Using Web 2.0 Tools in the Classroom
As educators, the use of Web 2.0 tools is transforming our work, and more specifically the way we support students in the classroom. As schools bring more technology into their classrooms, teachers will in turn strive to put more technology in their students’ hands. That is, if they are prepared to do so.
Web 2.0 Tools are online software programs that allow users to do a number of different things. They can be used to teach curriculum content, store data, create/edit video, edit photos, collaborate and so much more. These programs are often free and are used by teachers, students, and sometimes parents, both in and out of the classroom, on a pretty regular basis.
The question then becomes, are educators prepared to use these tools? How can educators best plan to incorporate Web 2.0 Tools into their classroom? How can they best plan to ensure effective tech integration? How can they be sure that the tool remains a support piece to their instructional practice, rather than a replacement?
These are important questions that we need to be able to answer for our own work, but more importantly so that we can continuously strive to be a 21st century educator for our very important clients: our students. The use of Web 2.0 Tools to support instruction is vital. How we use these tools is going to make a critical difference in how we measure our students success and how they are supported to meet 21st century skill sets.
If you are new to this concept, don’t feel bad. Embracing the use of tech integration in our daily work beyond word processing and power point presentations is still new to many educators. However, it’s important that we accept the fact that Web 2.0 tools are here to stay. The sooner we learn to harness their wonderful power, and how they can bring learning alive in the classroom, the better.
As we talk about Web 2.0 tools, one point I want to stress is that we need to remember that it’s not about the specific tools themselves that we use with students, but why, and when the tool is needed. Ideally there also needs to be a culture within the school that values technology use in the classroom. As a former school principal, I can guarantee you that the leadership in the school must also be modeling the use of technology, providing professional development in this area, and seek to build a school community that enables and values the effective use of technology for teaching and learning.
In the spirit of technology for teaching, I want to offer you 8 great Web 2.0 educational tools that I encourage you to seek out, practice with, and learn to incorporate into your work in the classroom. Will it take time to learn to use these tools? Yes. Are the benefits worth the time? Absolutely!
8 Great Web 2.0 tools to support you in the classroom:
Glogster is a great creativity site whose tag line is “poster yourself”. A ‘glog’ is basically an online poster web page. Students can combine text, pictures, graphics, video, and audio to create an interactive online poster. They can click and drag items out of Glogster’s resources, choose their own backgrounds, pictures, text boxes, videos, web links, and more! Glogster has a very simple-to-use interface. The final glog can be hosted by Glogster or you can embed it into a wiki, blog, or class web site. (click here to watch a 2 minute EdTech Talk about Glogster.)
This site was designed specifically for elementary and middle school teachers who want to provide each of their students with their own, unique blog. Kidblog’s simple, powerful tools allow students to publish posts and participate in discussions within a secure classroom blogging community. Teachers maintain complete control over student blogs.
Linoit is a great service that provides its registered users with virtual “stickies” that can be placed on a canvas or bulletin board area. Both lino users and non-registered guests can post stickies on the canvas. The great thing about linoit is that you can use it at three levels: public, limited access and private.(Click here for a sample of one of my recent canvases.)
Livebinders were created so that anyone, but especially educators, could do with digital information what we do with the papers on our desk – organize it into nice containers – like 3-ring binders on a shelf. With these online-binders, you can also upload your documents and easily combine them with your links in a neat and organized way. (Here’s one of my livebinders.)
This web tool is an easy solution for teachers to open up their classroom and their students to a world way beyond their campus. With Skype, students can learn from other students, connect with other cultures, and expand their knowledge in amazing ways by communicating through their computer with a webcam.
This is a fun and easy-to-use tool for creating short, visual stories. Students can select artwork, drag and organize photos, and add their own text. These creations can then be published on the web with adjustable privacy settings. There is also the option to allow comments, which is perfect for teachers to encourage student collaboration. (Here’s one of my Storybirds.)
VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slideshow that allows students to comment on images, documents, and video through text, video, and audio files. Teachers can set up groups and classes as well as moderate comments, embed to blogs, and export to audio files. It is an easy way to differentiate instruction while providing engaging choices to “show” learning, engage in conversation, and think openly and critically about content. (Click here to see “What’s a voice thread anyway?”)
Teachers and students can generate word clouds that show prominent words in any body of text. Just enter text you have gathered from students, or even a URL, to see a summary of what the text is about. Wordle also allows you to change the appearance of your word cloud by the shape, font, color, and organization. (Click here to see a short video on how to use Wordle in the classroom.)
Wetoku is a web service or Web 2.0 tool out of Korea that provides a simple platform for interviewing someone via the Internet. Collaborating globally is a must for our students and connecting can be a challenge. Wetoku makes doing an interview as easy as filling out some basic information, creating an interview session and then sending the creative interview session’s URL to the interviewee. Once the recording is done, the interviewer can embed the copy of the URL into a blog or website. You will need a web-cam to use this tool. (Click here for a video on how to use wetoku.)
Okay, what do you think? Still not sure where all these Web 2.0 tools fit into your school or district standards? Well for those who are still skeptical, ISTE has developed a great set of educational technology standards for teachers. These standards, called ISTE NETS, seek to move beyond the tool and address the bigger picture of technology in the classroom and in the professional practice. You can take a look at them here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at these 8 amazing tools!