Monday, December 28, 2009

Web 2.0 Tools That Will Break Through Next Year, With Your Help

Social Media and Web 2.0 Tools made huge inroads in education this year. From the Twitter explosion to Animoto to Google Apps there were several success stories of various tools making their way into the classroom for learning.

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


  1. Thanks for the information on why you switched from Delicious to Diigo- I will now explore Diigo more, before I propose using social bookmarking with my teachers. I've seen others say they prefer Diigo, but they didn't really give any concrete reasons so I simply stayed with Delicious.

  2. I'm new to Diigo, and never knew about the teacher settings! Thank you so much for the information! I'm excited to introduce my students to this great resource!

  3. I bet this facebook thing will finally take off. ;-)

  4. I love Diigo and have an educator account which means I can use it with my students. My Year 7 maths class (11-12 year olds) share bookmarks.

    I too automatically send bookmarks to Delicious.

    I like the list facility of Diigo and often organise bookmarks that way.

    You will see various Diigo lists on the left of my blog.

  5. I'd love to use Skype or Voicethread, but both are blocked in our school system . . .

  6. I use Voicethread and Skype regularly.... My students are also using Ning for a collaboration project... They are all great sites...

  7. Excellent list. I would also add Edmodo. I feel Edmodo will become the hub for web 2.0 apps in education. I enjoy the fact you can embed almost any code from other apps such as Animoto, MyStudiyo, Sliderocket, etc.

  8. Looking forward to checking out voicethread. Thanks!

  9. Don't forget - :). Multimedia posters for educators and students...

  10. Had not heard about the Delicious/Yahoo Account situation. Disappointing news.

    I do plan on learning more about Voice Thread. I've been hearing a lot about it lately. Lee Kolbert (@TeachaKidd)is presenting on Voice Thread at FETC, so I'm looking forward to her take on it.

    I've set up a class Ning, but have yet to go live with it. I did get Ning to give me an ad-free network. I'd like to see them become a little more K12 friendly (like Wikispaces).

    Thanks for the quality post.

  11. Thanks for the information about Diigo. I had plans for using this tool with my students this semester anyway. Like others, I have been very disappointed with the requirement to have/create a Yahoo account in order to create a 'delicious' list. I love my 'delicious' list, and I will continue to use it; I just will NOT require it for my classes any more.