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Web Tools Blog Series: Tools to Help Students Create

Eric Brunsell

Asst Professor of Science Education @ UW-Oshkosh
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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

  • Open Thinking Wiki
  •, 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.
  • VoiceThread

    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.


    • 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

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

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Jill Hobson's picture
Jill Hobson
Director of Instructional Technology, Forsyth County Schools

The frustrating thing is that so many of these tools are FANTASTIC but have terms of service that do not allow use for children under 13 years of age. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see specific resources for this age group. Picnik, Slide Share, Prezi and Slide Rocket don't allow use under 13...

Lee Kolbert's picture
Lee Kolbert
Mgr of Educational Technology Dept. of Very Large School District in SE USA

Hi Eric,
Thanks for the Shout-Out! My students did love making those videos and really learned the concepts so much better than if they were to just read a chapter and answer questions from their textbook. It's not difficult for teachers to replicate projects like these; it's just a matter of taking a look at what other teachers are doing and seeing how you can make it your own with whatever resources (including time and other constraints) you may have. You offer some wonderful suggestions in your post. Thanks again!
Lee Kolbert (

Lisa Thompson's picture

I agree with Jill. This is becoming a terrible issue for the Under 13 student. Web sites are changing their terms to not allow Under 13. We are just going back to software on the computer and using Discovery Education for the digital media. I would love to see a "kid friendly" list.

Ron Starc's picture

My Screen Recorder Pro is an excellent screencasting tool. Records your screen and audio from the speakers or your voice from the microphone - or both simultaneously. The recordings are clear and look great when played back on your PC or uploaded to YouTube. It will record directly to AVI, WMV, MP4, or FLV. Just perfect for creating tutorials.

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