My Favorite Web 2.0 Tools
Choosing Web 2.0 Tools
In the last few years, I have found a variety of Web 2.0 tools to help students, professors, and others to enhance learning and writing skills. Some of my favorites include those that promote collaboration, aid with critical thinking, encourage learning, and support fun in learning. Two sources for locating such tools for your own use are Richard Byrne's Free Technology for Teachers and Edudemic. I also recommend signing up for a Diigo account and then subscribe to Diigo in Education to connect with other educators who post their findings from the Web. Those findings include useful Web tools, but also articles on ways to use the tools, promoting collaboration among teachers.
Diigo itself is one of my favorite sites because it is a social bookmarking site. It does much more than bookmark sources, however. I can highlight passages I want to use for a class or for myself. I can share that highlighting with my students. Since I teach composition, my students must write research papers. Diigo allows the students to bookmark sources they are considering, highlight passages that will be useful for writing the papers, and make notes to remind the students about ideas they wish to include in the papers.
Instagrok bills itself as "a new way to learn." Students can use the site as individuals, but teachers can also create a "classroom" and students can sign into that class. With the students in the same class on Instagrok, the teacher can monitor the sites. When I enter a subject, Instagrok returns with an interactive graph listing related words to my search. I can click on any of those words to receive additional sources. Along with the graph, two other folders appear: Journal and Visited. In the journal, I can keep track of Websites and make my own notes about the material I am reading. Visited keeps track of sites I have clicked upon. There, I can also share my sources with others through Facebook or Twitter. On the right side of the screen, I see "Key Facts." I can click on any of those links to read the full story. I can also click the pin to attach the site to my journal so I can return for further examination. Other enhancements include videos, images, quizzes, and concepts related to my subject. Instagrok also returns viable, reliable sites, eliminating some of the problem of students choosing the first site that appears in a regular search. Of course, using Instagrok does not eliminate the need to teach students to evaluate Web sources carefully.
Themeefy allows users to create a magazine that includes Web sites, videos, pictures, the user's own notes, and tweets. I created a Themeefy magazine on Mary Shelley and Frankenstein when my students were reading the novel. Later, students created their own Themeefy magazines on other readings. The site is easy to use and allows anyone to find material, pull it together, write his/her own notes on the material, and post it to the Web. The site promotes creativity, critical thinking, and learning.
Another favorite tool is HelloSlide, subtitled "bring your slides to life." First users create a PowerPoint presentation on a topic; then save the PowerPoint as a PDF. Create a free account on HelloSlide and upload the PDF. Then the users edit the slide show by typing in text which HelloSlide converts to audio. I teach online classes that often must create PowerPoints for an assignment. These students can convert their PowerPoints to PDFs and then type in the audio portion, submitting the URL to me so that I can watch and listen to the material they created.
Big Huge Labs
Another favorite site is Big Huge Labs which describes itself as "helping you do cool stuff with your digital photos since 2005." On this site, users can create motivational posters, magazine covers, posters, and more. My students created magazine covers for a story we read. In the assignment, I specified certain elements to include; after that, the students could use their imaginations to add whatever else they wanted. Even though everyone had to create the magazine cover based on the same story, the creations all differed markedly because of the students' creativity.
Look for another Hub story on more of my favorite tools. I hope you post some of your favorite Web 2.0 tools and the ways you use them too.