Tuesday’s Tools: Best of 2011

A couple of weeks ago, I asked our readers and eMINTS staff to submit their favorite online tools of the year and here’s what they had to say:

Carmen Marty, eIS

I have several favorite online tools, but I recently became a fan of Pinterest. Through the creation of “boards”, you can share and organize ideas of all types. There are many classroom ideas, organizational ideas, and ideas for personal hobbies. It is a fun brain break in the day. It is easy to use and helps me feel creative!

Carla Chaffin, eIS

I have been trying out a new tool to access websites. Tizmos allows you to create a thumbnail of websites you access on a regular basis. You have quick access to preselected websites for research, practice, games or news. The thumbnail is a picture of the page and links directly to the site. It is free! Check it out!
http://www.tizmos.com/

Brooke Higgins, eIS

My new favorite site of the year has to be Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com . Social visual booking at it best let’s a user create “boards” to “pin” images with links back to the original site the image was found on. Users can follow other users or just a board they are interested in and can create collaborative boards others can pin to. Teachers are busy pinning pictures of things they want to try in their classrooms, links back to sites they will use during lessons, and links back to resources their students may might be interested in and so much more. Be careful…it can be very addicting.

Ruth Henslee, eIS

I am a new fan of www. sweetsearch.com
I find it helpful for myself, teachers and especially students who are learning to search effectively. Here is a description borrowed from their site:

About SweetSearch

SweetSearch is a Search Engine for Students.

It searches only the 35,000 Web sites that our staff of research experts and librarians and teachers have evaluated and approved when creating the content on findingDulcinea. We constantly evaluate our search results and “fine-tune” them, by increasing the ranking of Web sites from organizations such as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian, PBS and university Web sites.

SweetSearch helps students find outstanding information, faster. It enables them to determine the most relevant results from a list of credible resources, and makes it much easier for them to find primary sources. We exclude not only the spam sites that many students could spot, but also the marginal sites that read well and authoritatively, but lack academic or journalistic rigor. As importantly, the very best Web sites that appear on the first page of SweetSearch results are often buried on other search engines.

Cathie Loesing, eMINTS Program Coordinator

I have had so many “favorites” this year, it is difficult to choose just one. However, if I think only about the ones I use with students, my favorite would have to be Voicethread. I can use it with everyone from Kindergarteners through adults since they can post with a microphone, by typing text, or by phone call. I love the way I can post a picture, document, weblink, etc. and ask my students to post their responses to my prompt. Best of all, the teacher account allows me to use “identities” so that elementary students don’t need an account. There are a few glitches and there is a charge now for the full featured account, but it is overall it is a wonderful tool.

Debbie Perkins, eIS

I’m a big fan of Pinterest and Voicethread too, but those have already been mentioned, so I’ll go with SnackTools http://www.snacktools.com/. This very cool set of web apps will help you easily create and publish widgets for your blog or website. Want to share a pdf as a flipbook on your website? Use FlipSnackhttp://www.flipsnack.com/. Need a quick online survey or poll? Try their QuizSnack http://www.quizsnack.com/. Want to build a video playlist? Then TubeSnack may be for you http://www.tubesnack.com/. These are only three of the available SnackTools. You’ll also want to check out PhotoSnack, PodSnack, and BannerSnack!

How have you been able to use the tools above with your students this year? What online tools have we missed?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist and blogger with the eMINTS National Center.

Tuesday’s Tool: Voicethread

First of all, what is Voicethread? Watch the Voicethread presentation below to get an idea of what this amazing tool is and what it can do for you.

Now you’re wondering how Voicethread can help you. Well, as you can see, Voicethread is a highly versatile online presentation tool which allows participants to discuss content and media, recording their comments along the way. Students could use Voicethread in real-time, during class for discussion on shared media. Students in classes that meet in different locations or times could participate in the same discussion. All of these options are made quite easy through Voicethread.

Specific classroom applications are plentiful. Brooke suggested back in May that one could use Voicethread for student reflections. The popular Kahn Academy model where lectures happen as homework and the real work of learning happens in the classroom is a good place for Voicethread to work as students digest and discuss content at home. There’s even an Interesting Ways to Use Voicethread in the Classroom presentation with several great ideas for using the tool.

To get started, one has to register, set up a class, and create identities. There’s a good tutorial at the Teacher Challenge blog. A wiki called “Integrating Technology for the Lower Grades” also contains some nice screen shots and steps for setting up Voicethread for your class. For a few examples, there’s a wiki called “Elementary Voicethreads” with samples from various elementary grade levels.

How have you used Voicethread? What other applications could you see for Voicethread in the classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.