Twiducate is website designed to allow teachers and students to continue their learning outside the classroom. It is a social networking tool that is safe for students and lets teachers monitor what is taking place. I like technology, but I have got to pass on this one. Read past the break to see why I think you should too. Let me walk you through Twiducate with pictures and details and then I’ll explain why I am giving it a big thumbs-down.
When you go to the Twiducate website signing up is very easy. At the home page it will ask if you’re a teacher or student. Chose teacher and you will be welcomed with this very simple screen. The classroom name and code is particularly important as students will need these to join, so don’t be too crazy with those fields.
Once that is done you are taken directly to your class (you can have multiple classes). The user interface is pretty straight forward and you get a good idea of what Twiducate can do right here. It is very much a back channel chat program, but unlike many back channel chat programs you have control of who enters and you have some other options as well.
Now we need to get our students on Twiducate. To do that click on Students in the very top menu.
You are taken to this screen where you, the teacher, add all the students to the class. This gives you complete control of who is involved and is great to keep out unwanted or uninvited people.
To add a student simply type in their name in the Add New box and click Add. Super simple. It will generate a password for them. You can even change that password to something more memorable if you like. Students will also have the ability to change their password as well. Just remember that the teacher can always see the password. This is something I do not like at all.
Now that you have your students added, they need to sign in and let the learning begin. Students go to the Twiducate homepage and click Sign in on the right hand side.
Here is something else I don’t like. They must type in their username (OK no problem) the class code (a little tedious but OK) and their password (of course) and then they have to type in a verification phrase!
I am not making this up. Every time a student logs in he/she has to do this. Imagine if you were trying to decide on an e-mail service and one had this feature in it. I do understand that it is clearly a security feature, and after all, we are educating children and security and safety needs to be a primary goal for every school and teacher, so I can kind of understand this . . . kind of.
Once in, the student sees pretty much the same screen as the teacher. The only big difference is the student does not have as many options in the top menu bar. Now that everyone is in the class, let’s get to some meaningful discussion. Here is what it looks like.
Pretty straight for . . . wahhh? Wait a minute. It does not automatically update? I have to click on 1 New Post in order to see the latest posts? Why? Why can’t it just update? This is not the worst of it. For that notification to show up, it can take as long as 2-3 minutes (that is not an exaggeration I timed it). Not exactly real time communication.
With posting you can add images hyperlinks, bullet points, and you can format the text as well, but every time you post, the page is refreshed. So if you are dealing with a less than speedy connection you could be waiting a while.
Now to be fair there is a chat program that is built into Twiducate. You can find it in the bottom right hand corner of the screen (I had to look a while before finding it). So let’s click that and see what happens?
The chat function works for everyone online at the time. There are no person-to-person chat unless they are the only two people online, and only the teacher can clear the chat, so if a student were to type something inappropriate, it would be there for all to see. This is something I do like. Here is what the chat looks like.
This does update in real time, but there are no avatars, formatting text options, hyperlinks don’t work, you can’t send messages through the and of course no emoticons! While emoticons and not a deal breaker, the others could easily be. One could argue, that you could include all of these options without using the chat. OK, but then what is the purpose of the chat at all? If it serves the same function why have it at all? This leaves me scratching my head.
You can include bookmarks to important websites and add important dates in Twiducate as well. This is nice since it is easy to get to these items and they are prominently displayed.
Now let me sum it all up. Twiducate does not offer anything else that other, more robust, better designed, better thought out educational social networks offer. Here is a list of a few of them.
Another problem with Twiducate is that they encourage people to purchase Twiducate swag (or paraphanial) from their store in order to keep Twiducate free. Does that mean, that if the sales go down teachers may have to pay for this service? Having such wish-washy financial backing or being forced to pay for a service that teachers rely upon is not cool. Just look at Ning. When they started to charge, teachers fled for other options and in a hurry.
At the bottom of the website it says “A website developed by teachers for teachers.” That is pretty cool, but I hate to say that it looks like it too. There are little interface issues (like posts not updating automatically, the sign in issue, not being able to have hyperlinks in a chat program, having a seemingly useless chat program) that seem to make me very dubious of this web application lasting.
In short, your time as a teacher is very valuable and precious. You are very busy and spending time trialing out applications that are not as effective as they can be is a waste of your time. While the people of Twiducate have made a valiant effort, they fall very short of their competition and as a teacher, you should look elsewhere.