Whenever I find out about a great new online tool I can use in the classroom, I rush to my school computer only to find out that the website is blocked. The school corporation that I work for blocks a lot of online content – some innapropriate for students and some content that could be helpful in the classroom. I wanted to create a presentation that would show the educators at my school corporation what tools they could actually use at school. I created a list of 18 websites that pass through our schools filters. These websites are just a small handful of online tools available for teachers and students. My list of 18 websites was created through a tool on my list: SpicyNodes. I found SpicyNodes to be user-friendly, visually-pleasing, and just the right tool for the job.
In searching for these websites, I explored other blogs and sites that contained lists of educator online tools. I then attempted to access each tool on my school computer. I was actually surprised that some tools were not blocked. I was sure my school would block Glogster, since all blogs are blocked, but I was happily proven wrong. After I collected a list of websites, then I began my own filtering process of getting rid of the sites that would just be technology for technology’s sake in the classroom. For example, I really liked Tagxedo, a website that allows you to create word art, but I really couldn’t think of any other need to create one other than to make a presentation look pretty. Another criteria for my selections – free products. I only chose websites that were totally free or offered free versions of their products.
As I was invisioning using these technologies in the classroom, I began to group certain websites together:
PowerPoint Presentation Alternatives:
These are websites that provide interesting and visually-pleasing slide presentations. These websites also allow users to add videos, photos, and hyperlinks.
These are websites that allow teachers and/or students to communicate online. Some of these websites allow teachers to post class assignments and grades, chat with students and parents, and maintain a classroom blog.
Tools to Allow Students to Work in Groups:
These websites are perfect for group projects. Students can work online collaboratively through recorded audio, text, or highlighting and note-writing.
Online Mind Maps
These websites are great for collecting ideas into an interactive visual display. Users can add photos, videos, and hyperlinks.
Students can use these websites to create their own stories. Story Jumper is more geared towards elementary students and Storybird could be elementary through High School. Both websites allow students to obtain paper copies of their stories (for a fee).
Specific Online Tools for Special Projects
These websites are useful if you have a specific project in mind that needs a special tool.
- Glogster EDU – for creating interactive posters
- Diigo – for bookmarking websites with highlighting and sticky note functions
- Wix – for creating interactive and photo-filled websites
- Voki – for creating speaking avatars
- TimeToast – for creating interactive time tables
Now that I have a sampling of online tools that I can use in the classroom, I’m ready to start using them. I’ve already introduced a local art contest to my students through a Prezi presentation: South Bend Banner Contest 2012. I’m interested with using one of the online community sites to put up projects, due dates, information, and grades for my students and their parents. I have an idea of using TimeToast to create a timeline of the art movements complete with images of artwork and artists from each movement. I have all these great ideas – now all I need is access to a bunch of computers for my students to use.