Collaboration and Communication Apps Review
App #1 Discord
Discord is a free voice and text communication application on most mobile and desktop operating systems. This tool utilizes text, voice, images, and video where users communicate in separate spaces called servers. Each server contains specific users as allowed by the server manager (most of the time, the person that created the server). Within each server, chat groups are set up with topic titles outlined with a hashtag in a format such as #generaldiscussion. Within that hashtag is a separate chat-style location where all the server members can access the content. Discord allows users to be updated when something is posted in a specific hashtag location, or they can silence locations and not hear from them. Voice channels are also created using a speaker icon and a descriptive name. To enter voice chat, you click on the location and are automatically in the voice discussion with any other person currently in that location. While in voice chat, you also can share images, videos, or even text chat.
In addition to seeing the contents of a server, the user can simultaneously be a part of many servers. Usually, each server has been set up for a specific subject area that the people interested in that topic join. For example, you might be a fan of a podcast with a Discord server. You are invited to join that server and participate in all the discussions within that location specifically for those interested in that subject. You could also add as many other servers to your list that you would like to follow. You need an invite code to join the server you are interested in.
Discord started as a very small application that provided voice servers to people who needed to connect via voice, not the traditional telephone model. It grew into more of a social application that connects groups of users based on the types of interests that they have. Within each of these groups, all of the features are available, and there is also the ability to add custom applications called robots to servers that can perform user tasks. For example, a robot might greet each new member with a welcome message or maintain a level of civility by filtering bad words.
As the application grew over time, it became a general application with video game communities which has now given it lots of traction in schools where students create Discord servers for friends and activities. Unlike texting using a group message, Discord allows a single user to send a message to an entire server group simultaneously. They are keeping the whole group up to date on what is happening. An additional feature also allows students to send direct messages to one another—all of this is done without knowing each other's phone or contact information. Essentially you can communicate with anyone that is part of the server at any time. This has helped students increase the number of other students they speak with daily. Many students use it for the chat feature, to post images, and to share videos using this platform.
The platform does not cost any money; however, they have a paid plan for advanced users marketed under Discord Nitro. This plan has a monthly subscription cost but allows users to have additional features such as uploading larger videos and connecting with their servers more efficiently. As of 2017, Discord reportedly had 130 million users, but estimates say that in 2022 it will be three to four times that number, with 25 billion messages being sent monthly.
Teachers and staff can utilize this as an instructional tool in several ways. By setting up servers for specific departments such as Language Arts, you would be able to communicate with an entire department of people instantly. This creates a very efficient method for all parties to know what is happening. Those that have a stake in what is being said can communicate, while those that don't can follow along and be in the know. It is more efficient than email as it allows for quicker communication of thoughts and ideas amongst team members in a less formal environment, similar to text messaging. In addition, teachers apricate the ability to use this, so they do not have to give out their cell phone information to other staff members. It keeps their text messages confined to the text messaging app while allowing all of their work items to be handled via Discord Servers. Students can participate in Discord servers they are invited to, which will enable groups and organizations to establish a means of communication with those students without having to share cell phone information regarded as more private by teachers.
App #2 Slack
Slack is a potent communication tool that was created for the business world. Slack was created as an internal tool in an office place to streamline the communication process between employees working as teams on projects. They made something called a channel-based messaging platform that essentially unified the communications process in offices. Like Discord, Slack originally started as a way for gamers to communicate with one another. Still, as a result, Slack took a different turn as it saw its impact on the communication structures of large organizations. Much like Discord, Slack went from a few users to hundreds of millions of users and a multi-billion dollar valuation.
Slack is organized by organizations. You, as an example, might have a slack set up for an entire school or even an entire school district. From there, separate channels are created that divide the larger organization into different channels for communication. This feature has been something that software developers love as they can share code using Slack between channels and follow along with what each of the teams is doing. Slack allows team members to direct message each other like a text message system. The benefit again is that there is no need to exchange phone information. A large company with thousands of employees can instantly add all of its HR lists to Slack, allowing instant communication between individuals throughout the organization. This keeps the private lives of the cell phone user separate from that of the cooperative texting system. Slack also uses the @ symbol, which lets users know that a conversation applies to them, and the # system that automatically creates tags that organize data across teams.
Slack also has a robust set of addons called slack-bots. Basically, anything that your organization does might have a slack-bot created to assist you in that connectivity. These added features to the core functionality of Slack can do many different things for the organization. As an example there is a slack-bot that can be used as a digital time card that hourly employees can punch in and out on. Some slack-bots are realy good at organizing code snippets for developing software. There are feedback bots, and bots that help keep track of compliance tasks.
One of the best features of Slack is the instant feedback users can give on posts. When you create a message in slack-bot, users can assign icons to that message, and others can add quantities and more icons. This can be used to poll staff on what they feel about a particular thing they are working on or get quick feedback about what everybody would like for lunch. In education, it can get information from teachers and staff about how they feel about something and help the school administration measure staff compliance on issues. While Slack is not used very often for students, it is possible to be a very successful communication tool between teachers and students. It could easily replace email for that functionality. Slack has a cost associated with it, making it more of a candidate for an entire school purchase or even a district to roll out to users. Due to the cost involved, you do not see students using this independently. It also has the stigma of being useful for companies, which takes some of the desire away from students choosing to use it. While Slack is not currently being used in education much it has extreme potential to ease the burden of email, speed up the communication process and create better communication between school teacher teams.
App #1 Facebook
Facebook is a general social media
application that has a user base of 2.8 billion as of 2022, according to Statisica
In a research project, 40 parents participated in a study where the group was registered with the social network Facebook
App #2 Snapchat
Snapchat is an extensive social
network where users communicate in pictures, short video clips, and text
messages. The original development of the tool was created so that snaps
(photos) would show up for a few seconds and then disappear completely. According
to an interview with the Telegraph, Spiegel (Snapchat CEO) stated that this
platform was a hit with younger people because they did not feel their social
media presence could come back and haunt them
With most users under 35, Snapchat has connected
with the youth. This makes it an exciting candidate for use in education. The
purpose of which would be to strengthen and connect better with students where they
App #3 Calculator+
Calculator+ is an app designed to look just like a calculator but is a way to hide files, photos, and videos in private. As the name suggests, this tool seems like a calculator but is a photo vault separate from the operating system file storage. The calculator even works like a regular calculator, but when a special code is input, you can find all of the hidden files. Since the creation of this app, hundreds of apps have done the same thing. The only purpose of these apps is the subterfuge of hiding files from others that might use the phone. There is very little research on such apps and less on the specific purpose behind young adults wanting to install them. This is left up to the imagination, which probably does not think that good things are happening with this software. If you are a parent and are concerned about your child using such an app, the best line of defense is to speak with them about it so that, at the very least, they know that you have an idea of what these apps do and the purpose behind them.
App #4 Omelgle
This is an application that promotes the opposite of stranger danger. This application is designed and marketed specifically to connect you to a stranger. The Omegle website markets itself as a "great way to meet new friends while practicing social distancing." The app does warn users that they should stay anonymous and stop the chat at any time if they feel they need to.
The concern with this application
is privacy. Although there is a message to keep your chats anonymous, it is
well documented that you can easily be found using the internet. The IP address
used to connect you to your internet service provider can provide another user
with your city and approximate location
App #5 Whisper
marketed as the Ultimate Secure Messenger and allows users to trade sensitive
information using its encryption technology safely. This app is not alone in
this space, with other apps being marketed under the names SHOUT and Yik Yak. The
goal is to allow messages to be sent over a network without revealing
authorship to other users
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