Friday, September 9, 2011

Friday's Five - Easy to Use Web 2.0 Tools to Start the Year

Friday's Five is a feature every week where I pick a new topic and list five items that I think fit best.  Then I ask you, my readers, to share your thoughts in the comment section.  For an archive of past topics, check the Friday's Five Page.  If you'd like to make suggestions about future topics or discuss topics I bring up on the blog with others, make sure you click the "like" button on the right hand side of the page to join A Teacher's Life for Me on Facebook.  Don't be shy about sharing the blog and Facebook Page with others.  Each post has a "Tweet" button on top and buttons on the bottom that allow you to share in several ways, including e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter.

One of the difficult things for me at the beginning of the school year is getting my fifth graders comfortable using technology and what they learn in class to create meaningful content for our class wiki.  For most of them, computers have been nothing more than a way to chat with their friends, practice skills, or play games.  Being creative and innovative is foreign to them.
Flickr/DeSales University

With that in mind, today's post is going to focus on five of the easiest tools with which students can learn to be creative.  These are not only great tools to use with students in the classroom, but they are a great way to get students acclimated to using technology without being overwhelmed.  As an added bonus, these are great tools for the teacher who is just starting out using technology in his/her lessons because of their simplicity.  To see some more of my favorite web 2.0 tools, have a look at the Friday's Five post from May 13, 2011.

  1. Wordle - There probably isn't an easier web 2.0 tool.  Wordle takes a list of typed words, or any text and turns it into an artistic word cloud.  There are lots of classroom applications for word clouds.  One of my favorites is to have students make a Wordle with their spelling words on Monday.  Words they got wrong on the pretest they have to type more often.  This has the twofold effect of having them practice typing the word more often and making the word appear bigger on their word cloud.  They then print out the word clouds and take them home, using them as place mats and studying at each meal.
  2. - There are lots of tools out there for making visual diagrams, but I've yet to find one that my students learn how to use faster and easier than  My students have used this tool to show relationships between characters in books they've read, to show different ways that numbers can be represented, to create flowcharts, and for many other purposes.
  3. Make Beliefs Comix - When I was looking through my Delicious links for web 2.0 cartoon creators, over ten sites came up.  Out of them, Make Beliefs Comix is by far the easiest to use.  It may not have as many options as the others, but it's still incredibly useful for allowing students to tell stories digitally, or share what they've learned with the world in cartoon form.
  4. Timetoast - Timetoast is timeline creator that allows the user to add pictures to the timelines they've created and the ability to embed the timelines in webpages, wikis, and blogs.  This tool is fantastic for allowing students in history classes the opportunity to explore events, find images that go along with the events, and to write summaries of those events for the timelines they create.  
  5. Create-a-Graph - This site does exactly what it's name implies.  It easily allows students to create graphs.  In addition to obvious uses in math class, my students have used Create-a-Graph as a tool in preparing projects and reports in Social Studies classes because of the quick, simple way one can turn historical statistics into something visually appealing.
Now it's your turn.  What are some web 2.0 tools and websites that you use in the beginning of the year to get your students used to being innovative with technology?  Have your students used any of the above tools?  What did they use them for?  What plans do you have for them in the future?  Please share your thoughts with us in the comment section.  Also, pass the post along to others using Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, and Google+, so that we can hear from them.  I'd love to hear what others are doing in their classrooms.