I’m sure we’ve all tried to share files with others and run into some problems. Maybe the file was too big to be an attachment. Or maybe the file was blocked by someone’s email. dushare solves this problems in an effortless manner. You just choose the file, select whether you want the file to be password protected or not, and then share the unique URL with others so they can download the file. You don’t even need a username or an account to use the site. Dushare works a little differently than other file transfer systems. Rather than uploading the file to a server, the site creates a peer-to-peer connection with the people with whom you’ve share the link. You can even chat with the people that are downloading the file. It really can’t be easier. Educationally, dushare can be a great asset for sharing documents with students. In a moment of inspiration, a teacher can share a file with a whole class of students without sending an email or without uploading it to a course management system like Moodle, Blackboard or Desire2Learn. Dushare can especially beneficial with larger files (larger than 500 Mb) which can take a considerable amount of time to upload or download.
It should come to no surprise to most educators that the Internet is full of misinformation and downright inaccuracies. While some people may complain about Wikipedia as a source for information, my concerns are more directed at news blogs as forms as “new media.” It seems that anyone can throw up a blog, write some complete lies, add some doctored images, and then be quoted on television or on talk radio as a reputable news source. While I’m troubled by the existence and prevalence of these sources of misinformation online, I also know that the Internet offers a host of sites to help folks navigate through the lies. This week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite fact-checking sites to foster some healthy skepticism about the information people encounter online. Whether you’re confirming information you read on some blog, checking on that Facebook advertisement that’s offering free iPads, or looking into the Saudi prince who emailed you about sharing his fortune, these sites will help you sift through the falsehoods and the facts you encounter.
Snopes: Last Christmas, a relative sent me an email about a number of companies that were secretly going out of business right after the holidays. The email advised readers to avoid purchasing gift cards from the establishments for fear that they would be unable to use them once the stores closed down. While its technically an urban legend reference site, Snopes is also a great resource for double checking email communication. After a little searching on the Snopes, it was clear that the gift card email was just another false email that people had forwarded. Besides fact checking bogus emails, the site covers a wide variety of cultural and technical topics. Wondering whether James Taylor wrote Fire and Rain about an ex-girlfriend who died in a plane crash? Snopes can help. Puzzled by an email you received? Snopes can help with that as well. While some of the topics can be a little risque, the site offers a great deal of information in an easy to use manner.
FactCheck.org: Some of my conservative friends might complain about this site because it’s funded by the Annenburg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Although it receives some of its funding from the Annenburg Foundation, the site claims to be non-partisan and will not accept donations from politicians, unions or corporations. The main goal of FactCheck.org is to “monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases.” Since a lot of these political ads, speeches and interviews make their way onto YouTube or other sites, I felt that I needed to include FactCheck as one of the sites in this post. It’s a tremendous resource, especially for settling some of those political arguments that might arise over those family holiday get-togethers.
Politifact.com: Keeping with the politics theme, Politifact is a project from the St. Petersburg Times which might make some of my liberal friends angry. Visitors to the site are greeted by an “Obameter” which keeps track of the President’s numerous campaign promises. While this graphic might anger some people, overall the site appears to target both political parties evenly. Besides offering a graphical “Truth-o-meter,” Politifact links to reputable sites where users can see the facts for themselves.
I’m sure there are other sites that can help students fact-check the information they encounter online, on television, in print and on the radio. Regardless of the fact-checking source they use, we as educators need to foster a healthy skepticism in our students so they become better consumers of information. This will not only help them during their educational career but in their everyday life as well.
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Personal Response Systems are becoming more and more popular in classrooms. More commonly called “clickers,” these devices allow educators to assess their students and actively engage them in classroom discussions. I have a love/hate relationship with clickers. I appreciate that many students enjoy the “game show atmosphere” and that using clickers can be a great way to conduct ongoing assessments during a lesson. From an educational perspective, however, I wonder how often these devices are used to assess low level, knowledge-based content. While the tools can be great ways to check for student understanding or assess students’ prior knowledge, there is a danger that the clickers could lead to an over-emphasis on trivia.
Another concern I have is that the devices can be expensive, especially since most of the clickers only perform a single function. With all of the inexpensive alternatives, I don’t believe that their limited functionality warrant their expense. For example, a few months ago, I highlighted Poll Everywhere, a polling site that allows participants to text their responses. This week, I thought I’d feature a few other alternatives to clickers.
Flisti: Flisti is a free site for creating web-based multiple choice polls. The strength of Flisti is also its main weakness. The site does not require a username or password to get started so creating a poll is effortless. The poll can be shared easily by sharing the poll web address with others. The downside of this is that the polls are not saved for long periods of time and anyone could theoretically access the polls. Despite these issues, Flisti would be a great tool to make a quick web-based survey for students to access with their smart phones or laptops during a class discussion.
BooRoo: BooRoo offers free online polls, surveys and quizzes. The site is easy to use and allows the polls to be shared via web address or embedded into websites (or into course management systems like Blackboard or Desire2Learn). The site requires a username and password to get started but this allows surveys to be saved for revising or for analyzing.
99Polls: Much like BooRoo, 99Polls offers free online polls and surveys that can be embedded online. The unique feature of the 99Polls is that it shows responses from geographical locations based on the IP address of the participant. It’s a cool feature but not really applicable to educators who want to use the polls and surveys to build student engagement in a classroom lesson.
PollDaddy: PollDaddy is one of the more popular online surveying sites. While a full subscription to the site is expensive, PollDaddy offers a free plan which allows up to 100 responses a month. Might be limited for those educators who work with larger classes, but the polls are highly customizable and can be shared and embedded in many locations.
eClicker: For those educators who use iPads or iPhones, eClicker is an inexpensive alternative to clickers. With eClicker, an educator purchases a “host” application for their iDevice which runs the survey questions. Students with iPhone or iPod Touches can download a free eClicker response application which connects to the host application. Educators can purchase the host application for $9.99 on the App Store which allows up to 32 clients to connect if they are on the same wifi network. The application also allows participation through other devices (laptops, other smartphones, etc) as long as they connect through the same wireless network as the host device.
Edmodo: While Edmodo offers polling as one of its services, the site is better described as an online social network for education. Unlike some of the other sites in this post, Edmodo allows real conversations between participants where information, ideas and documents can be shared in real time. While the site functions somewhat like Twitter, its educational focus helps to limit the celebrity drama that permeates across Twitter.
Google Docs: Buried deep in the expansive Google library of features and tools is Google Docs. I featured Google Docs several months ago but did not highlight the Form ability. Simply put, Google Forms are incredible. The forms allow multiple choice and text responses and allow of the responses are collected in a downloadable spreadsheet. Check out this tutorial from Google that shows how to use Google Forms to create surveys.