Edmodo–I have fallen in love with Edmodo this past school year. It’s a fantastic way to keep the kids engaged even after they leave the classroom. Teachers can set up secure groups for all of their classes (no limit to the number of students!) and invite students to join. Once students are logged in, they can have access to anything that their teacher and classmates post on the class page. Parents can even create accounts to stay in touch (they can contact the teacher and view their students’ info, but they can’t see the other kids). The best part is, it’s completely free! Keep in mind that it can be complicated to delete accounts should you ever need to. It requires emailing the folks at Edmodo (who ausually respond pretty quickly) and having them delete it.
Popplet–Mind mapping a terrific way for students to show their thinking in a visual way. I’ve seen teachers use Popplet in lessons about vocabulary, characterization, discussing readings…the possibilities are quite extensive. It would take some instruction up front to get students used to using the tools on Popplet, and of course, it would be ill advised to allow students to use pictures and/or video without properly citing it. Once the foundations and expectations are set, students are free to be creative!
Quizlet— One of things I spend a lot of time on with my ESL kiddos is vocabulary. I’m not a fan of drilling words, but I have found a great tool online (that’s free of course) to get kids to study their words. Quizlet allows you to create sets of digital flashcards and share them with students. I share mine through Edmodo. Students can use the flashcards in the traditional sense of looking at the word and trying to remember to definition, but there are also games for them to play to increase their speed. This website is really only for rote memorization, but it’s a great way to get kids to study.
GoAnimate— As an ESL teacher, I am constantly looking for ways to get my kids to practice speaking. GoAnimate is a great way to get kids to produce a speaking activity using the computer. Kids can create very short cartoons by recording their own voice and choosing one of the settings provided by GoAnimate. The free version is simple to use, but there aren’t many options for settings. Also, this site requires an account for each student, which means they would need an email address and a password to start creating videos. A way around this (if you don’t want your kids entering their information online) would be to create dummy emails in Gmail.
Discovery Education’s Puzzle Maker— I find that crossword puzzles are a great way to check for surface-level understanding of topics. I use them a lot for review activities before a test of quiz, but something else that I’ve started doing is having kids make their own puzzles. We print them in the computer lab and then they trade puzzles to try and complete them. I’ve seen some great interactions between kids as they decipher one another’s clues. Similar to Popplet, it does take a bit of front loading to teach kids how to make the puzzles on the website, but it’s a tool that I turn to every once and a while as a fun, quick review activity.
Screencst-O-Matic— I’ve watched plenty of screencasts in my day for various types of computer activities. I’ve recently become braver and began creating my own screencasts to show to students. They honetly save a lot of time in explaining how to do something on the computer. A quick and very simple way to create screencasts is with this tool. You don’t even need an account to create one. You can upload videos to your YouTube account, or save them right on your computer. It’s a very simple point and click interface. If you want to make fancier screencasts, you’re better off going with something like Snagit, which is not free like Screencast-O-Matic.
Kidblog–This is a great blogging platform that is specifically designed for classroom use. It’s a super simple interface that it easy for teachers and students to use. Teachers also have total control over the privacy settings for all students accounts, as well as monitoring of posts, comments, passwords, etc. It’s a very safe place to introduce blogging to an elementary or middle school class. Kidblog has somewhat limited space available, however, so uploading a bunch of video or lots and lots of pictures would eat up a lot of the available space. As a writing platform with a few photos, it’s ideal for younger students.
ThingLink–I’ve recently discovered this website (and free mobile app!). Basically, it’s a new take on a multimedia platform. Users can upload a picture (please cite sources or use Creative Commons), and then add “nubbins” to their image. The nubbins act a links to YouTube, Wikipedia, GoogleDocs, other websites, really any online resource you choose to add. It’s not originally designed to use in schools, however, so students need to create personal accounts. Students would also be exposed to other ThingLink users as well as advertisements. But the interface is easy to use and it’s a great way to gather and organize various types of materials on any given topic. It could be a really attractive platform for research presentations.
Animoto–This free website is a great way to compile photos and video into a polished slide show. It user-friendly and the interface is simple. If your school is really into Animoto, an educators account can be purchased for $249 per year…if not, the free version is adequate, although students accounts would not be private and secure. On the upside, to videos are easy to share. It would be a great way for students to document their learning through images.
TodaysMeet–Since being here in Galway, my classmates have introduced me to TodaysMeet, and I have fallen in love. I’m really looking forward to using this next year. It’s like a mini Twitter that is confined to your class. Students don’t need a log in or anything, all they have to do is type in the URL and enter their name to join the discussion. The teacher can decide how long to save the discussion thread for (2 hours, 2 weeks, one month, etc.). It’s very safe and secure and a terrific way to increase student participation.
SpellingCity— SpellingCity is a great, free tool for young students to practice spelling and vocabulary online. There are many fun, free games that teachers can easily create and share the links to. There are even more games in the Premium version (but that’s not free). There are fun activities that can be played as a class on the SmartBoard or the link can be shared with students on Edmodo or a class website.
Easel.ly–This infographic generator is still in beta, but it’s shaping up to be a great tool. The interface was very simple, and the graphics are nice. This would be a great alternative to PointPoint or the traditional poster. In order to save and share their work, students do not need to create an account, and the website is free. There is even a handy tutorial video to watch to get started with! Teachers could even create posters to display the main idea of a unit, post on class websites, or even share information on online platforms like Pinterest.