NOTE: Please check out the other two articles in this series:
From a Distance Part 1: Take a Picture it Lasts Longer
From a Distance Part 2: Distance Video Magnification Options
In the first two articles in this series, we discussed ways of viewing items at. Distance for our students. This final installment will focus on screen sharing apps.
When I first started teaching (and I do realize this is dating myself just a bit), screen sharing was very new, there were only a few apps and services available, and they were, for the most part, free. Now, however, there are more choices, and there are very few free options that are practical for the classroom teacher.
Of course, it’s pretty easy to guess why this change took place. Classroom teachers found that screen sharing was a great way to stay interactive with all students, not just those with disabilities. So of course, the companies saw a niche in the market and jumped on it, offering plans and pricing that was practical for the education field. One of the most asked questions that I get is “which screen sharing service is the best and which do you recommend” Well, to make a long answer shorter, it depends on what the needs of your students are.
Before you go shopping, consider checking with other professionals currently working in that school district, particularly the AT Specialist (if your district employs one). Many schools and education agencies have several licenses available for students with special needs other than visual impairment such as learning disabilities, attention deficits, or cognitive issues. For this reason, the AT Specialist that works at a district or school MAY have a license you can take advantage of before you even start looking for an option.
If your district does NOT have a contract or licenses purchased for those services already, then you can start narrowing down the various apps and services that are available. Also, keep in mind that you can take advantage of a free trial from most services, so pease take advantage of that prior to making a financial commitment or asking your special education director to make a purchase. This can really help justify purchase of the product, eppecially if you can name particular features or options that work best for your student
This service offers a few different plans. You can share a screen with up to 40 students for roughly $30. You can also get a plan that allows sharing and annotation with up to three students for about $30 a year, or for up to 40 students for $100 per year. As always, changes and pricing may change so you may want to look at Splashtop’s education pricing.
Another popular screen sharing platform is Join Me and they offer some different options as well. The Lite Plan, which costs $10 per month, allows one user to have up to five participants for a session. The Pro Plan costs $20 per month and allows one user to connect up to 250 participants in a session as well as record and web-stream sessions. As mentioned above, pricing and options may change or vary, so checking out the JoinMe’s pricing page will be the most helpful.
The final paid option we will be looking at is Screen Leap. This service offers a option in lieu of a one-time free trial that permits 40 minutes of screen sharing per day and with up to eight participants. Since that most likely will not be an effective long-term solution, $15 per month if billed annually (or $19 per month if billed monthly) for one teacher and 30 students is likely the best option. But as always, check the Screen Leap pricing since it may have been updated since the time of this writing.
Aside from the paid subscription services listed above, there are some free options that may work if you are willing to do a bit of extra tinkering.
Google Meet or Google Hangouts has always been a popular chatting and video call option, but it can be used for screen sharing in a pinch. For those who might need some information on the difference between Meet and Hangouts, there is a link in the resource section near the bottom of this article along with other resources on using these services. One thing to keep in mind though is that you’ll want the teacher AND student to mute the microphones to avoid feedback before sharing the screen.
Skype Screen Sharing is another free option. Just like Google Hangouts, you’ll want the teacher and student to mute the microphones to avoid feedback before sharing the screen. Additional resources on Skype are in the resources section.
The services referenced in this article are far from all that is available in the screen sharing market, but these are the most popular options that I am aware o.
Each of the subscription based services listed have a free trial available. It is best practice to start with that free trial on school grounds and using school equipment when possible, take notes on the things you did and did not like about the service, then do another trial and repeat the process. If appropriate, try and get student input on each service and take their suggestions seriously (they are the ones who will be using it after all). This procedure takes a while, but it allows you to make a case for using a specific screen sharing platform based on ease of use for the student and teacher, whether the technology will work with the school equipment, and other factors that may be specific to your student’s needs.
What’s your favorite screen sharing service? Is it free or is it subscription based? Do you have any pro tips you’d like to share? Don’t keep it to yourself, please leave a comment!