There are so many tools for teachers to use to create a classroom with web and technology integration. It can actually get overwhelming if you try to tackle too many at the same time. For this reason, I will focus on several key areas and the tools you can use to accomplish specific tasks in your instruction.
1. Building an Online Course Presence
Course websites do so much more than just provide information to students. They can also open up your classroom to parents, peers and even future students. There are many different ways to use the web to deliver and communicate course content. Weebly, of course, is great . It is easy to use and can be a place to put everything from assignments to embedded Youtube videos. If you are not looking to have students submit documents and grade assignments, it is a great choice. I have created several Weebly sites (My APES site) and use them due to their convenience and simplicity.
For more advanced options and with a little bit of FTP and HTML knowledge, you can upload WordPress and develop your own domain using 1and1 or Godaddy. This gives you more creative freedom but it can get complicated when you begin using databases and SQL. It is easy to get immersed in creation of a site, so unless you want something really unique or complicated, steer clear of this option until you have a little experience.
Another option that a lot of instructors enjoy is using a more social based site such asGoogle Classroom, Edmodo or Wikispaces. All of these allow students to upload and submit assignments. They do require students have a login to access and manipulate content. If you want a site good for parents to access, maybe you could create a Weebly site and have a link to your Google classroom or Edmodo. There are rumors that Edmodo and Google Classroom are in talks to collaborate but nothing has been finalized. Edmodo did integrate Google Docs back in 2012 so they do have a working relationship with Google. It may be just a matter of time before they are more seamless.
It is such a personal decision that the most important thing to consider is your comfort level with the process and how useful you can make it for the course. If you create a beautiful complicated website but you don’t use it, there seems to be little point. On the contrast, if you are using your site daily and constantly needing new features, it might be time to check out some books on website creation or do some WordPress tutorials and upgrade.
2. Project tools for students
Depending upon the project demands, students may find several different sites useful. If they want to create a visual representation of key words in a piece of literature,Wordle might be a great choice. Need to do a graphic organizer, check out Gliffy. Need many students to be able to collaborate and post content simultaneously, tryPadlet or Lino.
I would caution against using any tools that you have not tried out extensively. Inevitably, students seem to run into a problem and you must be able to troubleshoot. It can be stressful if you are not familiar with the program. To avoid this mishap, make sure you work through all parts of the project before you give it to students. Sometimes what might seem feasible on paper, doesn’t merge well with the technology. Small things, like learning how to do combination words on Wordle or embed pictures onto a Lino board will help you answer questions as they arise.
3. Never underestimate the value of Social Media
Whether you are asking kids to hashtag a project image on Instagram, submit their thoughts to a Youtube video or even live Tweet with you during the State of the Union address, these are great sites for engagement.
Recently, I wanted my AP Environmental Science students to watch the State of the Union address to look for comments about the Environment or Environmental Policies. I offered them several options. They could write down comments and their thoughts on a piece of paper or they could Tweet, Vine, Youtube or Instagram their thougths. Many of them chose the social media options.
Remember to always offer an alternative because there are students who still do not have access to technology outside of school and we need to be aware of these limitations.
What Web 2.0 tools are your favorites? Did I mention them? I would love to hear from you in the comments. What did I leave out?