Ten Web 2.0 Applications for Creative Educators
by Susan Brooks-Young
Learn about some of the best-kept secrets in the world of Web 2.0 applications for the classroom.
The term Web 2.0 refers to a wide variety of web-based applications like social networks, blogs, wikis, and video-sharing sites. What sets Web 2.0 applications apart from other online tools is that they facilitate interactivity in many forms including information sharing, user-created content, and collaboration. Some of these—for example Google Docs, Facebook, or YouTube—are popular enough that nearly everyone has heard about them.
Nevertheless, many Web 2.0 applications never get wide recognition. Not because they aren’t high quality, but because there are so many that it’s impossible to stay current on all of them. This column spotlights 10 Web 2.0 applications that may not be as well-known as the examples mentioned above, but that have great potential for classroom use. Links to all applications and resources shared here are also published on my wiki page at bit.ly/amIMut.
1. Wordle by Jonathan Feinberg (wordle.net)
Word clouds are visual depictions of the word content of a website or other sources of text. Words may be shown in alphabetical order or randomly, and prominence is given to those words that appear most frequently. Wordle allows users to copy text from any source and paste it into an on-site textbox which then generates a word cloud. If you don’t like the word cloud’s appearance you can change its layout, font, and color scheme. When finished, you may print the word cloud, take a screenshot, or save it in an online gallery. Teachers use Wordle as a tool for students and with colleagues. U.K. teacher Colleen Young has used LiveBinders, another Web 2.0 application described later in this column, to create a collection of Wordle resources for education. This virtual binder can be accessed at bit.ly/7mvBLR.
2. GoView by Citrix Online (goview.com)
Have you watched online videos that demonstrate how to use features of a software program or website? If so, you were probably viewing a screencast—a digital recording of the output on a computer screen often accompanied by audio narration. GoView is one of several easy-to-use, free screencast applications and is included here because it offers simple editing features. GoView also makes it easy to download your screencast files to a computer’s hard drive. Teachers often use screencasting initially to create tutorials explaining how to use software or navigate websites, but it doesn’t take long before they realize there are many other educational uses. For example, you can use GoView to:
• record a narrated slideshow story;
• demonstrate and explain
problem-solving strategies; or
• evaluate a digital project by going through the documents online and recording your comments.
3. Chartle by Dieter Krachtus (chartle.net)
Charts and graphs are first-rate tools for helping students visualize data, but the process for creating these visuals can be very confusing. Chartle simplifies this procedure by providing templates that students use to enter data, label names, and other elements—either by importing from an Excel file or through keyboard entry. Once a chart or graph is completed, it can be embedded on a webpage, saved on a computer hard drive, or printed. The Information Technology at Purdue wiki hosts a page that explains how Chartle was developed and offers lesson plans for classroom use at elementary, secondary, and post-secondary levels. Access this page at bit.ly/co3GLa.
4. BusyLissy by Bread & Pepper (busylissy.com)
Whether you’re working on a school committee or asking students to complete an assignment in small groups, managing the workload can be a challenge. BusyLissy is a free web-based project management tool appropriate for adults and students. Once you’ve set up an account you can create projects. Each project consists of five areas. The Dashboard is the main page for the project. This is where you add team members and track progress on project completion. Use the Agenda and Tasks areas to schedule project events and tasks. The Messages area supports internal group communication and the Files area can be used to share a variety of file types including video, sound, code, images, and documents. Each project also has an RSS feed you can subscribe to for updates whenever the project is updated.
5. Wallwisher by SharedCopy (wallwisher.com)
Wallwisher is a quick and easy web-based brainstorming tool where colleagues or students use web pages called “walls” to post ideas around a topic you identify. Walls may be private or public, and it’s possible to monitor ideas posted to boards you’ve produced. Once you build a wall, colleagues or students may add ideas whether or not they have a Wallwisher account. Wallwisher is an effective tool for simple brainstorming or to use as a parking lot where questions can be posted during a meeting or class and then answered at an appropriate time.
6. Edistorm (edistorm.com)
If you’d like something a bit more sophisticated than Wallwisher, take a look at Edistorm. The basic subscription for Edistorm is free and more than adequate for most meetings or classroom settings. Free accounts support public and solo (individual) “storms,” which is what Edistorm calls brainstorming pages. Once you create a public storm, invite colleagues or students to participate by sending an email that includes a link to the storm. Once they’ve accessed the storm, contributors can add ideas, comment on ideas posted by others, arrange ideas into groups, and vote for the ideas they like best. You can also export a summary of ideas and comments or generate reports in Excel or PDF formats. There is also a free Edistorm app that you can download from iTunes and run on an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad.
7. Visual Ranking Tool by Intel (educate.intel.com/en/thinkingtools/Visualranking)
A long-time supporter of technology-supported instruction, Intel Corporation offers several programs for K-12 education. One of these, Thinking Tools, allows teachers to create online, Flash-based workspaces where students can hone problem-solving and critical thinking skills. Three tools—all free—are available. My favorite of these is the Visual Ranking Tool.
Making lists is easy. Prioritizing or ordering items on a list can be much more challenging. When using the Visual Ranking Tool, students work in small teams to rank order items on a list prepared by their teacher. Throughout this process students identify criteria for their rankings, explain their reasoning, and reach consensus. When each team finishes prioritizing the list, members can compare their rankings with other teams that have completed the activity. This tool can be used effectively with children as young as primary grades but also works well with older students and even groups of adults who need to set priorities. The URL provided above leads to the main Visual Ranking Tool page which includes links to project examples and effective instructional strategies as well as to the tool.
Other Interesting Tools
8. xtimeline by Famento, Inc. (xtimeline.com)
Timelines are effective instructional tools. They can be used at nearly any grade level or for any content area. Examining existing timelines helps students follow the development of a concept or a progression of events. Creating a timeline encourages students to conduct research, synthesize and organize the information they find, and identify engaging ways to share this information. xtimeline is a web-based tool teachers and student can use to explore timelines created by other subscribers or to create their own. Users may co-edit timelines or engage in discussions about timelines.
If you opt to use existing timelines it’s important to review them for accuracy and suitability before having students use them. But the greatest value of this tool is in having students create their own timelines. It’s easy to get started. Register for an account, sign-in, and click Create. Use the template provided to enter basic information about your timeline, click Create again, and you’re ready to add events. Customize these entries by adding text, images, even video. The Information Technology at Purdue wiki hosts a page that explains how xtimeline was developed and offers suggestions for classroom use. Access this page at bit.ly/clOp4c.
9. SafeShare.TV by SafeShare.TV (safeshare.tv/)
Does your school network block YouTube? While there are videos on YouTube that are not appropriate for classroom use, there are many clips that would be very useful if only you could share them with students. SafeShare.TV makes it possible for you to create a SafeShare link that embeds a YouTube video on a page where all the elements normally found on a YouTube page, including suggestions and comments, have been removed. As a result, students can watch video clips without having easy access to YouTube. This tool also allows you to crop videos before sharing them.
To create a SafeShare link, go to YouTube and copy the video link. Navigate to SafeShare.TV, paste the link into the text box, and click the Generate Safe Link button. Copy the SafeShare link provided. You can add this link to a webpage or email it to students. You may need to speak with IT staff to open the SafeShare.TV site if it is blocked on your network.
10. LiveBinders by LiveBinders, Inc. (livebinders.com)
LiveBinders allows you to organize digital information by linking websites and media or uploading documents to an online binder where you can also add text. As with a physical three-ring binder, items in online binders are organized by tabs and subtabs which are easily edited and rearranged. To create your own binders, sign up for a free account and click Create Binder. Now you are invited to add a Bookmarklet to your web browser’s Bookmarks toolbar. This allows you to save web pages directly to an online binder. Click Start a Blank Binder, and you’re ready to begin.
This tool is easy to figure out and it’s possible to rearrange items if you decide to reorganize the binder as it grows. The newest feature is the ability to add co-editors to binders. Check out the site’s Help section to learn more about organizing and managing your LiveBinders.
Educators at all grade levels are using this handy tool for a variety of purposes. For example, Theresa McGee recently created a binder of Online Art Games for elementary students (bit.ly/6QM2yB) while author cmmiekin developed an Earth Science binder for high school students (bit.ly/dB33QF). Many additional binder examples are linked on this column’s wiki page.
As you explore the applications spotlighted here, it’s important to remember that Web 2.0 tools are nearly always “beta.” This means they are constantly being tweaked to add new features or make other improvements. These tools sometimes crash and can disappear completely. This is the nature of this type of application and users must be flexible to avoid frustration. Fortunately, there is nearly always another tool that can be used in place of one that is temporarily not functioning, or that shuts down all together.
If you launch your investigation of Web 2.0 applications with this understanding, it will make it easier for you to shift from one tool to the next, as needed. Where can you find alternative tools? You may want to begin by spending time exploring Sidebar links to hundreds of Web 2.0 resources in the same wiki where you’ll find the links to this column’s resources. Go to bit.ly/R7zqn to access the main page for this wiki. There is also an extensive collection of Web 2.0 LiveBinders available at bit.ly/cwUvMg. Happy exploring!
A former Catholic-school teacher, Susan Brooks-Young spent 23 years as a teacher and administrator. She now works as a professional consultant and author. Her latest book is Teaching with the Tools Kids Really Use (Corwin Press, 2010). Susan invites your comments at SJBrooks@aol.com.
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