Mobile ready without the app: 10 web apps that work with all devices

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This semester in my TESL course, I am introducing my students to ways in which they can incorporate mobile devices into their teaching. All of the things I am showing them I have already used in my English language courses at one time or another. My hope is to get them thinking about how they can have students use these devices to help their language learners instead of fighting against their use in class. As many of you know, I don’t have a problem with phones, tablets, and other types of computing devices in my classroom since I see the real problem as being much deeper. The problems with distractions and potential cheating has very little to do with the devices themselves and more to do with things such as motivation.

You may have seen studies on both sides of this debate, but most of them have to do with surface issues and don’t deal with things such as teacher training on the use of technology in the classroom and approaches to teaching. Yes, the student has to accept their responsibility in this as well, but that will happen when we are able to provide them with a good model on how to use the devices to take control of their learning.

One of the issues I do have with all devices in the classroom is having to install programs or apps. There is a place and time for that, but in some cases it is completely unnecessary. In the case of my TESL class, I am attempting to use tools where students don’t need to install anything. This means I can use it immediately in class without the step of having to help them add it to their device. I thought it might be good to share some of those ideas with you and have you add more in the comments. These are in no particular order.

Criteria:

  • Free for students
  • No registration for students (teachers may have to create an account)
  • Don’t need to install anything
  • Works on laptops/desktops, tablets, and phones
  • Adds to the learning process
  • Not complicated to learn

Poll Everywhere

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What is it? As the name states, Poll Everywhere is an online polling and survey web app that can be used without registering, but has some limitations without creating an account. Most of those limitations are not a problem when working with smaller groups like a class of 25 or less.

How can I learn how to use it? Poll Everywhere has an extensive user guide and videos on how it works.

Why do you like it? I like the fact that students can respond to polls without having a smartphone. They can simply use text messaging to the web app to answer. For students that are using their smartphones, the web app works really well on mobile devices. Another thing I like about it is that students can create their own online polls and surveys without having to sign up for something.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Create a poll for the start of class based on material covered in the previous class or from a homework reading.
  • Have students create a short survey and then collect the data and share the results as a presentation or as a writing project.
  • Exit slips on what we had covered in class.
  • Groups share their results with the class through the open ended question option and is displayed on the screen.
  • Students can ask questions throughout the class. This is especially good for students who don’t like speaking up in front of the group.
  • Students can text me questions outside of class time using an open poll question. This means I don’t have to give students my personal phone number.

Tlk.io

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What is it? It is a simple text chat web app that is incredibly easy to use and looks nice. You can also embed it in a website or blog. There is no registration at all for the site.

How can I learn how to use it? There isn’t much to learn and it is pretty intuitive, but Tlk.io has an FAQ page for more information.

Why do you like it? I like the look of the page and it works really well on mobile devices. That combined with the lack of registration makes it an ideal backchannel discussion tool. I also like that unmoderated chats are automatically deleted after 10 minutes of being innactive. This means that old chats don’t stay around for others to stumble upon by accident. If you do want to keep a record / archive of the message, simply become the moderator and you will be able to go back over the chat later. See the FAQ on how to do that.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Groups share their results with the classroom. I simply display the chat on the screen.
  • Groups can discuss things outside of class.
  • Students can have backchannel discussions about videos we are watching in class.
  • Create a questions channel and students can then share their questions.
  • Students create dialogs. I give them a situation and then two or more students create the dialog for the situation. You can then have other students role play the dialog.
  • You can paste in a short text in the chat and then have students give feedback on how it should be changed.

VideoAnt

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What is it? It is a simple video annotation online tool. It allows users to add written comments directly into a specific place on the video. Those comments also become bookmarks that allows users to jump directly to that section of the video.

How can I learn how to use it? The University of Minnesota has an excellent help section on Video Ant.

Why do you like it? There are a lot of reasons I like Video Ant, but simply put, it is the only video annotation tool that students can use without having to use their real email address (a fake email works well for commenting).

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • I set up a video with a series of questions at particular points in the video. Students click on the questions and that section of the video begins to play. This is great with hearing idioms or vocabulary in context. I also use it for deeper questions where students have to give opinions.
  • I bookmark videos so I can jump to specific sections when we are in class.
  • Students can annotate a video based on specific criteria in class. I may ask different students to look at the video for different things.
  • Create a video slideshow of photos that students can then use to write a story using the visual prompts. Other students then read the story and add comments.
  • Post regular news clips and have students comment on how they feel about the news story.

AwwApp 

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What is it? It is an online “whiteboard” that can have drawings, images, and text.

How can I learn how to use it? I wrote a simple how-to post on using it.

Why do you like it? It is clean and simple to use. Students can collaborate and they don’t need to register. Works on almost any device (some browsers don’t like it, but that doesn’t come up very often).

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Have student load a photo on their page and then add words that describe it based on what you have been working on in class (ex. colours for lower levels; mood and scene for higher levels).
  • Have students brainstorm ideas and put them in sections on the page. You can even have them draw quadrants with the pen tool.
  • Have students create and draw a symbol / trademark symbol that describes them (no words, just images). They keep it secret, but share the link with you. You can then download the images and put them all on one page to project at the front of class. Students walk around and interview each other to see if they can figure out which image is whose.
  • Put a bunch of words on a blank page and students match words based on what they feel goes together. They can do this by circling the words in different coloured pens (ie. Circle matching words in the same colour). They then have to explain to the class why they thought those words go together.

Google Forms

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What is it? A part of Google Drive, Google Forms allows users to create simple forms that collect data from users and puts it in a spreadsheet.

How can I learn how to use it? There are a number of places to find out how to use Google Forms, but Google has a help page that is simple to follow.

Why do you like it? I like the versatility of it and yet it is still very simple to put a form together and then compile the information afterward. I wish there was a way for students to edit the form without an account, but that is the same for all of the Google tools.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Create simple quizzes and tests. It is much easier to look over the information on the spreadsheet.
  • Use the paragraph section for longer text.
  • Have groups complete a form together and then compare data together as a class using the charts provided.
  • Gather information about a topic from each of the groups and display the results on the main screen.
  • Peer evaluation on presentations and debates. Students fill in the form during the presentation and then you compile the results and go over them with the student presenting in a one-on-one session.

Beamium

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What is it? This is a very simple tool for uploading and presenting PDF documents on multiple screens.

How can I learn how to use it? There isn’t much to learn, but Beamium does have a how to page https://www.beamium.com/content#why-beamium

Why do you like it? This is a tool I had forgotten about, but have used in the past. Thanks to Baiba for reminding me. I love the simplicity of it and the practical usages even thought it doesn’t do very much. I also like that students can use it without an account.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Use it like a presentation remote. Upload a slide presentation as a PDF, use the presenter view on your phone and use the viewer mode projected on the screen. I can then click to the next slide on my phone and it changes on the screen. Simple, yet effective.
  • I have students get in groups and they each have at least one device with them. I them present something like photos or text that they have to view and discuss until I change to the next slide.
  • Students present to their group without needing a projector. Each student can have their phone and watch the presentation while the student gives it.
  • Share documents with students or them with me. The PDF stays up for 14 days. It can download before then or I can lock it so it can’t be  download (ie. Secure document; copyright issues).
  • Simple times quizzes. I put one question on each slide and they can then watch on their own device. They have a limited time to answer the question before I move on to the next slide.

Speakpipe Voice Recorder

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What is it? It is a nice, clean, ad-free online voice recorder with cloud storage.

How can I learn how to use it? I did up a simple overview on one of my posts.

Why do you like it? I hated the terrible ads that Vocaroo and others were displaying for my students and I also wanted an online recorder that would work without Flash on mobile devices. This does that.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Students record themselves at different times over the period of the course. I use it to show them how they are progressing when we meet together to look over their work.
  • I have students record stories for the other students.
  • I have them do interviews and record them on their phones.
  • Students record their group work and then share the link with the rest of the class for homework.
  • I record audio feedback for students on their writing assignments.

WebQR

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What is it? It is an online QR scanner instead of installing a dedicated app.

How can I learn how to use it? It is pretty simple to use, so their aren’t any instructions with it. Simply point the camera at the QR code and the link will appear below the video box.

Why do you like it? I like that students don’t have to install another app to scan QR codes.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Have a QR scavenger hunt. Students need to scan the codes to get the next clue. I use links from the audio recordings with Speakpipe to give audio clues once they scan the code. I also set up images to come up, YouTube videos, or anything else with a link. They have to solve the clues to get move on.
  • I use a bookmarklet on the browser on my projected screen in class. When I have a page I want students to go to that has a long URL, I simply click on the bookmarklet and the QR code appears. Students can then scan the code to go to the link. Simpler than having to have them type it in.
  • I add QR codes to some documents to make them more interactive (ex. have a video appear when you scan it).

Appear.in

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What is it? It is a simple video conference call web app.

How can I learn how to use it? I wrote up a simple how-to in one of my posts.

Why do you like it? I love the simplicity and quality of the conferencing. All of that and no one needs to register to use it. It can even be used for simple text chats or audio calls.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Group work outside of class. Students can call each other to work from home.
  • Meeting with students as online office hours.
  • Simple webinars.

WriteURL

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What is it? A nice, simple real-time shared document creator.

How can I learn how to use it? I did an overview of it in one of my posts.

Why do you like it? I love that students can create documents on their phone, share it with others, edit each other’s work, and they don’t need to register.

How do you use it with your students? Here are some examples:

  • Group projects such as presentation preparation.
  • Chain story writing. One students starts, then next adds more, and so on.
  • Homework page. Students put all of their homework on one page that only them and myself have access to.
  • E-Portfolio. I had links and text to the page to keep a diary of work for each student. We then go over it throughout the course.

There are others that could be mentioned, but I’ll leave that for another day.