Linking to learning

Free Web tools for teachers

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Looking for the latest and greatest Web tools that have classroom applications? Richard Byrnes’s blog Free Technology for Teachers is chock full of them. Byrnes believes that there is a Web tool for every teacher and he is determined to introduce and review as many of them as possible.

Byrnes envisions classroom uses from online applications where none were intended. He finds both obvious tools like National Geographic applications and the not-so-obvious tools like Voice Thread, a multimedia slide show that teachers and students can use to share ideas and collaborate using voice, text and video.

Remember this is not a lesson plan site where you will find a catalog of previously written classroom lessons. Instead, it provides links to Web-based tools that can be integrated into your lessons as well as Web resources that can enrich the topics that you teach. For instance, in teaching about genocide, you might want to show a 25-minute PBS documentary about the Cambodian genocide. If you would like to have videos focused on education, you can check out Teacher Tube instead of trying to cull appropriate presentations from YouTube. Or if you are searching for innovative ways to teach geography, you can read — and contribute to — a list of 101 ideas on the Share Geography blog.

If you’re ready to consider developing a Web site, then look at Byrne’s reviews of eight places where teachers can build and host a Web site for free. His reviews note when you are likely to have to pay for added features or whether the site will contain advertising. For instance, Snap Pages provides a free service and a premium service; Byrne says that the free service “has more than enough features for a teacher to set up and maintain a class Web site.” His review of the Web site-building site Yola says that it has good tutorials and forums for first-time users. And, Byrnes notes, “I also learned first-hand that their responses to help requests are very quick.”

Virtually everyone knows about MapQuest and Google Maps, but who knows about Scribble Maps, which allows you to annotate a Google map? Here’s one of those applications that probably were not designed with the classroom in mind, but Byrnes suggests that students could create a map on which they highlight various sites and include brief descriptions of those places. Alternatively, he suggests that American history students could draw a timeline of westward expansion on the map of the United States.

The site contains many well-known resources such as National Geographic and Google, but there are other posts about little-known products like Booklet Creator where you can take a PDF document and create a booklet with a designated number of pages. As Byrnes points out, this could be a handy tool to create informational booklets for PTA or parent-teacher meetings.

Byrnes’ site is invaluable for teachers wishing to integrate technology into their classrooms. You can try to keep up with the prolific Maine educator by subscribing to the site via an RSS reader or via e-mail. Even if you only visit the site once in a while, you will benefit from his knowledge and expertise.

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