12 March 2013

Link Shortening - It's Not Just For Tweets

Imagine you've engineered a beautifully scripted web-quest for your students...
...and no one finishes because they're all making the same URL typo.

You've got a document shared in your Dropbox or Google Drive that you want to send your students to, but forgot to...
...hyperlink on your class page, put it in the shared folder, or grant permissions to student viewers.

Few things frustrate me more when my students are targeted to specific URLs than the inevitable typos that lead them to erroneous or dead pages. Maybe its the students at our school, but they almost always just assume that MY link was wrong, or that I gave them the wrong link.

To mitigate this frustration, I stole a social media trick you probably use without even thinking:
I shortened my links.

In social media, the purpose of link shortening is to save characters in order to maximize your content. For the classroom, link shortening comes down to this: implementing your lessons, making your job facilitating easier, and kid (teen)-friendliness.

If you have all of your links already hyperlinked on a file or webpage, your best bet will probably just be to get one, simple link.
No frills link shorteners: (More info here)
If you haven't yet archived or curated your links in one place, bundling them together may save you a step with these tools.
Bundling link shorteners: (More info here)
As an example of how this might work, I bundled all of these link shortener links with bit.ly here.

This is what the page of bundled links will look like for your students (or you)

I helped my department chair through this process one day last week. There was a Google Doc she had created for a career exploration activity that had several hyperlinks embedded in the doc. When I came into the lab, her students were pecking away furiously, copying the URLs from the paper handout she had photocopied for them.

The process was simple:
  1. Set the document's share settings to "public" or "anyone with the link"
    • If the file is not currently on Google Drive, use the upload button next to "create," then do step 1.
  2. Copy share link
  3. Paste share link into the text field at tinyurl.com
  4. Write new shortened link on the chalkboard
I asked her about the experience later that day:
What's been your experience with having kids type in URLs to go to websites for your lessons?
Kids usually do ok, but some kids take forever.

How did using a link shortener to share your document help students complete your lesson? 
Liked it.

Would you try this out again? 

Which do you think you would rather do - send students files through InSight, or share documents from your Google Drive in this manner? Why? (Note: InSight and SynchronEyes are our current and former computer lab management software installs) 
I liked it when I had a document to share, but unsure about if I just wanted to send them to a link. I kind of hate insight anyway... I liked synchroneyes better :) 
Not a rousing success for her, I guess, but I helped another teacher use it to share a file (our kids don't all have Google Apps accounts) the next day, and she was very grateful for the process.

UPDATE: The same teacher interviewed above used a link shortener today to send her kids a SMART Notebook Jeopardy file reviewing exponent rules for the students to play against each other in the lab. Here's a picture of her implementation.

If you want to test the student experience for yourself, just use her link! tinyurl.com/KingEX