Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Free, Easy and Useful Creation Tools Your Kids Will Love

I try to incorporate as much technology as I can in my classroom. Sometimes I find it difficult to find relevent sites that will support my instruction. Today, as I was doing some reading, I stumbled upon an article from the NYTimes that included some really useful (and FREE) tools that I could use in my classroom.

New technologies is a powerful way for teachers to take their instruction to the next level. With so many choices, the trick is to locate user-friendly tools that allow you to craft differentiated learning experiences that engage students and help them develop 21st century skills.

In that spirit, below are 5 ways to support student creation and learning using online technology tools. These tools are easy to understand and easy to use, and they can make your classroom more interesting,  interactive, and student-centered.

1. Visual Tech Tools: Wordle, Tagxedo

Examining word clouds can not only provide new vantage points for literary and language scholars, but also help English-language learners, and others who have trouble with complex texts, to see patterns.
Students can play with the font and colors and make as well as save and reuse “Wordles” of their own, so the possibilities are endless. They can use their own writing to see what words they overuse, perhaps, or create Wordle versions of a famous poem, speech or song that visually reflects the way the text “feels” to them.

Wordle: Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5
Wordle Illustration

2. Make Content Comic - Tech Tools: ReadWriteThink’s Comic Creator, Professor Garfield’s Comics Lab or MakeBeliefsComix

On any of these sites, students can pick from a wide range of story elements – characters, expressions, actions, settings and dialogue boxes – to create unique visual narratives. They can use these tools to illustrate any concept or curricular content, such as a scientific process, historical event, personal narrative or literary text. Suddenly every student can access his or her inner artist, and you’ll have material for a great display of student work.

3. Make Interactive Time Lines -Tech Tools: Xtimeline, or Timetoast

Timelines, of course, organize information and events that have developed over time. They display order and sequence as well as relationships. Why go online to create this traditional graphic organizer? Interactive versions are not only visually engaging, but also easily incorporate multimedia such as video and audio clips and link directly to source material.

4. Design Interactive Presentations - Tech Tools: Glogster.edu and Museum Box

Powerpoint  is not the only tool students can use to present concepts and ideas visually. Two classroom mainstays – the poster presentation and the diorama – have digital counterparts that students can use for class projects (and that you can use to present course material in engaging ways).
With Glogster.edu students can create posters enhanced with multimedia. The interface walks you through the creation and gives students a wide range of scrapbook-inspired templates.
(Note: be sure you go to the .edu edition of Glogster. The regular site contains some content that is inappropriate for a classroom setting.)
Museum Box takes the old standbys – dioramas and presentation cubes – and kicks them up a notch by enabling the creation of 3-D dioramas with a series of interactive cubes.

5. Map and Brainstorm Ideas - Tech Tools: Bubbl.us, CoSketch.com and Cacoo

A basic program to start with is Bubbl.us. The “start brainstorming” button will get you underway, and a click on the “help” menu on the left hand side of the interface gives you all the general instructions you need to start “pinning” bubbles into a mind map.
CoSketch.com and Cacoo are collaborative programs (CoSketch has a particularly easy interface) that allow people on different computers to work together in real time – even from different locations, so students could collaborate on maps on their personal computers for a homework assignment.

I hope you find these tools useful.

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