New web 2.0 tools appear each day. Many of these tools were not originally intended for classroom use, but they can be powerful learning tools for today's techno-savvy students and their more adventurous teachers. These sites appear (and frequently disappear) very quickly, launched by creative techno-geeks out there in the world.
Many of these tools require a higher-than-average set of teacher tech skills or some extra monitoring to assure student "safety." TeachersFirst Edge reviews these "tools on the Edge" carefully, and with specific ideas for using them safely and effectively in teaching and learning. Reviews point out any safety or policy concerns for the tool and offer links to management tips for each concern.
Especially popular is this subset of the Edge: BYOD Dream Tools: Free tools that work on any device. Look for the device agnostic tool tag in any review.
This is the world your students already know. Try teaching in their vernacular. A little adventurousness makes for powerful learning.
Browse the full listing of detailed safety/school policy tips or save time by reading them as needed from each tool review.
If you try one of these tools and find it especially useful, be sure to leave a comment on it to share your students' successes with other teachers. If you know of another tool that teachers would find beneficial, please suggest it via our webmaster account, as a "suggested resource."
Here's the Edge:
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomBookmark The Urlist to use whenever you want to share a group of links. For example, gather all of your online resources for any unit into one list for your personal use or to share with students on your class website for easy access at all times. Create an account at the site to keep track of your bookmark lists and edit as needed. Ask students to use this site when doing research projects and ask them to include their URL list as part of the final project.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomIn language arts or history classrooms use a wiki to create a favorite historical figures page, have students share their favorite person from history along with supporting evidence. Use a wiki to set up a debate between students. For example, create a wiki and ask students to debate the use of homework in schools, the effect of social media on society, or year-round school vs. traditional school calendars. As your class builds and adds to the wiki, extend student learning by having small groups of students select a topic to research further. A nice feature of TWiki is that it allows you to set up collaborative groups where students can share information and ideas about their research. Culminate the research by having students use a multimedia creation tool like Sway, reviewed here, transforming classroom technology by sharing information including text, images, videos, and more. As a last step have the small groups load their Sway creation to their collaborative page on TWiki. For more ideas and information on how to use wikis, visit the TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through for a detailed, step-by-step explanation and starter help, including dozens of ideas for ways to use a wiki in your classroom.
Grades4 to 12
In the ClassroomUse Brush Ninja in a variety of ways. Share this site with students and give them time to explore and experiment. When working with troubled students, use this site to let students share their thoughts and emotions through an animation. This is an excellent site to use with students who love art and enjoy sharing their learning through creative expressions. Take a look at the images created by other users in the gallery as inspiration for how to use animations. Ask students to create animations demonstrating science concepts like erosion, weathering, or chemical reactions. Use this site to have students create animations demonstrating events from stories, share their thought process in math, or animate an event from history. Have students include their animations when creating multimedia projects in an online tool like Sway, reviewed here.
Grades7 to 12
In the ClassroomTake advantage of the video tutorials to learn about how to create and customize apps with Glide. Consider sharing this tool with one or more of your tech-savvy students and let them become the expert at how to use the different features. Ask them to create screencasts using Awesome ScreenShot, reviewed here, to demonstrate how to begin creating an app, how to customize an app, or any other features of this tool. Use Glide as a unique teaching tool to engage and capture student interest in a variety of ways. For example, have students create a directory of characters found in a Shakespeare play and include pertinent information including their relationship to other characters, the character's important moments within the play, and more. Another example of how to use Glide is to create an app for students to use when working on long-term projects. Use the objectives template to set up goals and timelines for students to follow.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomBefore implementing this site with your classroom, take some time to teach students how to edit and add information. Consider asking a group of students to learn about this site and teach others how to use the different features. Modify classroom technology use by asking them to create short explainer videos using My Simpleshow, reviewed here, and share them on your class website. Introduce wikis slowly into your classroom; start with asking each student to add a page to the wiki with a short biography. Once students become familiar with wikis, use your wiki for group brainstorming sessions, open-ended discussions such as preparing a list of questions for a class speaker or upcoming unit, post examples of excellent student work, or share information for student research projects. If you have not tried a wiki yet, visit the TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through for a detailed, step-by-step explanation and starter help, including dozens of ideas for ways to use a wiki in your classroom.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomUse Proficonf to set up virtual parent/teacher conferences with participants located anywhere in the world. Online conferencing is especially useful when multiple teachers are involved or when parents may not reside in the same location. Share your screen as needed to provide information on assessments and student work. Enhance classroom technology by sharing this tool with students to use when collaborating on group projects. If using the chat feature, ask them to include their chat with the final project as part of their reflection on the learning process.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomIn language arts or history classrooms use a wiki to create a favorite historical figures page, have students share their favorite person from history along with supporting evidence. Use a wiki to set up a debate between students. For example, create a wiki and ask students to debate the use of homework in schools, the effect of social media on society, or year-round school vs. traditional school calendars. As your class builds and adds to the wiki, ask students to select a topic to research further. Ask them to use a multimedia creation tool like Sway, reviewed here to transform classroom technology and share information including text, images, videos, and more. If you have not tried a wiki yet, visit the TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through for a detailed, step-by-step explanation and starter help, including dozens of ideas for ways to use a wiki in your classroom.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomUse Notepad as a handy way to create lists and reminders and access on any device. Share with students who struggle with penmanship to use as an alternative to traditional notebooks for notetaking. Designate one class computer for students to use Notepad as a collaborative tool to share notes in one place.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomTake advantage of this easy to use tool for a variety of classroom uses. Upload images and use the text tool to add digital annotations. Ask students to add digital annotations to images, for example, different landforms or to share as an assessment. Use the shape tool to create quick and easy timelines. This is perfect for use as a quick activity on your interactive timeline to help students understand the sequence of a story or a timeline of historic events. Create graphic organizers and mind maps easily by using the shapes tools, drawing lines, and adding text with links to additional information. When working on group projects, suggest students collaborate together to create and annotate images to include with a final multimedia presentation. Use Google Drawings to easily create infographics to share information on any topic.
Grades5 to 12
In the ClassroomUse Mt. Cleverest to create quizzes as pretests or final assessments. Use your documents stored in Google Drive or OneDrive to provide the URL for creating quizzes. Mt. Cleverest includes a search feature for finding previous quizzes, take advantage of this to add content for your classroom. Ask students to reflect on missed quiz questions and research the content further. Have them replace paper and pen and extend their learning by sharing their reflections on a simple webpage using Hashify, reviewed here. Hashify provides a simple tool for sharing texts and images without the distractions of multiple backgrounds and formatting options.
Grades6 to 12
In the ClassroomInclude this tool on all classroom computers and as a link on your class website for student use. This bibliography tool help students properly format their Works Cited pages. Use this tool to help keep your students (or even yourself) organized! Make sure you teach plagiarism lessons about paraphrasing and proper citation of sources, so students use this tool properly! As teachers, we need to be aware that such a tool exists, since savvy students may compile a "paper" without a logical thought pattern simply by clicking to include suggestions from ZoteroBib or other citation creation tools. The best strategy for such a tool is to show students how to use it well. Take the drudgery out of writing formal papers by emphasizing thinking over mechanics. Whether teaching beginning research or seniors in high school, introduce them to ZoteroBib. For younger students, seeing all the formatting and citing done correctly, from the beginning, makes sense whether it is the body of the writing or the bibliography. With either age group, give lessons about each part of a paper or letter. Demonstrate on an interactive whiteboard and think out loud as a group to pull together ideas, sources, quotes, and more to support an argument and build a paper. You can use it, too, when you write for your graduate program. Since you can choose from MLA, APA, or Chicago Style, you do not have to worry about memorizing punctuation and double checking the format.
GradesK to 12
In the ClassroomInclude Grammar Lookup with other options for students to use when editing and revising work. Have students copy and paste writing projects into the text editor for a final check for spelling and grammar mistakes after making their last revisions. Continued use of this tool helps students correct writing on their own after seeing common errors in their writing. Never send out a newsletter or post to your web page with spelling or grammar errors again! Use Grammar Lookup to spell check and suggest corrections for any published writing projects. Reinforce learning by asking students to share before and after of written projects. Along with submitting a rough draft and final draft, ask students to take a screenshot of text copied into Grammar Lookup along with the highlighted errors. Insert this screenshot into the rough draft as an image using Google Docs or Microsoft Word. Modify learning and ask students to use their screenshot with highlighted errors to create a Thinglink image, reviewed here. Add text, image examples, and voice recordings to create a short presentation highlighting grammar mistakes and suggestions for corrections.
Grades4 to 12
In the ClassroomUse Collabify to set up virtual parent/teacher conferences with participants located anywhere in the world. Collabify is especially useful when multiple teachers are involved or when parents may not reside in the same location. Share your screen as needed to provide information on assessments and student work.
Have your students set up collaborative groups for projects, lab data, and more. Anything students can do on a single computer; they can do collaboratively on this tool, accessing their work from any online computer. Be sure to test out this tool before using with your class. It may be a good idea to set up the groups with the teacher as a "member" but have students work from home for group projects. Make sure you are protecting the safety of student work and identity and are within your school's Acceptable Use Policy.