This is the long awaited third challenger: Schoolbinder. This site was a breeze to sign up, has a clean and simple interface and easy to get students in the class. So does all of this (and some other features) add up to a winner? Does Schoolbinder seize the crown from Edmodo? Not even close. There are some serious shortcomings that keep Schoolbinder from being a real competitor. Want more, then hit the link and head past the break to get all the deets (that’s details for short-I love Tom on Parks and Recreation). Of course Omar and I want to hear your opinion too so leave a comment peeps (see how I did that again?).
Before we talk about what goes wrong with Schoolbinder, let’s talk about what I like and where it is good; then we can tackle the shortcomings. Signing up was a breeze (as a teacher and a student) and creating a class was just as easy. All it takes is an email for both the teacher and the student, but there is a way to join a class without even signing up but more on that later.
The interface of Schoolbinder is simple, clean and easy to get around. I like it a lot. Of the three I’ve reviewed this is by far the cleanest and most pleasant to use. Check it out below for yourself. You have your navigation at the top, the messages below and you can filter the messages on the left hand side. You can even search. Simple and straightforward.
Anyone can post to the group and as a teacher you can make an assignment, a reminder, upload files, add bookmarks, or create discussion topics. It’s all right there which is something I like about Edmodo and it is naturally something that I keyed in with Schoolbinder.
Another thing that I liked was the file manager. While it could get a little unruly with a lot of files, what I could tell is that it is easy to read and find information. Also, it separates files that I uploaded and that students turned in for homework. That’s a nice little feature. The big thing I like is that you can add your Dropbox to your Schoolbinder account letting you easily store and retrieve important accounts. This is nice especially if you have a free account (more on that later). If you’ve used Dropbox then you know how easy it is to just drag your file into your Dropbox folder and have it sync automatically with the cloud. If you have the accounts linked then once it’s in your Dropbox folder you can easily find it in your Schoolbinder account. Handy indeed.
Did I mention how easy it is to do things? It’s easy to add assignments. It’s easy to add reminders, leave messages for students, add grades, and take attendance. It is very easy and intuitive. While not everything is perfect, this interface is something that is very easy to like and use.
So what’s wrong. The interface is easy, it’s clean, there are plenty of functions, so what’s not to like? Why do I think that Schoolbinder is not a real challenger to Edmodo. Not like Schoology or Edu 2.0? Here’s the list: file storage, temporary students and comments, files preview and streaming media. Let’s take a closer look.
Remember how I liked the ability to connect your Dropbox account (those are free by the way). There’s a pretty good reason for that. The free teacher account only gives you (I’m not making this up) 50 mb of storage. Without linking to your Dropbox account you are incredibly limited on what files you can store. This is a deal breaker.
Think about it, if you’re storing files it won’t take long to fill up that 50 mb. What if you’re doing a flipped classroom and place a video (or even an audio file) on Schoolbinder? You won’t have space for many of those files trust me. Even a small 10 minute video file (of low quality) can easily exceed 50 mb. It’s a little disappointing.
You can pay to have more storage but why? There are plenty of options out there that offer loads of storage for free. Why should you pay at all? It seems a little silly.
Temporary Students & Comments
Schoolbinder has a feature that lets students try it out without officially signing up for their service. This sounds like a great idea and it is. It lets students try out the interface, see what Schoolbinder can do and what it can’t do. What I don’t like about this service is that these “rogue” students can crash your class. If they have the invite code, which isn’t all that hard to get, they can join the class as an anonymous member. They can post whatever they want and just reek a little havoc. What’s worse is that as a teacher I could not figure out how to delete the comment posted. It said the item was not mine. Check out the pics below to see what I’m talking about.
I’m not sure why it says the item may not exist. I can see it! Either way it is a concern. Parents can be a little squeamish when it comes to social networks and their children. An assurance that a closed garden is something that eases their mind. This however is not what I would call super secure.
With Edmodo I rarely have to delete or speak to any of my students about proper posting but every once in a while I do need to have a face-to-face with a student about it and it is comforting to know that if a post is really inappropriate then I have the power to delete it. Kind of like insurance.
Files Preview and Streaming Media
A feature I like in Edmodo is the ability to preview a Word document or PowerPoint right from Edmodo. It’s nice when (especially when grading) and even if I don’t have the program on my computer it’s nice to know I can take a peak at what it contains. Needless to say this feature is not available on Schoolbinder. Is it a deal breaker? Not really, but it is something that slows down the workflow a little.
Schoolbinder doesn’t stream media. If you add a YouTube video, it you can only post the clip. All the others you could drop it right in the stream of information and students could watch it from their account. Not the case here. It’s just another little thing that I find a little disappointing. Now, that’s not to say that this will always be the case or that the people running Schoolbinder are not working to add this feature, but right now, 2011, it’s not available.
It’s pretty clear that Schoolbinder has a ways to go to be compared to the likes of Edmodo, Edu 2.0 and Schoology, but that’s not to say that it can’t get there. The interface is brilliantly simple. Allowing you to link your Dropbox account is also a really nice feature. The pro account for teachers cost $50 a year and for students $20 a year. It’s hard to recommend something that costs more money than its competition but doesn’t offer the same functionality.
If you’re trying to decide between Edmodo and Schoolbinder, in my opinion it’s a no brainer-Edmodo, but what do I know? If you disagree or have something to add to the discussion leave a comment below.