Ten Free Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom

- guest post by Karen Schweitzer

Where to Find Free Web 2.0 Tools for the Classroom

Teachers who want to put web 2.0 technologies to work for them can find many different free options online. There are tools for creating online classrooms, social networks, student podcasts, web-based flashcards, elearning modules, and much more. Here are 10 free web 2.0 tools for teachers to try in the classroom this year.

Engrade – This popular online classroom community provides a free set of web-based tools for teachers who want to integrate web 2.0 into the classroom. Tools include an online assignment calendar, an online gradebook, an online attendance book, secure online messaging, and instant progress reports. Engrade is a great way for teachers to constantly stay in touch with students, parents, and administrators.

Engrade logocramberry logoelgg logo

Elgg – This social engine provides all of the tools a school or classroom needs to create their own community site or social network. Elgg is an open source program, which means it is free for everyone to use, and includes an online community where users can learn and share their experiences.

Cramberry – Cramberry is a unique site that makes it easy for students to learn and study new material through online flashcards. Students or teachers can make customized sets of cards that can be printed or studied online. When students choose to study online, Cramberry tracks learning progress, builds study schedules, and shows cards in a specific order so that students can get extra practice with the cards they have trouble with and stay current with other cards.

PodBean.com logoPodBean – More than 200,000 people have used PodBean’s free publishing tools to create and publish their own podcasts. PodBean’s tools work especially well for classrooms. There is no tech to learn–podcast episodes can be uploaded and published in a matter of minutes.

Eduslide logoEduslide – Teachers can use Eduslide to deliver elearning modules to students inside and outside the classroom. Modules can include multiple lessons with text, slides, flashcards, links to other sites, audio, and video. Teachers can also access lessons created by other Eduslide users.

Writeboard – Writeboard is a free web-based tool that allows students to easily collaborate on a single document online. Different versions of the document are automatically trackeWriteboard logod and saved so that old ideas are never lost and can be easily monitored by teachers. Created Writeboards are always kept private and can only be accessed by people with the password.

Web-Chops logoWeb-Chops – This free web tool is perfect for teachers who want to share websites with students but want to get rid of ads and other questionable material. Web-Chops allows users to “clip” any part of a web page and rearrange clips onto a custom page that can be shared with other people.

Yugma – Yugma is an excellent tool for teachers who want to share their desktops with other students in the classroom or conduct parent-teacher conferences online. The site’s free service supports up to 20 attendees at one time and includes 24/7 support through forums, tutorials, and new user guides.

Yugma logo knowitall.org logo

Knowitall.org – Designed specifically for the classroom, this network of education sites can be used to engage k-12 students in learning. Sites include videos, simulations, image collections, virtual field trips, games, and interactive learning experiences.

Arcademic Skill Builders logoArcademic Skill Builders – This site provides free, educational video games that are research-based and standards-aligned. Games can be played alone or with multiple players and provide a safe environment where students can learn and have fun at the same time. While playing a game, students cannot be contacted by anyone outside the classroom.

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the author of the About.com Guide to Business School and also writes about online degree programs for OnlineDegreePrograms.org.

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20 Online Tools to Make Learning Fun

by Karen Schweitzer

Looking for a great way to engage and stimulate students in even the most tedious subjects? There are many online tools, games, activities, learning aids, and even web apps designed to make learning fun. Here is a list of 20 sites to try when the new school year begins:

Games and Activities

History Detective Kids – Based on PBS’ History Detective television show, this site encourages children between the ages of 8 and 12 to use critical thinking, problem solving, and dramatic play while digging through the past.

Funbrain – Funbrain hosts dozens of interactive educational games for children. This site covers most subjects and features web books, comics, and movies.

Math Is Fun – Math Is Fun is intended to make studying geometry, algebra, data, money, and measurements more enjoyable. This site also offers puzzles, games, and worksheets.

Brain POP – This interactive educational site offers games for a wide variety of subjects and grades. Brain POP also offers entertaining and creative way to explain difficult subjects to students.

Kerpoof – Kerpoof is an educational game site provided by the Walt Disney Corporation. This interactive site was created to help kids discover, learn, and be creative.

Discovery Dinosaur – This Discovery Channel site offers several interactive learning games, including the Dino Viewer. This handy interactive tool allows you to view facts and descriptions and watch movement.

Geography Action – Geography Action from National Geographic offers several interactive mapping games that allow children to view and map the world.

NASA – This NASA educational site offers a wide range of interactive games and activities for math, engineering, science, and technology.

Funschool – Funschool provides games primarily for elementary children. Games are interactive and cover an assortment of subjects.

PlayKidsGames.com – This site provides fun, interactive games for K-6 graders. Games cover math, vocabulary, spelling, computer, and other problem solving skills.

Learning Aids

Shmoop – Shmoop is a study guide site for U.S. history, literature, poetry, and writing. The site tries to make literature and other subjects more enjoyable by providing easy-to-read study guides and book summaries.

FREE – This teaching resource site from the federal government offers an array of educational resources, including animations, primary documents, photos, and videos.

Sparknotes – Although this site was created primarily for seniors and college students, Sparknotes does provide a wide range of resources for younger students. The most useful resources include study and literature guides, test prep materials, and a grammar guide.

The Stacks – This Scholastic site encourages children to read with book clubs, book chats, games, quizzes, and much more.

Slideshare – Slideshare makes it easy to upload presentations and documents to the web. This site is a great place to find information or just have students share ideas and connect with others.

Web Apps

Empressr – Empressr is a free multimedia tool for creating presentations. This app allows you to add music, video, pictures, and audio to each presentation.

Mindomo – This free brainstorming app stimulates creative thinking. Mindomo also makes it easy to organize your wild ideas into streamlined mind maps.

Altas – Altas is a great Twitter app that maps tweeters around the globe. This is a fun, interactive way to encourage students to learn geography and culture.

Whiteboard – This writing web app allows students to collaborate with others in real time. Whiteboard makes it easy to write, collaborate, and share work.

OuTwit Me – Outwit Me is a Twitter app with fun, challenging games, including storyteller, crack the code, and guess word.

This is a guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the author of the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about accredited online colleges for OnlineCollege.org.

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PLN: Your Personal Learning Network Made Easy

What is a PLN?

If I had to define what a ‘Personal Learning Network’ is, I would keep it simple and broad:

n. – the entire collection of people with whom you engage and exchange information, usually online.

Personal Learning Networks, or PLNs, have been around forever.  Originally, they were your family and friends, maybe other educators you worked with, but as the internet and web 2.0 tools have become nearly ubiquitous, PLNs can include tons of different communities – social networking sites like Facebook, blogs, Twitter, wikis, social bookmarking tools, LinkedIn, and so many more.  Basically, anyone that you interact with is apart of your PLN, whether they are social contacts, professional peers, or experts in their field.   Most of the ‘learning’ takes place on-line now, because it is simple to find and connect with others with similar interests from around the world.

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PLNs have immense value!

So, why bother thinking about your PLN?  Whether you’re a full-time mom, a full-time teacher, or a full-time student, your PLN can be extremely interesting and helpful.  The beauty of people communicating online is the ease of finding and sharing information and – if you ask for it – the group feedback that you get on ideas and projects.

Here are some ways that educators are using their PLNs:
–    Professional development – learn from content-area specialists
–    Locate resources for your classroom, such as free websites and software
–    Get lesson plan ideas from master teachers
–    Learn about new technology and how to integrate it into your teaching
–    Find collaborative solutions
–    Find interesting links to education news

Students can also reap the benefits of tapping into their PLNs.  Here is a wonderful video called “The Networked Student” that shows how on-line networking can enhance students’ 21st century skills.

When you have a large group of people combing through vast amounts of information and collectively identifying the most useful, entertaining, or valuable parts, it only makes sense to tap into this collective knowledge!

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Build Your Own PLN

If you’re interested in expanding your PLN, here’s a directory of some of the best web 2.0 tools:

Category Value Examples and Guides
Social Networking Keeping up with personal, more social contacts like friends, family, and former students Facebook, Myspace
Microblogging Populated with educators from around the world who share best practices and resources in short bursts Twitter, My guide to Twitter, Plurk, Utterli
Professional Profiles Find other professionals and experts in your field LinkedIn, Brightfuse
Wikis Community-monitored sites that can function as websites or for group organization and projects Wikispaces, pbwiki, wetpaint
Blogs Great sources of information such as classroom best practices as well as personal opinions; Blogs monitor the heartbeat of new trends in education and the commenting back and forth leads to many great ideas and relationships WordPress, (check out my ‘Blogroll’ to the right – they’re my favorites), Blogger, Typepad, Alltop – top blog headlines by subject, Technorati – a blog search engine
RSS Reader RSS means “Real Simple Syndication” – an RSS reader is a tool that allows you to keep up with many of your favorite blogs, all in once place
(see this video ‘RSS in Plain English’)
Netvibes, (My Netvibes), PageFlakes, Google Reader
Nings Communities of people interested in similar topics, with forums and messaging Classroom 2.0, Future of Education, Ning
Social Bookmarking Share bookmarks with others, see what others are bookmarking; you can join groups and get email updates on new bookmarks Diigo, Diigo Groups, Delicious
Webinars Live, on-line presentations or conferences, with real-time chat, hosted by experts on specific topics; Great way to learn about new things and to meet new people Classroom 2.0 Live!, EdTechTalk Live, Elluminate – host your own!, Dim Dim
Backchanneling of conferences When there are neat (and expensive) conferences that you can’t attend, follow conversations and links about the highlights Twitter search – use acronyms like ‘NECC’ or ‘SXSWi’

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What to Expect – Stages of PLN Adoption

There are certain stages that most people seem to go through when building their PLN before settling into a comfortable niche.  It may take a little time, but you’ll eventually find that a rich PLN can elevate both your personal and professional life to new heights.

If you’d like to connect with me, click here.

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21st Century Students need 21st Century Teachers

I’m recycling a couple of videos that I have posted in the past, mostly because I believe that they’re worth watching again.  These videos – the original higher ed version of “A Vision of Students Today” by Mike Wesch, the spin-off , called “A Vision of K-12 Students Today”, and “The Networked Student”, created by Wendy Drexler‘s high school students  – bring to mind many thoughts that I find both challenging and encouraging.  Hopefully you will, too.

Students are moving forward, in terms of technology, and they are finding limitless opportunities to explore and create on-line.  Are we making sure that we teach them how to do this wisely?  Are we building on these innate interests and talents?  Are we harnessing the power of technology to optimize their educational experience?

A Vision of Students Today (higher-ed)

A Vision of K-12 Students Today

Networked Student (by students)

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A Teacher’s Guide to Twitter

Twitter is apart of my life almost every day because:
–    It’s a great source of news.
–    There are rich conversations among educators and edtech people.
–    People post entertaining, interesting, and very useful links.
–    I enjoy the easy interaction with others from around the world.

Most people start off in a rocky relationship with Twitter.  It doesn’t seem to be as easy or as useful as everyone has said, it takes awhile before you find your niche, and there is an overwhelming amount of information to deal with.  But, just hang on – it’ll be worth it!!!  This is a guide to help teachers, or anyone for that matter, have a smoother and more enjoyable experience.  It is, by no means, the most comprehensive list of tips but hopefully it’ll be helpful.  If you need a little more convincing that Twitter is amazing, check out Mark Marshall‘s post “Twitter – What is it and Why Would I Use it?”

Getting Started

  • Your picture: you should definitely have some sort of picture – people seem to respond better to actual photos, but avatars, cartoons, or logos are fine, too.
  • Your bio: it is very helpful to include keywords here because often, when someone is deciding whether to follow you or not, this is where they’ll get their “first impression” of you.  And, Twitter Grader scans bios for keywords for their ‘search’ feature.
  • Your URL: this is important! People will want to know more about you than your bio and what you tweet.  Even if you don’t have a blog or website, you could post a link to your school’s website or another account you have, such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or Classroom2.0.

Managing your Life on Twitter

Finding People to Follow

This can be the biggest challenge at first.  Not anymore!  Here are some great ways to do it:

Not Getting Overwhelmed

You’ll hear people talking about the Twitter “stream”.  This is derived from a beautiful metaphor in which the tweets people send out can be considered drops of water in a stream.  You’re standing on the bank, enjoying the stream as it passes, but you can’t worry about enjoyoing every drop of water that’s there.  Don’t worry about the tweets you missed – I promise that there are always, currently, very interesting things to read.  But – it is nice to catch up sometimes by browsing old tweets on peoples’ profile pages.

Tweeting

You’re limited to 140 characters, but this seems to do the trick.  Here are a couple of links to help with your tweets:

  • TinyURL – if you want to tweet a link, but it’s very long, this will shorten it to 25 characters.
  • Bit.ly – this also shortens a link, and it allows you to specify part of the new URL.  If you sign up for an account, you can track how many clicks your shortened URLs get.
  • TwitterSymbols – fun symbols you can insert into your tweets.

Other Ins and Outs

@replies

If you start a tweet with @(username), this will automatically land in that person’s “@replies” folder.  You’ll notice that if you reply to something someone said, your message will automatically start with this “address”.  These tweets will show up in your friends’ tweet-streams only if they have chosen to see @replies – you can change the settings for this.

DM

This stands for Direct Messages.  These are private messages that most people choose to use to introduce themselves or to bring an elongated “@reply conversation” over to a more appropriate venue.  You can DM someone from your DM folder or from the sidebar of their profile page, but only if they are following you.

RT

This stands for ReTweet.  If you want to share what someone else tweeted, it is only polite to give them credit by including “RT @(username)” somewhere in your message.

“Following” Etiquette [more on this topic in the 'comments'!]

Some people say that it is polite to follow anyone who follows you, others choose to follow very small, select groups.   I have found a happy balance by following *most* people, but having select groups of people that I really don’t want to miss out on in my Tweetdeck.   There are probably only two types of people that I avoid following:

•   Those who only write mundane, one line messages, like “This coffee is good”.  I want to be able to  have conversations with people.
•    Marketers – there are a ton of marketers on Twitter.   Be wary of someone who’s following 5,000 but only has 18 followers.  Sometimes they’re worth following because they are actually interesting, but do not feel obligated to follow them if they are not.  I find it’s best not to clog up my Tweet-stream with advertisements.

My Favorite Twitter-related Tools

*note: some of these require you to enter your Twitter username and password – I cannot guarantee their security, but I’ll say that I’ve used all of these and have never had any problems (yet…)

  • Searching Twitter: Tweetscan – & Twitter Search
  • What’s hot on Twitter: Twitscoop
  • Who’s hot on Twitter:  Retweetist
  • Cool Stats about your account: TweetStats & Twitter Counter
  • Who’s following you compared to who you’re following: Twitter Karma & Friend or Follow
  • Make a poll to tweet: TwtPoll
  • Tweetdeck –  This is a free download that gives you a separate window (your Tweetdeck) that has multiple columns to display tweets concurrently – with a live-feed, too!.  You can choose their content – personalized groups, an entire column just for your DM’s or @replies.  I like to keep it in the background of my computer-work all day.
  • Twistori – live-feed for tweets that include “love”, “hate”, “think”, “feel”, “believe”, or “wish” – the result could be called art.
  • TwitterMosaic – Create a mosaic with pics of all of your Twitter friends – put it on your blog, or a coffee mug, or a t-shirt.

Useful Links regarding Twitter

Christine Morris put Twitter to use in her class for some real-time research and shares the experience and great tips here.

Here is an extensive and helpful list of ‘100 Tips, Apps and Resources for Teachers on Twitter’.

Twitter for Academia

**21 (and counting) Interesting Ways to use Twitter in the Classroom**

Nine Reasons to Twitter in Schools

Twitdom –  a Twitter application database, with over 300 tools to play with!
TwitTip –  a blog bursting with Twitter tips
Twitter’s Blog - enough said

@butwait has a ‘Twitter for Newbies’ page here, with TONS of resources.

If you’d like to follow me, click here.

And, if you’d rather read this guide in Portuguese, see Rodrigo Vieira Ribeiro’s blog!

Happy Tweeting!

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Using Weebly to build your Classroom Website

Here’s a follow-up to an earlier Weebly post:

There have been increasing numbers of educators who find that a classroom website is a good way to stay organized.  Here are some basic, very useful functions:

  • Announcements
  • Class Calendar
  • Homework Assignments
  • Supply Lists
  • Pictures
  • Post Student Work
  • Parent Involvement/Volunteer Opportunities
  • Classroom Rules and Policies
  • Links
  • Your Bio and Contact Info

A website is more informative, while a blog, ning or wiki is more interactive because they allow students to contribute.  I actually suggest having both.  But because blogs, nings and wikis require constant maintenance, it’s nice to have a website that is super-easy to build and edit.

I suggest using Weebly for this.  It’s free and extremely user-friendly.

Weebly_Ed

Here are some classroom websites built on Weebly:

If you have a Weebly website, or plan to get one, please share your URL in the comments!

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Bloom’s Taxonomy 2.0

Over the few months that I’ve been blogging, my post on Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy has been the biggest hit.  And, what interests my readers interests me.  Here’s more on the subject:

Probably every classroom teacher in this country has at least come across Bloom’s Taxonomy at some point.  Most of us can recite the ‘level’s by heart, in order from lowest- to highest-order thinking:

Knowledge –> Comprehension –> Application –> Analysis –> Synthesis –> Evaluation

We’ve come to associate certain action words, activities, and types of questions with each level, and we know that the higher the level, the more challenging the approach.  It ‘s helpful to think about where your content falls on this scale.  I must admit that I referred to my laminated ‘Bloom’s Chart’ almost daily during my first year – because it was useful, but also because I couldn’t quite remember it.  Something about it didn’t seem to stick – it seemed contrived, a little archaic, and not very user-friendly.

Enter: Bloom’s revised Taxonomy, ca. 2001, by Lorin Anderson.  From Mary Forehand’s article on Bloom’s Taxonomy:

During the 1990’s, a former student of Bloom’s, Lorin Anderson, led a new assembly which met for the purpose of updating the taxonomy, hoping to add relevance for 21st century students and teachers. This time “representatives of three groups [were present]: cognitive psychologists, curriculum theorists and instructional researchers, and testing and assessment specialists”… Like the original group, they were also arduous and diligent in their pursuit of learning, spending six years to finalize their work.

Let’s look at the original and the revised versions side-by-side:

Bloom's - Original and Revised

“The graphic is a representation of the NEW verbage associated with the long familiar Bloom’s Taxonomy. Note the change from Nouns to Verbs [e.g., Application to Applying] to describe the different levels of the taxonomy. Note that the top two levels are essentially exchanged from the Old to the New version.” (Schultz, 2005)

6 years to change nouns into verbs and to flip two levels??  I guess Bloom had it almost just right.  Despite the parsimonious revision, the new taxonomy makes alot more sense to me.  It also seems to make alot of sense to Andrew Churches.  If I was still in the classroom, I would definitely toss out my old ‘Bloom’s chart’ and replace it with this:

Churches_Blooms_chart

Notice that the yellow box contains 21st-century-type/web 2.0 skills!  Churches takes the taxonomy and almost completely updates it again – providing digital verbage that you can easily apply in your classroom.  If you’re a forward-thinking instructor and you’re interested in integrating more technology into your instruction, check out ANDREW CHURCHES’ entire paper – BLOOM’S DIGITAL TAXONOMY – here.  He gives great, concrete examples of how to apply these ideas, he lists many free resources that can be used, and he has tons of rubrics for different activities that address the different levels.  Fun read!  Makes me think again about my retirement from teaching…

Do you use the old Bloom’s or the Revised Bloom’s?

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