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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

"Teachers need to integrate technology seamlessly into the curriculum instead of viewing it as an add-on, an afterthought or an event." -- Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Educational Consultant, Curriculum Designers, Inc.

Web 2.0 tools are online software programs that allow users to do a number of different things. They can be used to teach curriculum content, store data, create or edit video, edit photos, collaborate and so much more. These programs are often free and are used by teachers, students and sometimes parents, both in and out of the classroom, on a pretty regular basis.

The question then becomes: are educators prepared to use these tools? Are educators, especially new ones, ready to incorporate Web 2.0 tools into their classroom? How can they be sure that the tool will remain a support piece rather than a replacement for their lesson planning and instructional practice?

Embracing the use of Web 2.0 tools in lesson planning may still be new to many educators. However, it's important to consider how these tools can serve as a powerful companion as we seek to improve and enhance our lessons with students. When we learn to harness their power to bring learning alive in the classroom, it’s a benefit to all!

As we talk about Web 2.0 tools, here's one point I want to stress. We need to remember that it's not about the specific tools we use with our planning and our students, but why and when any given tool is needed. Ideally there also needs to be a culture within the school that values using technology to build lessons that ultimately will be used in the classroom. As a former school principal, I can guarantee that if the school leadership is modeling the use of technology by providing professional development in this area, it will support the school community to effectively integrate technology for teaching and learning.

With so many free tools available on the web today, how do we decide which will be the best fit for our use? Let’s take a look at five free Web 2.0 educational tools. I encourage you to seek them out, practice with them and learn to incorporate them as you prepare your lesson plans. Will learning to use these tools take time? Yes. But I hope you’ll agree that the benefits are well worth your time!

1. Pinterest

If you've not heard of Pinterest, what rock have you been hiding under? OK, kidding aside, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard filled with incredible resources for anyone, anytime! Most importantly, it’s become a huge support piece to educators worldwide. The Pinterest team describes it this way:

Pinterest lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes and organize their favorite recipes. Best of all, you can browse pinboards created by other people. Browsing pinboards is a fun way to discover new things and get inspiration from people who share your interests.

Pinterest has taken the educational community by storm, and here’s why: resources there are visual, clickable and shareable. Not only that, the virtual boards created can be shared by a group or built by one person. Further, the lessons being curated in an "open source" manner are easy to access and integrate into your planning. Many thoughtful, experienced educators are sharing great lessons and resources that simply should not be missed. Here are a few "pinners" that I recommend you seek out as you consider this resource for lesson planning support:

Each of us has resources to share that you can easily access and begin to incorporate into your planning. If you have an account, you can choose to follow a bunch of cool pinners and take advantage of the resources they share, or just curate for yourself. And remember . . . you don't need to have a Pinterest account to access these great, free resources.

2. Edcanvas

Edcanvas is a fairly new free Web 2.0 tool. I see so much potential for it as a support system for good, strong lesson plans. The education community is growing at Edcanvas, and developer Amy Lin blogs about product updates here.

Here's what the Edcanvas team has to say about their tool: "Edcanvas is the one place for teachers to create and deliver lessons digitally. Teachers and students can use Edcanvas to organize their work and present knowledge." Pretty neat concept.

Through the use of canvases that you build and create following simple steps, you are organizing, presenting and sharing online resources with your students and colleagues in a way that's vibrant and unique. Visit the Edcanvas home page to see how it works and how easy it can be to start building and sharing a great lesson. Once there, you'll see and experience tons of resources that you can start using right away to enhance your lessons. Here's an example of a canvas already created by Anthony Evans on Sentence Writing. Lastly, here is a short 38-second video that shows how easy it is to create an Edcanvas.

3. LiveBinders

I'm a big fan of Livebinders, and so are thousands of educators world-wide! Livebinders were created so that anyone, but especially educators, could do with digital information what we typically do with the papers on our desk -- organize them into nice containers like three-ring binders on a shelf. With these online binders, you can also upload your documents and easily combine them with your links in a neat and organized way. The beauty of LiveBinders is that you can organize a lesson there, collaborate with a colleague in writing that lesson on a binder, and share it across many spaces. You can even have students work collaboratively on binders.

Once you’ve created your binder by filling it with links, resources, photos or videos, you can share it via email, link it to anything, embed it in a blog or view it in presentation mode. Many educators are using LiveBinders to support their going paperless or to house their presentation materials for an upcoming conference. Or they might create one at an event and add links to it as the event is in progress. Creating a LiveBinder to support your lesson planning will save you time and become a living document that you can update anytime. Here's a binder that I created for my presentation in June at ISTE12 that's been viewed over 4,800 times! Take a look at it and think about ways that you could begin developing one to use in your classroom. Could it work for you?

4. Storybird

If you're looking to provide vivid, visual support to your language arts lesson, this is the tool for you. Here’s what the Storybird team shares:

Remember, Storybird is family friendly, and all stories submitted to our public library must be appropriate for children. Storybird helps people connect, play, and create and enjoy stories. Like a game, it's meant to be fun and give you hours of enjoyment. And, like a game, it comes with some rules.

That said, Storybird is a fun and easy-to-use tool for creating short, visual stories. You and your students can select artwork, drag and organize photos, and add your own text to create beautiful digital stories. These creations can then be published on the web with adjustable privacy settings and with the option to allow comments, which is perfect for teachers to encourage student collaboration. In addition, there is the option to create a classroom account. You can sign up for free or consider an upgrade to a paid account. There's even a "refer a friend" program. The opportunities to use this free Web 2.0 tool to enhance your reading lessons are there for the asking. Take a peek at one of my Storybirds, then get started with creating yours!

5. VoiceThread

VoiceThread has been a solid lesson-planning standby tool for some time. It's a collaborative, multimedia slide show that allows students to comment on images, documents and videos through text, video and audio files. Teachers can set up groups and classes as well as moderate comments, embed in blogs, and export to audio files. It's an easy way to differentiate instruction while providing choices to "show" learning, engage in conversation, and think openly and critically about content. Click here to see a great example: "What's a VoiceThread anyway?" Then consider the ways you could incorporate VT into a great lesson in reading, writing or arithmetic.

Finding Your Comfort Zone

Sometimes the idea of incorporating these tools into your lesson-planning structure might seem overwhelming. You may even be concerned that Web 2.0 tools won’t fit into your school or district standards. Well, for those who have trepidations, ISTE has developed a set of educational technology standards for teachers. These standards, called ISTE NETS, seek to move beyond the tool and address the bigger picture of technology in the classroom and in professional practice. Take some time to visit the teachers' page and decide for yourself regarding what will or won't work to support your comfortable tool integration. In the meantime, take a look at a great video on how one teacher uses free Web 2.0 tools in her classroom:

Do you already use these Web 2.0 tools? Will you commit to trying a new one? Are there others that you use? We'd love to connect with you! Take the time to check out these five cool tools. And leave a comment below to share with us which tools you use, and how they're supporting your lesson planning.

This blog is part of a series sponsored by TEQ.
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Free Web Tools for Learning

Comments (13)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Anne Beninghof's picture

Cognician.com is a web site that develops "cogs" which are thinking/problem solving/planning tools for your computer. One of the cogs is called The Differentiated Lesson Planner and it guides a teacher through planning a lesson, using the teacher's instructional objective, and prompting thinking about ways to differentiate it. The cog is available as a free download.

aunttammie's picture
aunttammie
Ninth grade English teacher in a Catholic High School

I've loved Livebinders for a few years now, and recommend the live.classroom20 binder for TONS of resources! Just found out about edcanvas here, and it is remarkable! Really looking forward to using it. Thanks!

MichelleM's picture

I have personally found some ideas to incorporate in my planning on Pinterest. I regularly search the "Education" category to see if there are any ideas that I can incorporate into my classroom. There are also several teachers that I "follow" on Pinterest.

At what grade level does Storybird work the best?

Barbie Jo's picture
Barbie Jo
Kinder through 5th grade science teacher

I love using pintrest in my planning. I have gotten a ton of great teaching ideas from it. The problem that I seem to have is that if I want to do planning at my school site, my district have pintrest blocked by the filters so I cannot use it through any of the school computers. I think that so many times teachers want to use technology in their lessons and the district state that they want technology to be used in the classroom but there are so filters and blocks that it makes it hard to use these great resources.

Riki's picture
Riki
Youtopia Engagement and Motivation Leader

Look at www.Youtopia.com is an engagement and motivation platform using gamification tools to help teachers encourage positive behavior, service and other initiatives. Students that perform the assigned challenges can receive points and badges to track their own success as well as the class' success. Its a great tool if your looking for an easy class room management system that is also FUN for your students. check it out! Currently teachers can sign up their classrooms for free and even be entered to win a free tablet....free stuff is cool!

John Allan's picture

I post links to and comments on Web 2.0 resources that I think would be useful for educators or educational developers at http://www.edtechisus.com on a regular basis. In addition I also have created a Lesson Preparation page of links to Web 2.0 resources that can be used for lesson creation. Some of these include How to lessons in PDF format. This is just my hobby site as I experiment with Web 2.0 tools before using them with students or presenting them to instructors at education conferences. I hope you find them useful.

KenyaSchoolReport's picture
KenyaSchoolReport
Helping schools in Kenya with resources for 21st Century learning

We have also list 100's of other free tools at Kenyaschoolreport.com/resources

DGuilbault's picture
DGuilbault
2nd Grade Teacher, Spokane, WA

I am a second grade teacher and I was wondering if anyone has used Storybird with that young of an age group and if so, how did it go? It would a be fun way for them to create stories, but I am not sure if it would be too difficult.

Carolyn's picture
Carolyn
9-12 FACSE

I'm glad to see a "legitimate" use for Pinterest so I don't always appear to be crafting and shopping! I fear I'll fall into the trap of pinning lots and doing none.
LiveBinders scares me away because I already have to be really careful about clutter - whether it's on my desk, in my filing cabinet, or electonic files; this looks like a place I could easily lose things but with good intentions and then wonder "Where did I put that?" and forget it was in a virtual binder, not a real binder.
VoiceThread intrigues me; I could see uses in small doses (recently had a student in the hospital trying to work with the class and keep up - this web 2.0 tool could have been helpful). Managing logins, accounts, groups, etc. sounds daunting, and creating meaningful tasks that could work with students and their family schedules at home (figuring out when kids can actually get together to do the VoiceThread and not interrupt dinner, bedtime, etc) will take some trial and error.
EdCanvas looks the most exciting and useable to me with my high school Family and Consumer Sciences courses. I like the idea of creating something new and engaging that I could use in class and also connect absent students to in order help them catch up. I think EdCanvas lessons will also be very useable in the online course environment I'd like to create someday. I need to figure out issues with youtube (it's blocked for our kids) so that videos I insert will actually be able to be viewed. As always, the TIME creating a quality product will deter me from using any of these a lot.

Lani's picture
Lani
Virginia 4th grade teacher

I've never heard of Edcanvas, LiveBinders, or VoiceThread. I like that they are resources to help teachers with their lesson planning. So often technology is strictly to be used in the classroom. It's nice to see some technology that is useful for helping teachers organize their plans. I can't wait to check them out and start using some of them!

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