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The Best Free Web 2.0 Tools for Schools

The term Web 2.0 has been around a while. Some may even consider it passé. Nevertheless, according to Steve Dembo, there's still something to say about the topic.

"It's an area in constant flux," he said. "That's part of the challenge, and that's why it's still relevant. We're constantly bombarded with new things all the time. So then it becomes a question of how to make sense of it and become aware of the really good things."

A former kindergarten teacher and technology coordinator, Dembo now directs social media strategy and online community for Discovery Education. In that role, he spends the bulk of his time helping teachers find those "really good things" by connecting them to each other through the Discovery Educator Network and helping them share what they're trying out and getting value from in the classroom.

"We really do believe that everybody has a very unique viewpoint," he said. "Even if I [as Steve Dembo] have explained why Wordle is significant 30 times, it's not going to be as meaningful as when it's done by somebody else who has a relatively similar viewpoint. It's going to look very different through the eyes of an elementary school science teacher or a secondary school PE teacher."

Dembo will have more to say on that during his session, "The 10 Best Free Web 2.0 Tools for Teachers," during FETC 2012, the annual education technology conference, to be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, Jan. 23-26.

One tool he said he plans to talk about--and, he indicated, his current Web 2.0 favorite--is Scoop.It, an online resource aggregator.

"It's a great site for managing information overload and for sharing the things you discover," he said. "People love sites like Diigo and Delicious because they're great to organize your bookmarks, but they're not so great for sharing what you find, especially with someone who's not already 'drinking the Kool-Aid.'"

Scoop.It allows the user to create lists by topic, he explained, and then add to them. "The lists themselves and the way you navigate through them are simple and attractive. When you're trying to bring new people on board, that counts. It doesn't look overly geeky."

About Those 'Free' Web 2.0 Services

Although Steve Dembo, director of social media strategy and online community of Discovery Educator Network, said he enjoys singing the praises of free sites because "they're always going to be the most popular," he encouraged people to make flat-out donations or to subscribe to the ones they find value in.

"These things aren't free," he pointed out. "They cost money to develop, to host. The bandwidth costs money, the servers cost money. If I a see a site with no obvious revenue stream, whether it be ads or premium features or subscriptions, I get a little concerned because there's a decent chance that that site will not survive."

A couple of Web sites that have convinced him to open his wallet are PollEverywhere, which handles audience polling through mobile devices, and Tripit, for making travel plans and organizing them into itineraries. "It would be hypocritical for me to say, 'You should support the sites you believe in' and not do the same myself," he noted.


About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.