designer | educator | student

Educational Technology: Web Tools/Apps Review

I chose to investigate Canvas, because I’ve had two teachers use it at KSU and I’ve liked it a lot, but it seemed to have more features than they were using or than I had access to as a student. Since Canvas is a full-fledged Learning Management System (LMS), I’ll be looking at one of the most useful tools it offers: SpeedGrader. My other apps/tools are the Citation Creators: BibMe, Son of Citation Machine, and EasyBib.

Speed Grader

Two words: game changer! It lets you know who has turned in assignment, and if the assignment was turned in late. It gives you easy access to the rubric that you created for the assignment, so you can quickly reference it, and you can even click on the blocks to grade instead of entering or adding numbers. It even gives you the option to hide students names while grading. This is just one small way to help eliminate bias in grading, and I will definitely use this option in the future. All of the student submissions for that one assignment are quickly accessible in one window. This is a huge improvement to having students submit via email or even upload to a folder, because instead of opening multiple files in multiple windows, it’s all right there and tidy. Grading the next paper is just one quick click or swipe. SpeedGrader offers three options for commenting on a student’s work: commentary box, attach a file, and leave media commentary (sound or video). These comments and files become part of a private dialogue between you and the student attached to their assignment, and they are notified when any updates happen.

You can access SpeedGrader on any mobile browser, but the Mobile app is recommended. SpeedGrader App is for iPads running iOS 5.0+ and tablets running Android 4.0.3+. It syncs seamlessly with Canvas SpeedGrader and Gradebook. The addition of this tool to Canvas allows for a superior paperless classroom, and will greatly streamline a teacher’s workflow when it comes to grading papers and other assignments that can be submitted online (pretty much anything at this point).

Does the tool address any learning standards? (0) No.
Does the tool allow for formative assessment? (3) Yes.
Does the tool allow for student project creation? (0) No.
Does the tool allow for collaboration? (0) No.
Can the tool be used for multiple subjects? (3) Yes.

War of the Citation Creators: BibMe, Son of Citation Machine, and EasyBib

Citation creators are really important tools for writing papers, and they have come a long way in the last 10 years. They are good tools for 6-12th graders who are learning about citations, as well as for college students. Citation creators help to make learning how to cite things more transparent by having the user fill in a form, something most of us have experience with even from a young age. This transparency will especially help out people have either been introduced to citing sources in a wrong-headed manner (“Citations are very difficult”, etc.) or who will/have not naturally figure(d) out the pattern of how citations are built. A citation is just something you plug information into in a specific order, no different than a basic sentence or equation.

BibMe, Son of Citation Machine, and EasyBib all offer the four main citation styles: APA, MLA, Chicago, and Turabian. However, EasyBib only does MLA for free. To access the other styles (including 6 other less common ones), you have to pay for the Pro version ($4.99/month, $19.99/year, or $29.99 for a lifetime subscription). There is also an EasyBib School Edition, which I plan to look into soon.

All of them pull information from WorldCat (a publication database). However, when trying to cite The Tale of Genji, by Murasaki Shikibu (translated by Royall Tyler), both Son of Citation Machine and BibMe did not create a correct citation. This is what they spit out for MLA:

Tyler, Royall, and Shikibu Murasaki. The Tale of Genji. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.

Only EasyBib cited it correctly. According to Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL), it should be this:

Murasaki, Shikubu. The Tale of Genji. Trans. Royall Tyler. New York: Penguin Classics, 2003. Print.

The main difference between the three, is the option to create an account and save different refrence lists. Unlike EasyBib and BibMe, Son of Citation Machine doesn’t offer you the option to save your citations. Being able to save a reference list and makes changes to it are both pretty important capabilities, unless you just need to cite and copy one citation into a Word document you’re working on. EasyBib gives you the ability without making you pay, whereas BibMe will only let you save lists if you pay for BibMe Pro ($10/month, $29/year, $30 lifetime). BibMe does say that you can tag your citations, which EasyBib doesn’t offer, but I like having the option to save my work for free, even if it’s only MLA style (which is the one used most often in 6-12), unless you pay for EasyBib Pro.

EasyBib has a nice, clean layout.easybib screen


Overall, I recommend EasyBib over the others, because it can handle more difficult citations, and the lifetime membership fee is worth it especially if a student is planning on going to college. I’m hoping the EasyBib School Edition offers a site license for EasyBib Pro, because that would be pretty cost effective for schools, and would probably end up costing less than the commonly used Writer’s Ink books, which go out of date and don’t contain crucial information on citing electronic sources. Why bother flipping through a book that isn’t easily searchable, when you can use Purdue’s OWL site anyway?

Does the tool address any learning standards? (2) Yes, it can be used to meet the Common Core writing standards: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.6-8.8, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.9-10.8, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.WHST.11-12.8, “Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources…while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.”
Does the tool allow for formative assessment?
EasyBib: (3) Yes, the student can share their groups and allow the teacher to make comments on their citations, and respond to those comments.
BibMe: (0/3): No, unless you pay, then yes.
Son of Citation Machine: (0) No
Does the tool allow for student project creation? (0) No.
Does the tool allow for collaboration?
EasyBib: (3) Yes, you can share and give editing and commenting rights to others.
BibMe: (0/3): No, unless you pay, then yes.
Son of Citation Machine: (0) No
Can the tool be used for multiple subjects? (3) Yes, any subject with a research paper component (Art, Science, Social Studies, Language Arts, etc.).

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