Web 2.0 has been a buzzword for the last few years and none of the tools that I’m about to tell you about are necessarily new, however, sometimes it’s good to create a list for teacher use. While there are 10 tools here, I don’t mean to make this a top 10 list. Think of it more like a cross section of some of the tools that are out there. So, here, in no particular order are 10 Web 2.0 tools to engage students and make your life easier.
1. Wallwisher – Basically, this is like an online bulletin board that doesn’t require a login for students or teachers to leave a comment, message, image, music or links.
- Use it as a parking lot for collaborative groups or professional development
- Post assignments
- Student reflection of an activity or daily learning
- Question forum
- Parent sign up as field trip chaperones, sign up to bring things to a party, etc.
- Interest inventory or assessment of prior knowledge
2. Etherpad – Etherpad was a startup company that was purchased by Google last year. Google decided that they would release the code used to create Etherpad as an open source project for anyone to use. So, Etherpad.com is no longer in existence. But, there are a number of people who have taken the open source project and created their own, free Etherpad sites for public use. Two that are readily available are ietherpad.com and typewith.me. Basically, etherpad is a free online collaborative writing space which requires no login for students and is immediately updated on everyone’s screens. Just send or post the link to your webpage and anyone will be able to join and etherpad gives all users their own text color.
- Group writing
- Group reflections
- Peer editing
3. Weblist.me – Weblist is a bookmarking portal where a user can create smart lists from URLs, photos, music, videos, documents and files that can then be shared. The smart list is then displayed in thumbnail view for browsing, sharing, and organization.
- Resource portal for assignment or lectures
- Presentation url list
- Organizing research
- Sharing images and video
Sample Smart list
4. Delicious – A social bookmarking site that allows you to tag and keep bookmarks like you would in a browser, but allows access on any computer with an internet connection. Each time the user bookmarks a site there is the option to categorize the site using tags that you generate that can then be sorted and searched. Each tag and bookmark list also creates an RSS feed for subscriptions.
- Resource list
- Sharing sites with classmates
5. Skype - Skype is a great instant messaging/VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) allowing you to use your computer as a phone of sorts. Using Skype you can make voice and video calls to another computer as well as communicate with any of your Skype contacts through text as an instant messaging client. When making a voice call, you can even share your screen with whomever you’ve called to show them a document or how to do something on the computer. The Instructional Technology department uses it every single day to communicate across the district.
- Virtual office hours
- Remote assistance
- Video conferencing with experts
- Homework help
- Video conferencing with students who are absent (long term illness)
6. Mailcatch – Mailcatch is a service that provides disposable email addresses so students that don’t have email addresses can sign up for services like Google Docs or Voicethread. So many services require valid email address in order to create an account and then they send a link to that email account to verify that whoever is trying to sign up for their service is actually a person and not a automated computer. I have not been comfortable having students create email addresses without their parents’ permission, yet I still want them to have access to the tools we are using. Enter mailcatch. Students can sign up with a mailcatch.com email address, but they can’t actually send email from it, they can only receive email, click the verification link and then they can sign in to the web service with an account, but no email. To see an example of how this might work, I’ve created a video that walks you through the steps to sign up for Voicethread.
7. Glogster – Glogster is a tool that allows users to create virtual, multi-media posters that can include text, images, and video. Teachers can create glogs for their students to use and students can make glogs as class projects. Here are some examples categorized by content area.
- Anything that you’d normally create a print poster could be made into a glog
8. Google Squared – Google has given educators a ton of tools for use in the classroom, but their main purpose is still a search engine. Google can find information for us in seconds, but so many times that information is spread across so many different sites that deciphering it becomes the real challenge. Google Squared is an attempt to make those search results a little more usable. When doing a search in Google Squared, the search term pulls what it sees as the relevant information and puts it into a grid with categories to organize the information. Here is an example of one I did on film makers. If you visit the site, you’ll see that the search has pulled the name, picture, description, date of birth, etc. into a grid allowing students to compare the film makers in a meaningful way without have to visit site after site. They can then use their critical thinking skills to decide what information is important and what is not. They can even change the categories, share their “squares” or export them to a separate spreadsheet program. It uses Google’s searching techniques, but organizes the information differently.
9. Bubbl.us – Mind mapping software is not anything new, we’ve been using Inspiration in the district for years, but Bubbl.us is an online version that seems to work really well. What’s nice about this version is that it’s sharable and since it’s online, no software is required on your computer, everything is online. That means that when you (or your students) need to work on a project on different computers, there is no need to try to transfer via a flash drive or save it to server space, Bubbl.us stores it online. Just login and all your mind maps are right there. Below is an example of part of a mind map that I made as a part of a presentation that I did on writing in the 21st century. The audience gave me suggestions and we plugged them in as we went.
10. Dropbox - Do you use more than one computer? I do. Actually, I use lots of them. Dropbox allows me to share my files across computers by syncing anything that I place in a specific folder to their webservers. The client can be installed on any number of computers and all files that are synced to the Dropbox servers are then synced across any computer (regardless of operating system) with the client installed. Additionally, all files can then be access from any computer with an internet connection as well as many mobile devices. You can also share your Dropbox folder with other people so if you’re collaborating on a project, sharing files is a snap. All files are backed up to the Dropbox service included as a part of the basic service.
This is not an exhaustive list of Web 2.0 tools by any means but it does give you a starting point for some that are less well known. Good luck and enjoy your online journey.
This post was written in response to a request made at a technology meeting by teachers looking for some new tools to use with their students.