Apps for classroom collaboration

By D’Arcy Norman 

The learning studios on the main floor of the Taylor Institute are equipped with 33 “collaboration carts” – each with a 50” touch-enabled display, and a suite of hardware and software that can be used to present content in a class, and to support active learning and collaboration between students.

Here are the top 5 apps available to students and instructors using these carts:

1. Google Chrome web browser

Chrome is installed on each collaboration cart, meaning you are able to access any web-based software or content (including Adobe Flash). We have provided some bookmarks to useful websites, but almost any web-based software will work on these displays – including websites that have been designed to take advantage of a multi-touch interface.

2. Digital whiteboard

The large 50” touch-enabled displays are perfectly suited to turning the collaboration carts into digital whiteboards. We use a web-based platform called Limnu (http://limnu.com), providing a rich set of drawing and annotation tools. The benefit of digital whiteboards like Limnu is the “infinite canvas” – you aren’t constrained by the physical dimensions of the display, and can zoom in and out, as well as panning across a whiteboard area that grows to accommodate your drawing or notes. Limnu also has several features to address various accessibility needs, making the digital whiteboard more useful than a traditional whiteboard for many people. All of the Taylor Institute’s collaboration carts have Educator Plan accounts on Limnu.com, which provides unlimited whiteboards and collaboration with people both on the touch screen display and on their own devices.

Photo by David DeBry, Limnu.com

3. Mersive Solstice Pod

This is a device that lets participants wirelessly display content (photos, videos, or mirroring their screen) from their own laptop, tablet, or phone. By installing a free app, you can easily connect your macOS, Windows, Android, or iOS devices. This screen mirroring is useful when you need to present complex software or data that can’t be installed directly onto the collaboration cart.

Mersive solstice pod mirroring. Photo from Mersive.com.

4. Office365

By signing into their Office365 account at http://office365.ucalgary.ca, students can access their files that are stored in OneDrive, and these files can be displayed and edited directly on the collaboration cart display. Just remember to log out of your account when you are done. This is the easiest way for people to turn the carts into digital posters, as we do for the poster sessions at the Annual Conference on Post-Secondary Learning and Teaching.

Figure 5 Collaboration carts used as digital posters at an academic conference

5. Google Earth

A 50” touch-enabled display is the perfect complement to Google Earth. Explore geospatial data and imagery for any location on Earth.

Other apps

The collaboration carts also support tools that work with a standard web browser. Some of the apps recommended by our learning spaces instructors include:

  • Top Hat student response system
  • Adobe Connect Meeting
  • Padlet.com digital post-it notes
  • ChemDoodle 2D and 3D molecule visualization
  • Desmos.com graphing calculator
  • Prezi.com animated presentations

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