Saturday, December 22, 2012

Review: Ask3, a Free iPad App by TechSmith

I'm a big TechSmith fan. They have produced some great software titles, are strong supporters of education and teachers, and are a Michigan company!

I'm always eager to see what they will come up with next. A little over a year ago TechSmith developed ScreenChomp, a screencasting app for the iPad. This year, they continue their push into mobile computing with a brand new iPad app called Ask3 (free).

Many teachers are familiar with with saying "ask three, then me;" a common ploy to encourage students to help one another and reduce their reliance on the teacher as only person who can answer a question in the classroom.

The Ask3 app attempts to enable that same philosophy through technology. Ask3 is a mashup of a screencast and a threaded discussion board.

The first great thing about Ask3 is the fact that students do NOT need an email address of any type in order to use it! This is a step ahead of many apps! Teachers setup a class and generate a unique 5 digit code which students use to get into the appropriate class.

There are three things you can do within Ask3: Create, view bulletin board, or view class.

Create: Starting with a blank canvas, you can add a photo and annotate that photo with lines, arrows, and simple shapes. Pres the record button to capture your annotations and audio narration in real time. Upload when complete.

Bulletin Board: This is where you can see what has been shared with the class. Students can watch posted videos and add text comments to the recording. The neat thing is that the text comments are linked to a specific part of the timeline, allowing students to ask a question related to a specific part of the video.

If a text comment isn't enough, students can begin their own screen cast recording, drawing on the screen and ask their question verbally instead of through written text (great for more complicated questions!). Like the text comments, these video responses are tied to a specific segment of the original video timeline.

Class: simply shows who is currently a member of the class and provides the unique class code.

Ask3 has great potential to encourage collaboration between students and instructors. The Flipped Classroom was a very popular movement in 2012. Many teachers have flipped their classrooms already. Watching video lectures at home isn't very collaborative or interactive. Ask3 provides a powerful way for students to ask questions while watching the lecture and would enable instructors to respond outside of the classroom, or provide a running list of questions to be addressed the next day during class. Furthermore, students can respond to each others questions, either answering them, helping out a fellow student, or confirming that they had the same questions as well. In any case, Ask3 can turn the solitary drudgery of watching a pre-recorded lecture into an engaging class discussion, outside of the classroom!

Ask3 has only been publically available for a few months. It's a great MVP (minimum viable product) right now. Here are some suggestions on how Ask3 could be improved.

Drawing: 
  • Allow text input. My screen handwriting stinks! 
  • Allow multiple screen "pages" so that I can switch back and forth between several diagrams. 
  • Allow video insertion via the iPad camera. I would love to start by giving a personal introduction where students can see my face. 
Bulletin Board: 
  • Better "threading": I would like to see, at a glance, how many comments were made on a video. I would love to be able to expand the comments to read them all at once and even to play attached videos. 
Classroom: 
  • Ability to click on a student and see how many comments/videos he/she has posted. 
  • Ability to block or remove a student from the class. 
General Suggestions: 
  • Where do these videos go? It would be great if they would link up to my screencast.com account. 
  • Ability to upload/share an existing video? 
  • Ability to access Ask3 from a computer (web app/extension?)
  • Plugin integration for popular LMS' (i.e. Moodle, BrainHoney, BlackBoard, Haiku, etc)



3 comments:

  1. Great review. Very thorough. Thanks.

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  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.

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