For a teacher, the summer affords so many opportunities for growth. Aside from the pure blessings of family vacations, recuperative time, and challenging, outdoor projects, June and July offer me a chance to improve my teaching craft. It is so nice to have the extra time to connect with positive educators via popular conferences or social media platforms like Twitter and learn of valuable resources, new pedagogical strategies, and effective educational technology tools. One such tool I learned of recently is RealtimeBoard.com. After an initial inspection and test run, I have decided to add it to my burgeoning Symbaloo list of worthy websites and apps. Here is a quick overview of an online collaborative board created within this user friendly website.
It is Free
Whenever I am perusing websites in search of potential, educational validity, I am reminded of a knee-jerk comment I utter whenever a student asks me for money. I usually show an empty wallet and respond with a terse and honest, “I’m a teacher; I have no money.” All joking aside, if standards-based mastery and student engagement constitute the atmosphere I wish to create every day, then the cost of using #edtech resources often acts as a thermostat. To be blunt, I rarely introduce an app or website to students unless there is a free version that helps them reach their learning objectives. RealtimeBoard offers unlimited public boards and up to three private boards for the free version. With this no-cost license, subscribers also receive 100 MB of storage, a maximum of 100 files per board, and all toolbar and sharing features. There is also no cutoff for the number of board collaborators. At the risk of sounding like a late-night infomercial (“But wait, there is more”), I would be remiss if I failed to inform you of the full-featured Pro account for teachers and students. Simply take the time to submit a few details that prove your status as a teacher or pupil and you will have access to unlimited private and public boards, unlimited files on each board, unlimited collaborators, 3GB of storage space, daily data backups, and fulltime e-mail support. All of that sounds like a pretty good deal for free.
In addition to the information mentioned above, here is a list of positives.
- A wide range of custom templates that include: Blank, Mindmapping, Prototyping, Production Plan, Business Model Generation, SWOT, Project Canvas, Checkers, Weekly Planner, Venn Diagram, Lock/Mock/Analyze, and Six Hats.
- A simple but effective toolbar that allows operations ranging from zooming in and out to uploading documents to embedding videos.
- A chat button to communicate directly with collaborators.
- A toolbar button that inserts mindmapping links that always stay connected even when objects are later rearranged.
- Quick access to add frequent contacts to new boards.
- The ability to set each board to private or public.
- The power of integrating your Google Drive account with a RealtimeBoard.
Although I have not tested a shared board in the classroom, I have stumbled upon a couple of negatives.
- RealtimeBoard requires FlashPlayer, therefore, it did not work on my iOS devices. As a huge advocate of BYOD and using smartphones in class, this one presents a challenge.
- The second negative is a bit picky. I wish RealtimeBoard had video conferencing capabilities built in. I am sure I could do a Google Hangout and share my screen, but that seems a bit cumbersome.
Ideas for Educational Use
Not to oversimplify this subtopic, but the educational possibilities for RealtimeBoard appear limited only by one’s imagination. Here are some suggestions I will offer my students and colleagues:
- Brainstorm and organize a shared, creative project with collaborators from anywhere.
- Administrators can use a shared board to facilitate professional learning. Since teachers can participate in studying the topic at any time, professional growth will surely result from increased flexibility.
- Curate valuable resources and minimize one’s workload by inviting others to help with the task at hand.
- Welcome criticism on a nearly finished product (essay, presentation, video, etc.) before publishing it to the world.
- Having a hard time showing a student where his talents fit in? Let him see for himself by guiding him to the correct board template before collaborating with others.
- Make a research paper much more interactive by collecting all valuable information in a one-stop location.
Once I introduce RealtimeBoard to my students, I am positive they will teach me just how valuable the tool can be. Care to share your ideas? Simply view the explanation below and then dive in to the embedded board at the bottom of the page.
Brainstorming in RealtimeBoard