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Review by Stephanie Trautman, Common Sense Education | Updated May 2015


Focused assignment-tracking tool has potential

Subjects & skills

  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
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Pros: Simple interface and setup allow easy organization of assignments in one place.

Cons: Synchronizing with other sites would be helpful; parent access would be useful, too.

Bottom Line: It's an easy-to-use assignment creation and notification tool without some of the features -- like grading, third-party integration -- found in comparable tools.

Teachers can set up a class page and then invite students via email or by giving them a class code to use when creating a username and password on the site. Once they've registered and signed in, students will automatically see their teacher’s class show up on their own planner. Teachers can encourage students to utilize the site as a planner and also as a checklist to see upcoming workload and check off tasks once completed. Teachers can also ask students to record how long assignments took. Also, keep in mind that "assignments" can be anything from homework to group assignments to meetings; Feel free to get creative and consider how this tool might integrate into the resources you already have on hand.

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Editor's Note: ClassOwl closed in June 2015 and is no longer available.

ClassOwl lets teachers assign classwork and deadlines in an organized checklist format. Features include the ability to attach documents from a computer or Google Drive to each task. Students can comment directly on a task to ask a question or share a comment. Teachers can also note how long the assignment should take students to complete, allowing students to work on their pacing while completing assignments. Assignments also have a section for comments, so a teacher could add a reminder for students about an upcoming quiz date.

ClassOwl is accessible through a browser and through iOS and Android apps, making it a flexible, accessible choice for kids with a range of technology tools. Students can choose to receive push notifications on their device and/or receive an email notification when their teacher posts something new.

ClassOwl has great intentions: It's a tool for helping kids develop organization, time management, and self-advocacy skills. The time estimate feature is especially handy; it's helpful to have a sense of how long your teacher expects you to work on an assignment, and helping kids understand those expectations and manage their time accordingly is a great skill to develop. The question and comment features are also helpful; these encourage students to engage in dialogue with their teachers and to ask (appropriate) questions to promote their own learning. This isn't a site that will teach students specific content, but it can certainly help them develop key academic skills. 

That being said, it's hard to know how useful ClassOwl would be for teachers. Most schools with 1-to-1 devices and BYOD classrooms already have a dedicated learning management system in place that has the same features as ClassOwl plus grading and parent portal options, so this tool might be redundant for many teachers. It's definitely worth a look if this particular set of features is a good fit for your needs and you're looking for simplicity.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

The site's simple, well-designed interface can help kids keep track of assignments, but won't win them over with more social experiences as can be found in other management tools.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

It serves its focused purpose well enough, but data is stuck in ClassOwl. Being able to print paper planners would be helpful. Allowing students to submit work and get feedback would put it more in line with competitors.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a short video tutorial and FAQ section that teachers and students can access; integrating hints and help within the user experience would be a welcome improvement.

Common Sense Reviewer
Stephanie Trautman Classroom teacher

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