Undoubtedly, most of y'all have put down your red pens and taken off your "instructor" hats for the winter break. But if I could have your attention (Harvey! You! Yes, you! No fantasy football until I'm done talking!) for just one second, I'd like to invite you to take a look at Coursekit, the newest little teaching engine to come down the line. I'm sure it's been talked about in other spaces, but since I don't remember it being talked about here, I figured I'd give it some free publicity.
Here's a take on where it came from, what it's about, and where it's planning to go:
A couple years ago, I sat in on a "Technology in the Classroom" course. We spent the early part of the day talking about new tools that were available. The discussion turned into a litany of complaints: IT policies that prevented the installation of new software, draconian site-blocking measures, thimble-sized storage allowances. At every turn, each new tool that a teacher wanted to try out would require a fight with administration. The frustration was palpable. "Why are the IT people making pedagogical decisions?" lamented one teacher, "Why do they get the final say about what does and does not happen in my classroom?"
Joseph Cohen, cofounder and CEO of Coursekit agrees. The problem, he says, is that most educational software is bought and sold at the enterprise level. The people deciding what to acquire are not the people using it and that disconnect has allowed unusable software to flourish. . . . [Thus,] On the product design side of things, Coursekit is focused on a user experience that is as simple and elegant as possible. This means that all the basics are there: a calendar, file sharing, submitting assignments, and grading work, but in ways that are stripped down to what Coursekit's user testing has shown them to be the essentials.
The "essentials" are teacher profile, syllabus, posting/comments module (similar to FB), assignments dropbox, and grading platform. If you use Twitter or Wordpress in the classroom, then this streamlines that for you. Additionally, it's 100% free since they've taken a"set up the site, monetize it later" business model.
Like all tools, it has its ups and downs. If you want a more user-friendly interface (unlike BB), then it also seems to be worth considering. I'm not sure if they're going to enhance the personalization of Coursekit soon by making it open to template modification (like Wordpress) or beef up some of the grading and watchdog tools (like Turnitin) that's a part of its competitors. We'll also have to wait and see how it hooks up with other turns in the digital instruction world, such as the move toward digital textbooks, and the still-under-consideration move to see how smartphone apps and iPads might replace those big, gazillion-dollar "smart classrooms" some of the more money-flush colleges installed a few years back. In any case, do know that there's another kid on the block for y'all to consider, especially if you've found (like myself) you're bombarding students with different digital platforms to use in class or for class projects.