Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Trouble With Free Apps

One thing I love about the school that I teach at is that we are always trying to keep our price point low for the parents considering Christian education. I know I'm a bit biased, but I think we have done a great job at giving a well-rounded, academically challenging education at a value that makes other private schools in the area shiver.

Naturally, when we chose to go 1:1 BYOT in the middle school this year, we looked for less expensive app requirements for work flow solutions. Students were taught how to use RenWeb, Google Drive, Moodle, and Evernote. All these apps/options were low cost to the end using student. We told the students they could use the free version of Evernote if they wanted to do so.

Day three of the school year showed us we had made a bad choice. Evernote's free version 60MB monthly upload allowance was being met after three days due to teachers using pdf files for student notes. All of a sudden, students couldn't access their notes because they weren't saving anymore. We had crying overachieving eighth grade girls and frustrated teachers. What we thought was a simple, cheap solution to be the "virtual notebook" became less so immediately.

The paid version of Evernote is $50/year with multiple device access and the information is all kept in the clouds. Evernote has an amazing search capability along with a great way to share your notebooks with others. We also suggested that students could use another pdf annotator or note taker with annotator and then have the students save their information in their google drive (since Notability is device based, not cloud based). Students adopted a solution immediately and the little bump in the road was avoided in their eyes and we have moved forward.

Lessons learned:
A) The free versions of apps are much like the old marketing ploy of "bait and switch." These app creators have to do something to make you want to buy their app instead of just using the free version. Be aware when you adopt a free app that the "rules" may change along the way.
B) Things like this will happen. Technology is fluid. If Moodle ever decides not to be an open source learning management system, we will have to rethink the usage of it. We have to be flexible when using technology.
C) Kids bounce back quickly and respond and adjust, teachers start saying "go buy a notebook this isn't working." We could learn something from our students in this situation.