Web 2.0 | Feature

Use These 4 Creative Web Tools in Class And Never Touch Glitter and Glue Again

prezi presentations for schools
Try the Web-based tool Prezi for simple, uncluttered presentations that keep students' attention.

According to Education Statistics (2010), more than 98% of high school classrooms have internet access, yet teachers routinely assign projects created with paper, glue, and scissors. Why?

The pitfalls of organic based projects are myriad and well known. Johnny took the poster board home and is out sick when the project is due. Suzanne forgot to bring in the ribbon for the border. The media specialist could not get the printer to work so Cherise was unable to glue the giraffe picture on the project. Sean’s father is an architect so he built a replica of the Empire State building while Mona’s mother was in the hospital and couldn’t take her to the store to buy supplies. Technology-based projects that are supervised by the teacher make the classroom playing field much more equitable.

Learning how to create a collaborative project using technology is an important life skill. Using these new tools, there are no time, distance, or material cost constraints. Assessments can be adapted to an individual or to a team of students. Readily available technology allows for sharing the information in an exciting format and reinforces that learning. Using free Web 2.0 tools gives the student ownership of the product and increases learning. It's no secret that students engaged in their own learning are the most successful.

Don’t let the overwhelming number of Web 2.0 tools out there dissuade you from finding new resources for your classroom. The path of least risk and resistance is the one that is most familiar: the tangible paper product.

There are no "best" choices for any subject or age group. There are, however, some that are easy to learn and monitor. Using tools such as Wiki, Prezi, Voice Thread, and Glogster, even the least tech savvy teachers and students can easily produce high quality work that is meaningful. Unlike their ancient, biodegradable cousins, each student can retain the product, and the work will last in perpetuity.

 

Glogster

Glogster is the closest relative to the poster board project, and one of the easier ones to use. For classroom use, make sure to use the education edition. Students start with a blank canvas and add graphics, hyperlinks, audio, video, and text. Glogster offers free and upgraded paid accounts, as do most similar applications. The free educator version is fine for most classrooms. There is an account limit per teacher, but projects can be erased and new ones created in their place. Also, individual students can register using the account information from the teacher dashboard. (There is an excellent reference source for help online.)

Glogster is appropriate for all subjects and grade levels. For examples of "glogs" created across the curriculum, visit the Glogpedia Library. This tool also works very well as a teacher bulletin board. You can update it quickly and frequently, as well as combine announcements with subject matter. This link will take you to one that highlights the governor’s mansion in Florida.

 

Wiki

A wiki is any Website that allows users to add and update content on the site, although most people immediately think of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. The term "wiki" is a shorted version of "wiki wiki," which is Hawaiian for "fast." Wiki requires access through one of many platforms. A wiki is easy to edit and provides excellent asynchronous collaborations. Any member of the group can access and add to the project from any location. The wiki also keeps a history of the additions which allows the teacher to monitor the work.

An excellent introduction on how to use wikis in education is available online at EduWikis. There are links to free wikis for teachers, examples of educational wikis and related information in the wiki blog. Also, there are several illustrated guides to understanding and using wikis most effectively. Wikis can be expanded to very large sizes, such as a year-long portfolio project, or kept small, for an individual topic. Check out this link for diverse examples on a range of different wikis.

 

Prezi

Think Prezi and you might think of the closest Web tool approximation to the PowerPoint presentation. But instead of horizontal slides on a background, all of the information appears on a themed template. The viewer zooms in and out of the parts of the presentation as it progresses. Students using Prezi interact more with the actual material and less with the bells, whistles, and animations of PowerPoint and similar programs, thereby increasing retention.

Prezi has general public and educational versions, much like other Web 2.0 tools. It is important to use the educational versions of all these tools, when available, but especially for Prezi. The general public version makes all free Prezis public. With the educational version, the projects can remain private.

This link is to a Prezi, created in less than ten minutes, during a live presentation. Because Prezi is Web based, students can access their work from any computer, making the previous excuse of "I left my flash drive at home" useless. Here are two excellent presentations created in a leadership class: The first is an individual project that reports on a personal volunteer experience; the second demonstrates how the tool can be used collaboratively for setting up a team community service project.

 

Voicethread

Voicethread is a so-called "Conversation in the cloud." It is similar to a PowerPoint in that there are a series of slides that are either manually or automatically shown on the screen. The ability to collaborate with Voicethread is limited only by your imagination. The free Voicethread account allows an individual to produce five Voicethreads with up to fifty pages. There are several moderately priced educational accounts that allow for greater flexibility. There is also no problem equipping each student with a personal account. This link is to an individual student project that does not yet have any comments.

One of the greatest advantages to using Voicethread is the feedback provided to the student by classmates. Once the project is created by the group or individual student, viewers can participate by adding comments using a Webcam, microphone, keyboard, or even the telephone. Students in a classroom are likely to comment on a project with nonspecific words, such as "great" or "wow" or in some cases, derogatory comments that cause hurt feelings. When leaving comments on a Voicethread, the speaker is identified and recorded either by voice or text. These peer additions to the project are often well thought out and more detailed. This example shows a Voicethread with student comments.

Years ago, Robert Fulghum wrote a book titled All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Collaboration is one of those preschool skills we need for life (we used to call it "plays well with others"). If we are to be successful as 21st century educators, we must teach our students how to work with their peers in small groups and then lead them into the global society that is controlled by the World Wide Web. It is time to replace those familiar, but antiquated tools, with brand new virtual ones.

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