Teachers are adding classroom technology to their programs. There are lots of great websites out there to help teachers bring their lessons out of the brick-and-mortar classroom and into a digital learning space.
Unfortunately, a lot of these websites have terms of service that require users to be 13 years or older in order to sign up for an account. This is to protect minors, to protect companies from accidentally collecting personal information from minors, and to comply with privacy legislation.
[stextbox id=”alert”]Although blog.classroomteacher.ca may talk about different ways to use technology in the classroom, the opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and do not represent any employer, school board, ministry of education, or legal/privacy expert. [/stextbox]
It is up to the individual teacher to read the terms of service of any website service before using it with their students to ensure that they comply with any school or government privacy regulations. For example, in the US, the Federal Trade Commission Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) give parents control over what information websites can collect from their kids.
Here are some great websites that teachers use with students. Now let’s think about whether students under 13 years old are actually allowed to create accounts on their own.
- Poll Everywhere
- iPads / iTunes / iOS 5
- Google Apps for Education (Google Docs)
- Classroom Blogging Software (WordPress / Blogger)
Prezi is a great presentation tool for the classroom. Think of it as an online version of PowerPoint that lets you zoom in and zoom out in creative ways.
- If you’re a student or teacher (with a valid educational e-mail address), then you can sign up for the free “EDU enjoy”account which lets you create private content. (The normal free account that’s available to the general public doesn’t let you create private content. You normally have to pay $59 per year for this privacy feature.)
- According to the Prezi terms of service (Item #2), you need to be an adult (18 years old) to use Prezi online. However, if you have obtained parental/guardian consent then students younger than 18 years old can use the service.
- Prezi support specialists have confirmed in their forums that as long as parents sign a permission slip, elementary students (under the age of 13 years old) can have their own Prezi accounts. (They do require a school e-mail address, however.)
Xtranormal looks like a cool way for students to make movies. Their tagline is, “if you can type, you can make movies.”
- Basically, you choose from hundreds of actors (avatars) and you can control their emotions, voices, and gestures.
- Then, you type what they will say (or, you record your dialogue), and the characters automatically lip-synch to your words.
- Finally, you select your background, camera angles, sound effects.
The regular (free) accounts seem a little scary for classroom use. First of all, the terms of service require that you be 13 years or older to use the service. Second of all, when students click on account settings they can control their own content filtering options. In other words, they can click the checkbox to display content rated 13+ or 18+. (Then again, we live in a YouTube generation. Is it really any worse than some of the questionable content on YouTube?)
They do offer an “Xtranormal for Education” service for $10 per month (and an additional $.50 per month for each student account that you need. Here are some things to think about:
- Xtranormal for education gives you access to all of the actors, sets, and services as well as admin access to student accounts and grading tools.
- The terms of service for the Xtranormal for Education account states that you don’t require parental agreement for students under the age of 13 because Xtranormal not store the student e-mail. The TOS states that Xtranormal is not intended for children under the age of 13 “unless invited by the educator for work assignment.”
- You should know that all content of any type on the site is the property of Xtranormal. By posting personal teaching content on the site, “you automatically grant Xtranormal and all of the users a full license to use such content.”
- If you introduce Xtranormal to your students, then you need to be aware that chances are, they’re going to come across (or seek out) questionable material. In fact,the Xtranormal for education TOS explicitly states that the site has “very limited control, if any, over the quality, safety, morality, legality, truthfulness or accuracy of various aspects of the service.” In other words, your students are going to find videos like this.
Evernote is a very cool piece of free notetaking software. It lets students and teachers store their notes in the cloud. Part of Evernote’s power comes from the fact that it is available on multiple platforms which makes it easy to sync your notes across devices.
The Montclair Kimberley Academy is a K-12 private school in New Jersey. They offer a one-to-one laptop learning program that starts in grade 4 and provide students with a laptop. Every student from grades four through twelve were given a MacBook Pro laptop and an Evernote premium subscription. If you watch the promotional Evernote YouTube video from MKA, we see a wide range of students using Evernote in the classroom.
Evernote’s terms of service doesn’t explicitly state that you have to be a certain age to use it, however when you try to create an account, the checkbox requires that you accept the terms of service and confirm that you are at least 13 years old.
- Some of the students in the MKA promotional YouTube video look like they’re younger than 13 years old, and students in grade 4 are certainly younger than 13, so perhaps the Montclair Kimberley Academy has a separate agreement with Evernote to allow minors to use their service.
- Evernote has an official blog where they showcased their work with the Montclair Kimberley Academy’s one-to-one program in February 2011. A commentor asked how you can legally sign kids up for Evernote if they are minors, however, there’s been no official response from Evernote on their blog post.
- This is a shame because Evernote is a great learning tool and the Evernote Peek iPad app is a great way to turn the iPad into a test studying device. Perhaps Evernote could amend their terms of service so that students under the age of 13 could still sign up for an Evernote account with parental consent.
Classroom clickers can be a great way to engage students and can improve student understanding because clickers provide immediate feedback to the teacher about how well students understand the class lesson (assessment as learning)
Poll Everywhere is a great alternative to clickers to collect real-time data from your students using cell phone SMS text messages, or any device that can connect to the internet. (It’s like using a set of classroom clickers, but instead of buying an expensive proprietary set of clickers, you’re using student cell phones or classroom laptops to submit answers.)
- Poll Everywhere offers free K-12 education plans.
- Teachers create an account, set up their questions, and then Poll Everywhere will give you a website address and a text message number so that students can vote in their responses.
- (If you’re willing to pay $50 per year to sign up for the “individual teacher” plan, then you also get grade reporting features (where you can see each student’s answer), response moderation features (where you can decide/approve which student response actually shows up on screen), and response segmentation (where you can compare two polls from two different classes.)
Although only the teachers are creating an account, the Poll Everywhere terms of service state that you must be 13 years or older to use the service. (Term #1) . However, a lot of the wording on the Poll Everywhere website implies that they are targeting K-12 classrooms (including students 13 years or younger.)
The question becomes what kind of personal student data is collected by Poll Everywhere. (Or, what kind of personal student data did you ask your students in a Poll Everywhere question.)
- If you’re on the paid “individual teacher” plan, then you can ask participants to submit their name, student ID, pseudonym, cell phone number, or any other identifying information. That way, you can view reports that lets you match up student answers across different polls. The Poll Everywhere website recommends this for K-12 schools which suggests that their service also has students under 13 years in mind.
- Poll Everywhere also has a K-12 classroom size promise where their free version currently lets you use Poll Everywhere with any 40 students simultaneously. (They figure that you won’t have more than 40 students that time, but if you do you can e-mail them for an exception.)
iPads / iTunes / iOS 5
Although technically not a classroom website, iPads are great classroom teaching tools. (You need to have an iTunes account to be able to use an iPad so that’s why we’re including it here.) Students can use iPads to take notes and study for tests; teachers can combine their iPad with Apple TV to project their iPad using a digital projector. (Who needs an interactive white board anymore?)
If you’re lucky enough to have a mobile classroom lab of iPads for your students, then chances are you’re using your own (or a school) iTunes account to download your apps. According to Apple’s terms of service, you need to be 13 years or older to sign up for your own iTunes account and apparently, it can be a little bit of a headache to try to set up iTunes accounts for your kids.
Google Docs / Google Apps for Education
We heart Google docs (and Google apps).
- The best part of Google docs is being able to work on a document simultaneously.
- It is so easy for students to share documents with each other to collaborate on a writing assignment, a science project, or a history fair display.
- Schools can set up their own Google apps for education account which allows them to manage all of the student user accounts and to customize their school Google docs accounts. (You can disable certain Google features like Gmail or chat so that students get distracted.)
There’s no mention of the minimum age requirement on the Google apps for education terms of service agreement (as checked on December 16, 2011) The Google apps for education training program states that when you set up Google Apps for Education, your school assumes responsibility for complying with COPPA (US regulation that requires parental content for users under 13.) – Google also suggests that parental consent and notification could take place in the form of a permission slip.
If you check out the Google Apps for Education forums, there is a great thread about parental permission. Apparently, Oregon state has a contract with Google requiring all (K-12) students to have parental consent on file with the school district.
Classroom Blogging Software – (WordPress / Blogger)
Blogging in the classroom is a great way to engage your students in online literature discussions or to showcase their writing with their classmates. (Here’s how to set up a classroom blog.)
WordPress.com offers a free online blogging service. According to their terms of service, you need to be at least 13 years old to sign up for an account, which means that your students need to be in grade 8 and up.
[stextbox id=”info”](You can, of course, run your class website off of your own self hosted WordPress blog by installing the free WordPress software yourself. WordPress is licensed under the GNU General Public license which means it is open source software. (In other words, it is “free” software as in “freedom of speech,” however, you’re responsible for how it’s used.)[/stextbox]
Blogger.com is another free online blogging service (run by Google.) According to their terms of service, you need to be at least 13 years old to create an account.
Which educational websites do you use with your students?
Image Source (CC By2.0): thecrazyfilmgirl – Stop Sign
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