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Website review by Kirstin Sobotka, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2015
Chalkup

Chalkup

Elegant LMS tool keeps classroom conversation, collaboration going

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
6–12
Subjects & Skills
Communication & Collaboration, Character & SEL

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Pros: Courses organized well to foster collaboration and student engagement.

Cons: Hands-on, experiment-based, and/or math courses may find difficulty transitioning, but could benefit greatly.

Bottom Line: The rare LMS designed for ease of use, and it doesn't sacrifice functionality with tons of opportunities to maximize learning, collaboration, and organization.

Get students acclimated with introductory discussions and polls at the beginning of every class, or article discussion threads over the weekend. Award an "Instructor's Choice" badge per weekly discussion that allows that student autonomy to design next week's discussion. Also, require students to upload essays to Chalkup for quick, individualized feedback. Create quizzes on the site that can be conducted in or out of class.

After students are able to navigate smoothly, take the class paperless. Create digital stations in the room where students can perform and upload mini tasks. Use the discussion thread for peer editing and feedback. Make a discussion thread specifically for homework inquiries. Allow the class feed to reflect relevant issues related to the current class topic; perhaps, require weekly posts and commentary to that feed.

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Editor's Note: Microsoft acquired Chalkup and has integrated aspects of it into Microsoft Teams. Chalkup is no longer available as a standalone product.

Chalkup is a learning management system (LMS) focused on two things: (1) providing seamless transition from school to home to bus/car rides to extra-curricular events and (2) fostering discussion and collaboration. It's also designed to be user-friendly, with a well-designed interface and feature set tuned to what teachers and students really need, and leaving out those they don't. To get started, teachers register for free course accounts and then upload or create exciting course-specific tasks, polls, assessments, and discussions. School- or district-wide paid subscriptions include premium features such as course analytics, parent accounts, and mass messaging/notifications. Both versions include rubric creation. Teacher and student dashboards are similar in regards to class feed and course options.

Teachers have the ability to add (from files or Google Drive), moderate, assess, and edit; although some editing and moderating duties can be assigned to a student. Students can earn "Instructor's Choice" badges for commentary or work. This is limited to one per discussion thread when more would be preferable. Students and teachers can upload links, videos, online presentations, or files to the class feed. Chalkup integrates with Google apps and Chrome and can also be used on iOS. The iOS app allows for nice on-the-go flexibility; teachers can assign work and students can submit work, including using the device's camera to take a picture of what they've done. Teachers can also grade via their mobile devices, and monitor and manage the Look Ahead task manager. The iOS app also allows for 1-to-1 and class-wide messaging to extend discussion beyond the classroom. 

Teachers control the content and tasks uploaded and managed on the course site; however, with powerful engagement tools such as polls, digital collaboration, discussion, and feedback, learning is exciting and relevant. Aside from being able to extend learning to different settings, students gain valuable lessons in time management, work ethic, and appropriate collaboration skills, as well as digital citizenship and tech skills. Students will love receiving personal feedback on each assignment and will strive to earn tags and badges on their discussion contributions; this could eliminate the temptation to just repeat or reiterate another student's comments since those are visible prior to commenting. Online collaboration and discussion could alleviate stress that some students feel when first approaching a topic, thus generating better products. While it's already a great tool, a few more customizable support features -- like the ability to prevent replies to comments until each student has posted their own comments -- could set it over the top.

 

Overall Rating

Engagement

In class or out, students connect with topics and establish learning relationships with each other through polls, discussions, and class feed interaction. It can catalyze meaningful collaboration among students.

Pedagogy

The design emphasizes discussion and collaboration. In conjunction with teacher-designed curriculum, students are assessed dynamically using different task types and learning styles. 

Support

It's attractive, and designed explicitly for ease of use with solid tutorials and technical support. Teachers could use a few more support features for moderation and tweaking discussion.


Common Sense reviewer
Kirstin Sobotka Classroom teacher

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