There are a wide variety of technology tools and resources that can be meaningfully integrated into the classroom environment. Below is a short list of tools that I am familiar with accompanied by a brief description.
Evernote – Evernote is notetaking software that stores your thoughts in the cloud allowing you to access your ‘notes’ from any device that has Evernote installed, or via their website. The beauty of Evernote is that is allows you to integrate text, photos, audio clips, webpages, and other ‘clippings’ into one place. You can then organize your notes into notebooks, add tags, make comments and more. One really powerful feature is the ability to create “shared notebooks”, allowing you to have collaborative spaces for students and teachers. Evernote is very easy to use and assists in managing the vast quantities of information. The basic features are free and would serve the purposes of most students and teachers. Check out some tips for getting started with Evernote. Mobile App Available
SMART Notebook – Many classrooms in 21st century schools are equipped with Interactive White Boards (IWB’s). One manufacturer is SMART Technologies, and SMART Notebook is the software that they have designed to work seamlessly with their SMART Boards. Using SMART Notebook, teachers can create highly interactive lessons that integrate audio, video, visual aids, and engage students in the learning process. When using SMART Notebook, Marcie recommends creating activities for the students to get up and utilize at the IWB, not just the teacher.
Diigo – Diigo is a social bookmarking webservice that allows you to bookmark and tag webpages to assist with managing vast quantities of information. Users can also utilize the features to highlight text on webpages, capture screen shots, make comments on webpages, and mark pages to be read at a later time. These features have various privacy settings that can be controlled by the user. Educators should apply for the free educator account to utilize some additional extra features. Diigo also has collaborative functions which allow users to join groups to share specific resources and webpages. It can make a great addition to your Personal Learning Network (PLN)! The basic features are free and would serve the purposes of most students and teachers. As you are allowing someone else to be responsible for the storage of your bookmarks, it is a good idea to export and save your downloads on a regular basis, just in case! Check out this video to help get started with Diigo. Mobile App Available
LiveBinders – This is a great website for helping organize groups of webpages in an effective way, similar to other bookmarking tools. Teachers can group webpages for students to explore about a specific topic, or students can create binders full of their favorite webpages or webpages they use for a specific purpose. The user interface is fairly straight forward, very visual, and with a little practice users will have the functions figured out. One nice feature is that you can create public or private binders. If you are looking for an idea, take a peek at this LiveBinder of mathematics resources designed for the Ontario Grade 4 Curriculum that Marcie created.
lino – This is a virtual bulletin board where multiple users can collaboratively share their ideas using sticky notes and photos. In the classroom it makes for a very multipurpose tool – collecting ideas quickly from a group, organizing information, or make a personal board with reminders. It is a free tool, and doesn’t require users to register for an account or have an email address which makes using it quick and easy especially when working with younger students. One challenge when working with this tool is that multiple users can place items in the same location causing a cluttered appearance. Mobile App Available
Wordle, Tagxedo – These are tools that allow you to create a word cloud to assist in visualizing trends that occur in words. These tools work by analyzing the words that you include and making the most frequent words the largest font size, and the less frequent words a smaller font size. This allows students and teachers to analyze trends in pieces of text. These tools can require downloading specific plug-ins specific to your internet browser, and can make completing an easy task a little more challenging. One tip is to make sure to copy the text to your clipboard before you analyze it, just in case you don’t have the proper plug-ins installed. Check out this blog post written by Marcie with a description of how to use word clouds as an assessment strategy.
Today’s Meet – Have you heard about backchannelling? Today’s Meet is a great way to engage your students in an online discussion related to a book you are examining, a video you are watching, or a speaker they are listening to. Using Today’s Meet you can create a temporary chat room (2 hours – 1 year), where participants can have a meaningful discussion that is uncluttered and advertisement free. There is no log-in required, and you can archive the conversation to examine specific students contributions or record for assessment documentation. Although the chat rooms are private, anyone with the URL or web address can access it so there is the potential for other people to make posts.
Video Creation Tools
Animoto – This is a quick way to turn photos into a beautiful video, in a quick and user friendly website. The lite version (free), is limited in the number of styles you are able to use. You can also add titles, captions, and music quickly and create a very professional looking product in a limited amount of time. After you have completed creation, videos are easy to share through social networking sites including Twitter and Facebook, can be emailed, or even downloaded to your computer. If you are a teacher, be sure to sign up for the free Animoto Plus account for teachers. Mobile App Available
Screencast-O-Matic – Do you ever have specific instructions that you want to be able to have students watch a video of? This tool provides you with a way to make a video recording of your screen. Using the free version, you are able to record up to 15 minutes using your screen and/or webcam, publish the video on YouTube, or export it a variety of formats. With the pro membership ($15/year), your functionality increases to include editing tools, longer videos, and HD hosting. When making screencasts, be conscious of avoiding specific dates, or personalizing the content too much so that you are able to utilize the videos in the future.
Video Conferencing Tools
Video conferencing tools including Skype and Google Hangout can be used to support inquiry in the classroom. Through connecting with professionals such as geologists, archaeologists, and other classrooms around the world, teachers can support students’ natural curiosity and help them make real world connections. The use of this technology also supports the incorporation of 21st century skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and problem solving) within an applicable context.
Recently, Marcie presented at CONNECT 2013 – Canada’s Learning and Technology Conference on Using Video Conferencing Tools to Support Student Inquiry.
Other Technology Tools
LiveScribe Pen – The LiveScribe Pen is a “smart” pen that contains a ball point pen, that contains an small video camera and audio recorder. When used with LiveScribe paper that contains a special dotted pattern, the pen records a video of what is being written along with the audio of what is being said. It can then be uploaded to a computer, where it can be replayed, shared, and stored for future reference. These pens are wonderful for utilizing when conducting student assessments in order to have documentations of the conversations with students. They can also be utilized by students to help visualize their thinking and give them multiple modes to express themselves through. The pens can be purchased for around $150 at many major retailers. For a quick overview of how the LiveScribe Pen works, check out this short video.