Technology for the 21st Century: ISTE Philadelphia 2011
Best Web Tools for the Classroom
The world of Internet technology is a fast moving place, and adapting that technology to educate one’s students can be a daunting task to undertake. Technology changes so rapidly, that as soon as a teacher is accustomed to one program, another, supposedly better program emerges, making that previous program obsolete. Some might feel it’s just easier to stick to the tried-and-true pen and paper.
For those brave souls who want to adapt useful technologies for the betterment of their students’ learning, Adam Bellow is there to help. The founder and president of eduteacher.net, Bellow works to make the job of a teacher or administrator a fair bit easier. His site is a conglomeration of all of the best Web tools currently available that are useful for education. It organizes Internet apps by type so that teachers can find exactly what need, or even stumble upon something cool that they didn’t expect expect to find.
Bellow presented just a few of his favorite Web tools that teachers could use at the recent ISTE conference in Philadephia. Before long, it became hard not to feel a pang of jealousy for students still in school.
One common function of the Web tools Bellow demonstrated is that they all do a job similar to expensive software, and yet they can be accessed anywhere, and are often completely free, Bellow’s “favorite F word.”
One such program is JayCut, a movie editing software tool not unlike Final Cut Pro (though far simpler), that allows users tog create their own movies, and without any hardware or software and with online file storage. UJam serves a similar function, standing in for music editing software like GarageBand, but also allowing students to create their own songs from scratch, simply by putting them on a timeline, much like they would in a old-fashioned music book.
Teachers can also encourage students to create dynamic presentations on a wide range of topics with Capzles, another free tool that allows one to add media, whether it be audio, video, pictures or text, and put these documents on a timeline. These timelines can be used for anything from laying out the events of the French Revolution, to explaining how students spent their summer vacation.
For younger students without the same amount of multimedia at their fingertips, (though really for all ages) there is Go! Animate, an online animation Web tool where kids can create cartoons, whether they be simple, or considerably complicated, as some of the more impressive sample videos on the Go! Animate Web site show.
Aside from creating media, there are tools that make utilizing other tools easier, such as SynchTube, which allows students to all watch the same Youtube videos and then post comments on a board alongside the video. This would be useful to any teacher who wanted all of their students to watch a particular video or set of videos, prove that they watched the video by commenting, and even collaborate or share their thoughts with their classmates.
Then there are tools that are not quite so flashy, but provide an invaluable service to students and teachers alike. Paper Rater will check for spelling and grammar, point out clichés, comment on word choice, and in general act as one’s own personal editor, doing everything except comment on the actual meaning of the paper (a notable drawback, to be sure). It assigns preliminary grades according to grade level and even checks for plagiarism, helping inadvertent plagiarism remain free of suspicion.
Taken all together, it becomes clear that the online resources available today can provide immense benefits in the classroom. It remains up to the teacher to put these tools to use. Luckily, Adam Bellow is there to lend a helping hand. #