Web Tools Blog Series: Tools to Help Students Create

Eric Brunsell’s ongoing series showcases some innovative tools and examples.

July 19, 2011

In "Collecting, Organizing, and Making Sense of Information," I suggested some tools and resources for helping you and your students collect and organize information. But, what do you do with it? In this post, I will present tools and resources that will help students synthesize information and create new things.

When I first started teaching 15 years ago, a teacher was considered tech savvy if he or she was using presentation software instead of a chalkboard. You were on the cutting-edge if you were having your students create digital presentations instead of using chart paper. Of course, anyone who tried this quickly learned that these presentations could be abused!

I guess it is a bit of an understatement to say that things have changed. For example, a couple of years ago, Eric Marcos and his middle school students began creating video tutorials to help other kids learn mathematics concepts.

In another example, Lee Kolbert, an elementary teacher in Florida decided to use the "Common Craft" style of video to create a student project. She challenged her students to make "in Plain English" style videos related to the earth science concepts. Students were able to apply their knowledge to create excellent videos. Watch them here, and here.

Two elementary teachers in Ottawa combine a class blog with podcasting to have students make meaning of current events. Their blog is called PortableRadio.Ca These podcasts are frequently broadcast on local radio stations. Check out this podcast on the Future Voter's Pledge.


There are many web tools that can be used to help students showcase their thinking. You might want to start with reading a little about digital storytelling


One of my favorite resources for showcasing student work is VoiceThread. The best way to understand what a VoiceThread is, is to watch one.

You can upload a presentation into VoiceThread, but first you need to save slides as images. You can do this in PowerPoint by selecting "Save As" and then selecting .jpg as the file type. Newer versions of PowerPoint also have "Save as Pictures" under the file menu. Once you do this, you can easily upload them into your VoiceThread.


Please see Edutopia's New Teacher Boot Camp Week 2 - Using VoiceThread for a guided exercise in creating a VoiceThread.

  • How-to Make a 1-Minute Movie
  • Glogster is a great tool for building online posters. Students can annotate Google Maps with geological features, historical sites, or neighborhood resources.
  • Picnik is a great online image editor. You can easily turn those images into cool videos by using Animoto (Animoto example).
  • Students can share presentations using Slideshare or create them online using Prezi or Sliderocket. (See an example Prezi)
  • Screencasting is simply recording whatever is happening on your computer screen. A screencast can also include audio. If you want a downloadable (free) screencasting tool, visit Jing. If you want to get started by using a free online tool, use screencast-o-matic.
    • Here is an example of how to create a VoiceThread conversation.
    • Here is an example of how teachers are using VoiceThread to have their students create book talks (and keep track of them in a wiki).
    • Michael Forster Rothbart, a photographer, traveled to Ukraine to chronicle the aftermath of Chernobyl. He wanted to dig deeper than the sensationalist photos showing deformed children and abandoned buildings to explore the complex story about how a displaced community adapts and survives. He used VoiceThread to tell this story. The VoiceThread | NPR Article | Chernobyl PhotoJournal

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