Friday, May 13, 2011

Friday's Five - Web 2.0 Tools

Today I'm going to start a new feature on the blog:  Friday's Five.  As a way to give readers more input and make this space a bit more collaborative, each Friday I'm going to pick a category and list 5 things that I think best fit.  Categories will vary widely, but will all be education-based.  We may explore favorite resources, best educational books, most memorable teaching experiences, reasons to use social-networking, or any other topic we happen to stumble upon.

I'd like you to help out in three ways.  First, I'd love to hear your ideas on the topic, so please leave your list in the comment section.  You don't need to list five, but give me your thoughts on my list and anything you think I missed.  Second, spread the word.  The more people we get collaborating, the more comprehensive our coverage of the topic will be.  Re-tweet or re-plurk the blog post, share the link on Facebook, or e-mail other educators that you think would be interested.  Third, please share ideas for future topics.  You can leave your ideas in the comment section, contact me on plurk, facebook, or twitter, or drop me an e-mail.

Today's topic is web 2.0 tools for the classroom.  The definition for web 2.0 varies depending on who you talk to, but basically these are free, easy to use internet-based tools that allow for innovation and collaboration in your classroom.  There are lots of great tools out there, so it's tough to narrow it down to just five.  Here's my five:

  1. Wikispaces - Wikis are an easy to use way to share student work, post information for your students, give students a chance to collaborate, and have a place to embed many other web 2.0 applications that you use in your classroom.  In the past few years my students have shared everything from videos explaining math concepts to research on current events in the Middle East on our class wiki.  One of my favorite uses is to post a picture of the notes on my white-board for students who were absent.  Basically, having this tool available for free has revolutionized how I teach and how my students learn. 
  2. VoiceThread - VoiceThread is a "collaborative, multi-media slideshow"according to its website, but that doesn't begin to describe the versatility of this tool.  It allows you to upload files ranging from pictures, to documents, to videos.  Then you, your students, and people all over the world (if you wish) can comment on them.  You can even upload your Powerpoint presentations and allow others to comment on each slide.
  3. Blabberize - This one's just plain fun.  Take a picture w/ a mouth and make it talk.  Want Thomas Jefferson to explain the Declaration of Independence, Pythagoras to explain his theorem, or a pig to explain how bacon is made?  This is your tool.  A favorite of my students.  
  4. Animoto - Animoto allows you to take pictures, add music, and create an incredible, edgy, slideshow of just about any topic you'd like in a matter of minutes.  The beauty here is that the finished product is extremely visually appealing and that creating a video is amazingly easy.  It has quickly become a favorite in my school.  Second graders have created videos for their math class, 3rd graders showed their progress in studies of Native American Culture, music students have created videos for Jazz Appreciation Month, and 5th graders have used it so show their knowledge of American History and Geometry.  
  5. Google Docs - Very similar to Microsoft Office, but free and collaborative!  Students can create documents, spreadsheets, and presentations just like they can in Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, however they can share those creations with each other and work collaboratively on them.  Have them share their work with you, and you can see their progress and leave them notes on their work.
Now it's your turn.  What are your favorite Web 2.0 tools?  What are your thoughts on the ones I shared?  Leave me your ideas in the comment section, and please spread the word so that we can get as many educators sharing as possible.