My challenge was to whittle this list down to 5 of the most helpful (and free) apps that are ‘MUST HAVES’ for teachers and students. Feel free to ask me for help in getting started. And if you have an absolute ‘must have’, please email me and I’ll add it to the list.
Google Docs – This suite of apps is almost revolutionary in how we can work with students or staff. It includes a word processor (like MS Word), Spreadsheet (like Excel), Forms (like any survey with an automatic download to spreadsheet), Presentation (like powerpoint) and Drawing. You have options for collaboration through invitation or complete privacy. Imagine not hearing “I left it at home” or not having to organize those email homework attachments. Conferring and commenting can be done online and students can respond directly to your comments. A quick scan of the docs and you can gage where students are in the process. Imagine having your students take a quick online survey and sharing the results right away.
Crocodoc – Note-taking (or annotating) is an effective learning strategy to support research, summarize content and synthesize thinking. And it is a great memory aid (combining visual and kinesthetic action). Crocodoc will take any content such as documents, pdf and images (on your computer or online) or webpages and allow you to ‘markup’ or scribble your own notes. You can collaboratively work on the same document and share the annotated work in multiple ways. This is an incredible way to support critical thinking in your class.
Word Clouds – Wordle, Tagxedo, Tagul or ABCya!. In a nutshell, these are ‘words come alive‘. In its simplest form, they make great image headers. But they can also be used to analyze writing (themes, plot), provide a synthesis of information, vocabulary development, or introduce a flavour of new units (a teaser). Each of these apps offer a little take on the same concept – any text or typed list can be converted into a cloud/shape organized by colour and size depending on the number of times it shows up in the text. You may be familiar with Wordle, which has shown up on numerous websites and newspapers. For primary students using ABCya! offers a simpler version of word clouds. Tagxedo offers a variety of shapes instead of just a cloud including your own images. Tagul hyperlinks every word to google search so you can dive directly into research.
Social Bookmarks – Delicious, Diigo. Are your favourite websites bookmarked on your home computer? Get access to them whenever or wherever you are! You can categorize them by class or content so your students have a list of resources to start their research (rather than the usual ‘hit and miss’ google tactics). For elementary teachers, set a category for your parents to receive information on your curriculum (a golden opportunity to partner the learning with the home). Delicious has a large following so you can access other accounts to see what they are collecting and add to yours. Diigo has an added feature that allows for online annotation and sticky notes and these can be shared. This may be good if you have an article that you wish groups to read and comment. (*Diigo requires a download.)
Graphic Organizers – Bubbl.us, Webspiration, Inspiration, Kidspiration. Before writing or presenting, create your brainstorms and organize your thinking online. Bubbl.us allows the creation of colourful mindmaps and the ability to work collaboratively on one map. Share the work, embed on a website, blog or wiki or simply print it off. Being online means that access is anytime, anywhere. Inspiration and Kidspiration are paid applications that you will find as part of our computer image (elementary and secondary). As such, students have full access to an extensive image library as well as audio and video capabilities. However, access is restricted to school. Webspiration is the online beta (pared down) version of Inspiration and anyone can access it anywhere.