CSE) (Common Sense Education, 2017) gives VoiceThread a general score of 87%, and labels it with a pass. CSE calculated VoiceThread’s safety score in three specific areas: (a) Data Safety (b) Data Rights, and (c) Ads and Tracking. Most of the criteria in these three categories for VoiceThread have been marked with either a green checkmark indicated safe and clear or a black bullet point which appears to have a neutral barring on the criteria used to rank safety (Common Sense Education). Only one criteria has been marked with an orange triangle with an exclamation point on it: “Users can create or upload content” (Common Sense Education).

Regarding safeguards put in place to protect minors for which VoiceThread receives a green check mark indicating safe, CSE (2017) stated that:

  1. Users cannot interact with untrusted users, including strangers and/or adults.
  2. Profile information is not shared for social interactions.
  3. Opt-in consent is requested from users at the time personal information is collected.
  4. Users can control their information through privacy settings.
  5. Data are not shared for third-party advertising and/or marketing.
  6. Traditional or contextual advertisements are not displayed
  7. Behavioral or targeted advertising is not displayed.

VoiceThread

App # 5 – Yammer

Yammer is a social networking app purchased by Microsoft in 2012 (Finnegan, 2020). Plan pricing starts at $3.00 a month per user, but there is a free account as well (Microsoft, 2012). Yammer is currently being marketed by Microsoft as a platform to build and support social interactions through small group within large companies and communities (Finnegan). Microsoft currently has a similar app, Microsoft Teams (Yammer, n.d.),  which it also markets for the same purpose, but there are some differences between the two apps (Finnegan). One specific purpose of Yammer is that it facilitates what is considered to be “longer half-life conversations” (Finnegan) which means converstaions that are “useful 24 hours later, Yammer conversations may be useful six months or a year from now” (Finnegan). When reporting what social networking programs facilitated better connections amongst members and “helped [them] be a more active participant in the class” (Munusamy et al., 2019, p. 79), only “20% of students” (Munusamy et al., p. 79) chose Yammer when self-reporting.

National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) asked and answered 11 security questions regarding the Yammer app (National Cyber Security Centre, 2019). Each question received an affirmative response indicating a strong level of security measures per government standard (National Cyber Security Centre). There is no indication of any warning regarding Yammer (National Cyber Security Centre).

Yammer

References

Alqahtani, A. S. (2019). The use of edmodo: Its impact on learning and students’ attitudes toward it. Journal of Information Technology Education, 18, 319-330. doi:10.28945/4389

Bindel, A. (n.d.). Popplet. Commen Sense Media. Retrieved on 21 November 2020. From https://www.commonsensemedia.org/app-reviews/popplet?utm_expid=.RCp3TD4oT6qWuBfx5635Eg.0&utm_referrer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F

Common Sense Education. (October 2017). Retrieved on 17 November 2020. From  https://www.commonsense.org/education/website/voicethread

Common Sense Privacy Program. (2020a, May 11). Privacy evaluation for Edmodo.  Retrieved on 19 November 2020. From https://privacy.commonsense.org/evaluation/edmodo

Common Sense Privacy Program. (2020b, October 23). Privacy evaluatin for Socrative. Retrieved on 19 November 2020. From https://privacy.commonsense.org/evaluation/socrative

Delmas, P. M. (2017). Using VoiceThread to create community in online learning. Techtrends, 61(6), 595-602. doi:10.1007/s11528-017-0195-z

EdSurge. (n.d.) Socrative. Retrieved on 21 November 2020. From https://www.edsurge.com/product-reviews/socrative#:~:text=Socrative%20is%20a%20cloud%2Dbased,computers%20or%20their%20own%20smartphones.

Finnegan, M. (2020, February 28). Microsoft looks to give Yammer a new leaso of life; Can it?. Computer World. https://www.computerworld.com/article/3529673/microsoft-looks-to-give-yammer-a-new-lease-of-life-but-can-it-do-so.html

Kwon, K., Shin, S., & Park, S. J. (2018). Effects of graphic organizers in online discussions: Comparison between instructor-provided and student-generated. Educational Technology Research and Development, 66(6), 1479-1503. doi:10.1007/s11423-018-9617-7

https://www.getcleartouch.com/what-are-the-best-online-collaboration-tools-for-students/

Microsoft. (2012, November 12). Introducing: New Yammer pricing plans – Direct from SharePoint conference #SPC12. Retrieved on 22 November 2020. From https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/blog/2012/11/12/introducing-new-yammer-pricing-plans-direct-from-sharepoint-conference-spc12/

Munusamy, S., Osman, A., Riaz, S., Ali, S., & Mraiche, F. (2019). The use of socrative and yammer online tools to promote interactive learning in pharmacy education. Currents in Pharmacy Teaching and Learning, 11(1), 76-80. doi:10.1016/j.cptl.2018.09.021

National Cyber Security Centre. (2019, January 22). Yammer: Softwary as a service (SaaS) security guidance. Retrieved on 22 November 2020. From https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/collection/saas-security/product-evaluations/yammer

Popplet. (n.d.) https://www.popplet.com/

Tomaszewski, J. (2012). Site review: Popplet. Education World. Retrieved on 17 November, 2020. From https://www.educationworld.com/a_curr/site-reviews/popplet.shtml

University of Wisconsin Whitewater. (n.d.). VoiceThread Tutorial. Retrieved on 22 November, 2020. From https://www.uww.edu/Documents/colleges/cls/lsmedia/voicethreadtutorial.pdf

Yammer. (n.d.) https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/microsoft-365/yammer/yammer-overview

 

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