But I think the trend will only continue. I predict that there will be further growth of several tools over the next year. While none of these are new, they might only be known in small circles of teachers or educational/instructional technologists. But I believe each of these tools is on the cusp of a major breakthrough in the educational arena.
So here, in no particular order are the tools that, with your help, can break through to the educational mainstream.
There are 2 groups of people when it comes to Voicethread. Those that use it regularly and those that have no clue. (But I guess that is the case with anything.) Voicethread is an amazing program that allows you (but I hope your students) to upload photos in a slideshow format. On each picture the user can narrate and/or place text. Then anyone can leave a comment on the sides of the preso either in text or voice format. Sound complicated? It's not! Cindy Brock, an Educational Technology Specialist in Tennessee recently posted a Voicethread made by 2nd Graders at her school about Tennessee state symbols.
She then wen out on Twitter and had her PLN make comments. (You can scroll through the presentation so see more.) You can see the variation of comments from voice to text really makes Voicethread a cool application for teaching collaboration. Basic accounts are free but if you have enough teachers on board a school account is worth a look. The basic accounts work just fine for most all educators. Be sure to check out the Getting Started With VoiceThread In The Classroom Guide (PDF) and experiment. I think this app has huge potential to be the most talked about tool of 2010 just because of its ease of use and how really cool it is!
(Be sure to also check out my Essential Tools For The Connected Teacher Part 4 for more Voicethread resources.)
This is one most people of heard of, However, if you haven't, Skype is a free application that you download and register for an account. Once set up you can make free PC-to-PC calls with voice and/or video. You can also do conference calls with several people (although you can't do video with more than 2 people). There is also file sharing and screen sharing available, all for free.
I have written before about how Skype is a game changer in education. The ability to instantly connect with, for free, a classroom, author or expert on the other side of the globe is huge. In education we keep talking about giving our kids a "Global Education." Ok, so here is a something, FREE, that we can do it with, but yet I hear time and time again it is blocked. Bandwidth and content are cited most often. If you are an educator where that is the case it's time to show the value in the service. Talk about the connections.
Skype has the potential to make walled classroom obsolete next year. For an example check out Silvia Tolisano's Around The World With 80 Schools Project. And you can see this post for more Skype resources.
As I said before, Social Media had a breakout year with educators this year. Educators took Twitter by storm and several other services as well. But there is one that is primarily used for Professional Development that has the chance to make it's way into the mainstream classroom this next year.
Ning is the social network you create. Some liken it to Facebook, but for me its much, much different. There isn't the clutter on Ning like you find on Facebook and there are tons more controls for the creator. The ability to make the network private is a big one. The creator can also control how posts appear and content that is posted.
So what about the classroom? You can create your own virtual classroom with forums for asking and answering questions. Create groups where you students can collaborate virtually and share files. You can post videos from class. The possibilities are endless. (Check this out for more Ning info and resources.)
The classroom doesn't need to be just in the school building. Educators are fast discovering that maintaining a virtual classroom, like one created on Ning, can really produce some amazing discussions and provide a platform for great learning.
What? Who is Diigo? Well its not really a who but more a what. Social Bookmarking stands to make it mainstream in the classroom. What is Social Bookmarking you ask? Well, the awesome guys over at Common Craft have provided us with an explanation.
I was a Delicious user for about a year. I had a Diigo account but never really used it much. All that changed about 4 months ago. I stopped using Delicious because of the requirement that all new users have a Yahoo account, which can be a problem for schools. Plus I discovered I could auto-post to Delicious so those that used that service and followed my bookmarks could still do so.
Ok, so what is so great about Diigo. They really cater to educators. Once you sign up fo an account you can request free educator access that gives you the ability to create student accounts and class accounts that have special features like privacy settings and broadcast messages.
Social Bookmarking wont revolutionize education or change it in any drastic way, however, it will make class operations easier. Teachers and students don't have to copy and paste long links into documents, print them out, take them to the lab and type them all in. Now, sites can be bookmarked and tagged for retrieved from anywhere. (Here are some more social bookmarking resources.)
Once again, these are not new tools. They have been around for a while. But I really do believe, with your help, we can make it a breakout year for Voicethread, Skype, Ning, and Diigo. They might already be big in your classroom or school. If so, that is awesome, tell others about them. Share success stories. Share stories of failure and learning from the failure. Pass this post on to a colleague. If these tools are not big where you are, now is the time. They are all free to set up, and so very easy to use. Try them out, ask around, see what others are doing.
Are there other tools that you think will have a breakout year? What are they? Why do they stand out to you? Leave me some comments below.
Have A Wonderful New Year!
Image From Google CC Search