Evaluating Websites – EDIM 514 (u03a1)

Empressr

http://www.empressr.com/

Empressr is a web-based presentation tool that allows users to create “better” presentations.  You can embed video and audio, add video-like transitions between slides, set the presentation to run automatically and directly record video or audio from your computer to the presentation. These and other cool features set Empressr apart from a more traditional tool like PowerPoint.  Store and share your presentation on their site, send the url, download or embed to your own blog or website. The problem I found with this website was that I could not get the record video or audio tools to work. I still don’t know whether this was a bug with the site or a problem with my system. It is a free program but it does require an email address for registration. There is a small gallery on the front page but I would still recommend this for older students. I tried to find inappropriate material and never did.
Rating: 3 or 4 out of 5. Help Forums could be better and the audio/video recording option is sometimes wonky.

Phixr

http://www.phixr.com/

I really like Phixr – an online image editing tool. It’s free, it’s web-based and it doesn’t require users to register. Registration-free users can edit and work on images for up to three hours. After that time, the images are deleted so this is s good tool for quick fixes within a classroom setting. Users can edit images, make quick fixes, add effects. Images can be saved in several different formats, saved to online photo-sharing sites or emailed to specified people.  With registration, you can create usergroups and use the email feature. Since it’s not a photo-sharing or storage site, there is no gallery to browse. I highly recommend this tool for classroom use. It’s certainly not robust like Photoshop but neither is it difficult to use.
Rating: 4 out of 5.

Nota

http://notaland.com/

Nota calls itself an online “notebook” but that is much too humble of a description in my opinion.  Within Nota’s blank canvas pages, you can create original content, embed audio, video, weblinks, images, and widgets  – just to name a few.  Students can collaborate in real-time and every entry is “stamped” with the name and date of the person who added the content. Nota offers direct feed from sites like Flickr, Wikipedia, Google Maps and Youtube. If any of these sites are blocked, the content is not available. Editors can name contributors and “notebooks” can be kept private.  Nota is free web-based tool and full names and email addresses are required for registration.
Rating: 4 out of 5. Since this tool has such great potential for education, they should include tutorials and/or generally beef-up the “how-to” section.

Animoto

http://animoto.com/education

Animoto is an easy to use video creator. Users simply upload images, pick a sound track – (from their music library) and the wizards behind the curtain at Animoto turn them into a “music-video” style video. Users can add text, select which photos to highlight more prominently, and they recently made it possible to upload videos in addition to still images. It’s a great solution to digital storytelling for educators who don’t have the time to teach video-editing or film-making because the emphasis is on the story rather than the production. Educator accounts are available and students can use a school code to login without needing to register.
Rating: 4 out of 5.

Wikispaces

Wikispaces is a free wiki creation tool. Teachers can use it to create online class pages and students can use it to develop collaborative projects.  Sites can be made private or public and all work contributions can be tracked. It is user-friendly, comes with ample help resources and teachers can set-up pages for students so that they don’t have to supply email addresses.
Rating: 5/ 5.

Another very interesting site I found is called KidsVid. It’s part of the suite of educational resources put together by the good folks from 4teachers. It’s got a great tools for digital storytelling, including an online advanced storyboarding sheet that prompts users to put in information for the setting, lighting, camera angles, actors, etc. This is an interactive form that can be printed. The only problem is that there aren’t any “help” forums or tutorials. I worked with it for over an hour and never figured out how to use it. I emailed them to ask if there was an available user-guide that and asked that they make it more user-friendly for students since that is their intended audience. I haven’t heard back but will post their response when I do.

Human Filters – I am part of a Ning group for secondary history teachers, a beginners Classroom 2.0 group and I follow Vicki Davis and Kathy Schrock – two 21st Century dynamo educators – on Twitter. All of these connections provide me with great tips, ideas and resources.  The more I delve into these waters, the more I can appreciate the phrase used in the introduction to these week’s activities: “pay it forward.” I am continually amazed and inspired by the generosity of educators who post and share their best practices and resources. When I first started using Diigo, I used it primarily as a bookmarking tool. Now, I see the power of its annotation and tagging tools. I believe that these tools can also be considered “human filters” because they put like-minded people together.



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