Now that school is done, or at least winding down, for the year, take some time to surf around and explore a rich variety of resources that will help supercharge your instruction in the fall. Here are eleven ideas from Steve Dembo (@teach42) and I (@lrougeux) to get you started. You can also check out the webinar archive from our session on June 7.
Classics with a Twist
1. Wordle – Create a word cloud to review what your students thought about the school year. And, don’t forget to check out Jen Wagner’s Guess the Wordle site.
2. Picnik – Make a wordle with all your students’ names on it and then spice it up with Picnik to make a thematic door sign for your classroom.
3. Google Earth – You’ve been there, done that, but don’t miss out on all the new content that is added by checking out the Google Earth Gallery
4. GlogsterEDU – There are so many ways to use this free, content creation tool. Think of a new way for 2011-2012. Go green and have your students create their science fair projects sans the tri-fold board. Let your students create digital bios so you can get to know their interests. Use it to introduce the classroom rules and procedures. The possibilities are endless!
5. Prezi – Sure you can use Prezi’s non-linear nature to make some great presentations or student research reports, but have you tried to use it as a bell-ringer review? Put a bunch of numbers and symbols onto the canvas and challenge your students to create a path to the right equations.
6. PhotoPeach – After a summer away, give your students a chance to introduce themselves to the class in their own voice by creating a digital story in seconds. Challenge them to add in trivia questions about their likes and dislikes as way to get to know each other.
New Stuff with a Classic Twist
7. Singing Fingers – Use this interactive multi-touch media creation tool to have your students fingerpaint their songs.
8. DoodleBuzz – Search news like you’ve never done before with through typographic news explorations.
9. Aurasma – Augmented Reality for the classroom! Put digital layers on top of traditional assignments.
10. QR Codes – Flip your classroom by letting your students curate the textbook!
11. Scoop.it – Spend the summer months curating content that you and your students will explore.
I remember [fondly] writing a particularly engaging research paper in college [no, seriously, I did like writing papers . . . ] on the contradictions of womanhood and motherhood in medieval England. My dorm room was reduced to a small pathway from door to bed, the rest of the floor was piled high with books procured from several different libraries. [Yes, libraries that still had paper card catalogs.] I enjoyed the researching process, found satisfaction in uncovering facts that could support my theories.
While I truly did, and still do, enjoy researching I’ll likely never have that same tactile experience found in piles of books, in-line notes, and stacks of note cards. When I start a research project today I don’t open the cover of a book, I boot up my MacBook and hit Firefox. I realize that among many who engage in research as a profession or, even, as a serious hobby may perceive this as capitulation to the digital age information luxuries. I agree that the Internet has made it easier to locate information, yet it has also necessitated the refinement of data analysis.
Few students today will encounter the problem of not finding information. Rather, they tend to find too much information and struggle to evaluate the reliability and authenticity of that information. Our students recognize the value of the Internet for research, but often do not know how to navigate it appropriately and analyze the information they find. Many start and end with Google.
In this post, we’ll explore a handful of excellent web tools that can empower students to more effectively search and synthesize.
Tips for Smarter Searching
-Get smarter with reading search results. Recognize the way search engines organize the results, how page rank impacts the order, and which results may be sponsored links. Much has been written about Google’s search engine. Check out Wired magazine’s review of Google’s dominance among search engines. Understandably, when we start using a company name as a verb it tends to be the standard. Also keep in mind that Google and most other search engines recognize certain operators that refine search results. For more information visit the Google help site. Tony Vincent created a fantastic Prezi with great tips and tricks for maximizing Google search.
-For K-12 students, the number of search results yielded by Google may be overwhelming. Consider alternatives to Google, like NoodleQuest and KidsClick for elementary and middle school and schoolr, tagedu, and yolink for middle and high school. I’ve even had students start with the search engines built into popular social bookmarking applications, like delicious and diigo, so they sift through the resources that other web users have already found valuable.
-There are a handful of web applications that can assist students with identifying main ideas, themes, and key points in digital text. Word clouds analyze a text sample and create a visual in which repeated words are identified by their physical size on the cloud. I like Wordle, TagCrowd, Tagul, and ABC Ya! Word Clouds. I often use word clouds as a literacy tool to help students develop pre-reading questions and hypotheses as a focus during reading. Word Sift is a word cloud application with additional literacy tools — embedded Visual Thesaurus widget, working space, and the ability to see the words from the cloud highlighted in the original source text. Great Summary and GistWeb both use an algorithm to identify main idea sentences within the text.
Tools For Organizing Information
–Diigo is a social bookmarking and annotation application. Like social bookmarking tools, Diigo allows users to create a free account and bookmark Internet resources to a web-based library. The bookmarks can be private or shared with other Diigo users. Where Diigo differs from other social bookmarking tools is that users can annotate the sites with highlights, in-line comments, tags, and, even, digital “sticky notes.” These annotation can be public or private. Users can organize bookmarks through tags and lists and can collaborate with others through the group bookmarks. Diigo has added some features that rival another great tool, Evernote. Diigo now allows users to bookmark screen shots and cached versions of web pages.
–Google Docs is your traditional “office” computing in the cloud. Users can create, edit, revise, collaborate on, and publish word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. The revision history feature and in-line comments makes this a terrific tool for managing and creating transparency with the writing process. It is also a great collaboration tool as multiple users can view and edit a single document in real time or asynchronously. Wikis, such as Wikispaces and PB Works also offer some similar functionality with embedded threaded discussion boards in an education-friendly environment.