Welcome to the final two days of The 12 Apps of Christmas. Over these two days we will be evaluating two apps that could help you communicate effectively in two very different ways with your students, and help them communicate and collaborate with each other too. But before we go any further, let us first consider why effective communication with our online/blended/face-to-face students is so important anyway?
(This is an adapted version of a video I made for the accredited online module Technology Enhanced Learning, Teaching & Assessment (TELTA) that I was involved in designing and developing, and which I now lecture on.)
Bonfyre is a messaging app that can be used equally well on both a personal level with family and friends as well as in the more formal educational context as a ‘closed’ communication tool between students, their study groups, and their lecturers. It is also used by professionals to provide a closed/private chat facility during corporate events, to which participants must be ‘invited’. It is available on both iTunes App Store and on Google Play for free. If you’re not so sure about using Twitter with your students, but can see the educational benefits of integrating social media in the classroom, then Bonfyre might just be the app for you.
When you have installed Bonfyre you will be prompted to set up an account using an email address. You can then either search for any open Bonfyres near you, or if you have the name of a Bonfyre that a friend/colleague has set up you can search for that instead. You can create a Bonfyre of your own (i.e. specific to a topic or an event) really easily by tapping the ‘+’ sign at the bottom of the screen and then you can invite people to join it. This invitation can be made in a number of ways – you can send either an email with a link or an SMS text if you have such details for those you wish to invite, or you can provide an access code, or even a QR code associated specifically for your Bonfyre and distribute that. People can scan the QR code using any QR scanner downloaded from the app stores, and access the Bonfyre that way. If you want to know more about QR codes visit the QR Stuff website. Choose the ‘home’ tab on that site to create a QR code of your own.
Can integrating a messaging app, such as Bonfyre, further enhance, or even transform, student activity in the higher education context?
I can hear you asking ‘why not just use Twitter?’ Well, yes you could, is the answer to that one. Today is not about Bonfyre v’s Twitter but rather it is about getting you thinking about utilising the benefits of social media for education and about providing an alternative app for those of you who find Twitter just too public and unwieldy. Having said that however, maybe in the context of ‘effective communication’ specifically, which these last two days of #12appsDIT are focusing on, it could be argued that Twitter is more about just sharing content with everyone and that an app like Bonfyre is more about communicating with a very specific group of people. Thinking about it in this way, you could argue that using Bonfyre over Twitter might encourage your students to communicate and engage on a deeper level with you the lecturer, with their peers, and subsequently with the module/course content. So, it’s about how and why you use it really. While posting class announcements and reminders of assessment due dates is certainly all an essential part of communicating with your students, it is not the type of communication that promotes and supports (peer) engagement for learning. So how can social media apps help modify or transform learning activities?
- Ask your students to engage in a live messaging stream during your lectures to help pull out the important ideas and to provide a forum for raising questions and voicing uncertainties. It provides a powerful tool for encouraging constant reflection, engagement, and peer learning.
- Host an ‘event’ via Twitter or a specified Bonfyre and invite ‘connected’ people to engage with your students on a particular topic. This exposes them to real world examples and cases in their chosen field and helps them to begin building personal learning networks.
- Encourage study groups particularly amongst online students who are at a distance from each other. Bonfyre would be perfect to facilitate these.
If you’d like to read further, this article How Twitter in the Classroom is Boosting Student Engagement would be a good place to start and included on that page a short video ‘The Twitter Experiment – Twitter in the Classroom’.
1. Download Bonfyre from either the iTunes App store or Google Play
2. Create your account
3. Search for the Bonfyre ’12appsdit’ and say hello. Or find the Bonfyre via this link http://bonfyre.me/1/1TcpRqfOIlaOW0cJqU05Qv
Don’t forget to tweet #12appsDIT your opinion of this app, or indeed post a comment below. Let us know your ideas on how to use it effectively with students to transform teaching, learning and assessment practices. The more we share, the more we learn!
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CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.