The development team of Ublend reached out to me in July after I commented on Zach Whalen’s blog post on teaching with Slack (if you haven’t heard of Slack, read The Atlantic’s ambitious “Slack, the Facebook Slayer”). According to its founders, Ublend has built a platform that is “inspired by modern communication platforms like Facebook and Slack . . . to offer an intuitive and engaging communication platform designed for educational environments."
I’ve decided to beta-test Ublend in one of my classes this semester for three main reasons. First, while I think Slack is really valuable, it’s a more robust tool than we need. With student work spread out across diffuse networks -- primarily Twitter and self-hosted web domains running WordPress -- the class needs a centralized hub for communication that is private. That’s what the traditional LMS offers us. However, there so much to do inside the LMS that it can become burdensome. Our class will be building a digital publication (on a topic which we’re still deciding as a group), and we’ll use Ublend for the internal, staccato discussions that precede publication. Our use of Ublend will resemble an ongoing editorial meeting. It promises to be a quick, easy, and mobile-friendly environment to use for this sort of project.
Second, my students will have direct contact with the development team at Ublend. As prospective content developers and strategists, interactive designers, and technical writers, my students will benefit from seeing behind the curtain. Our link to Ublend will give my students a unique kind experiential learning as they serve as a test group for Ublend and a source of feedback for its development. Sometimes, it will break; as a group we’ll have to be flexible and communicative to navigate around that. But this is what happens in real world technology experiments. I look forward to our ability to dialogue with Ublend on new media workflows, UX design, and iteration.
Third, after working in and with several ed tech projects in the last five years, I’ve learned that intention and vision matter. My interactions with CEO Anders Krohn have convinced me that they are courting the right audience and paying attention to the right variables. They’re building an agile-friendly development culture, especially in their adherence to the value of simplicity in their platform development.
If Ublend doesn’t work for us, we’ll do what dynamic digital citizens do -- pick up and move to a different environment. My teaching values methodologies over tools, and I’m curious to see what new communication methods Ublend will offer us.