Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day…

…For Teaching ELL, ESL, & EFL

The Best Ways For Students (And Anyone Else!) To Create Online Content Easily, Quickly & Painlessly

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I sometimes get a little annoyed by education bloggers who gripe about teachers who won’t embrace technology. For people who are that concerned about it, they might want to consider the old community organizing adage of leading with ears instead of mouths — identify teacher self-interests through listening and relationship-building, and afterwards help them see how using technology can help them get what they want — if it can.

In my nineteen year community organizing career prior to becoming a public school teacher, one tool we used to encourage people to do something they had never done before — participate in public life — was develop what we called “fixed-fights.” These were small-scale actions where new volunteer leaders had an almost guaranteed chance of success. These victories would help them develop self-confidence and a belief that it was worth continuing on the road to greater risks.

We can do the same with both teachers and students (and others) who are new to technology by, as the title of this list says, providing ways for them to easily, quickly and painlessly create online content.

It’s really not that big of a deal to me if my colleagues use a lot of technology. I’m more concerned that they engage their students in higher-ordering thinking skills and “learning by doing,” and believe that can be done with or without high tech.

However, I am interested in my English Language Learner students having good initial computer experiences because I believe that technology can be a huge asset specifically in second-language learning.

To that end, I’d like to share in this list (you might also want to check out my other twenty-plus “The Best….” lists) the web applications I’ve used to introduce students to technology and develop confidence through these “fixed-fights.” I think they can also be introduced to teachers who are a little hesitant to use technology in the classroom.

The only skill required to use these applications is to have a very beginning level understanding of the English language. You do not need to have an email address. You also don’t need to know how to type — none of these sites require a whole lot of writing. You don’t even have to know how to copy and paste for the vast majority of these sites, though in a few you do.

In addition, here are a few other criteria the site had to meet to make this list:

1) No registration is required to use the service.

2) It’s available free-of-charge.

3) Users can create attractive and engaging online content in a few minutes.

4) Users can email the link to the content they created from within the site itself. In other words, there is an email feature within the web application so the user doesn’t have to use his/her own email — even if they have one. I have included a few sites, though, that don’t include this feature — instead, they just provide a link or code that the user has to copy and paste. But the vast majority do have this email feature.

5) The online content the user creates is hosted indefinitely on the web application’s server — it is not deleted within a week or a month like many others do.

6) Even though a microphone, or the ability to upload a photo, might be useful on some of these sites, you can still create engaging content even without the extra equipment or image.

Once the online content is created, users can use the site’s email feature to send it to a teacher who can just look at it or, even better, post it on a webpage. Of course, the ideal option is for students to be able to post it on their own site.

This leads me to the one site I’m going to recommend that does require registration — Jottit. It is, by far, the easiest way to create a website, which can be done in less than five seconds. My Beginning English Language Learners and my more advanced students love having their own website where they can post their own work. It also eliminates a problem for me — I don’t have to get a ton of emails. I just create one Jottit page that contains links to all my student Jottits. I can go there to check their work, and they can use it to see what their peers have created. If you are going to use Jottit, I’d also suggest you review a super-short screencast about how to use it from Demo Girl. Oh, by the way, one advantage of Jottit is that it’s easy to embed creations that provide their code. In other words, you’re able to actually put the content on the website and not just links to the content (assuming the site provides that code).

Again, you don’t have to use a website. Instead, teachers could just have their students email their user-generated online content to them for review.

This list is going to be a little different because I’m not going to rank the sites. All of them are pretty good, so I’m just going to put them in topical categories instead of “good, better, best” ones. In fact, there are so many good ones that this is going to end up being “two part” post since I don’t have the space, nor the time, right now to include every worthy application.

(In fact, I have posted Part Two , Part Three , and Part Four in this series listing many more good sites).

And, now, here are the best ways for students (and anyone else) to create online content easily, quickly, and painlessly:

MAKE A MOVIE: Use Dvolver Moviemaker to create short animations with text bubble dialogue. You can see many examples of these films on my Examples of Student Work page.

WRITE A SONG: Use Let Them Sing It For You to write lyrics, and have each word sung by a different singer. You have to hear it to believe it…Or, if you’re an American Idol fan, you can try Don Pablo’s Tex Mex Serenade, choose a singer and a song, and then use a text-to-speech feature to act as one of the judges. For more ideas on how to use viral marketing gimmicks like this in the classroom, please see my TechLearning article Samuel L. Jackson, My ESL Students, And Me.

MAKE A MAP: There are two sites in particular that allow you easily make and save maps (without registration) that include multiple “pushpins.” These are spots on the map where you can insert more information about different places. These map-making sites are Quikmaps and TinyMap.

CREATE A PIECE OF ART: There are numerous sites that “fit this bill.” They included Imagination Cubed (which actually has multiple uses — see the Solar Systems my students created), Art Pad, Mr. Picassohead, and Etchy (an online Etch-A-Sketch).

CREATE A CARTOON/COMIC: Again, there are a number of great sites in this category. They include MakeBeliefsComix, the Toronto Public Library Tell-A-Story Builder, Scholastic’s Captain Underpants, and Kiddonet.

MAKE A SLIDESHOW: Bookr is about as easy of a slideshow maker as they get. You can search through images with a tag word, drag them into a flip-like book, and add text. My students love it. You can see some of their samples here. For an even easier way to create a slideshow, you can try Colgate’s Smile Slideshow.

PICK AN IMAGE AND WRITE A SPEECH BUBBLE: There are a number of sites that allow you to easily grab an image off the web and add a speech bubble with your text. The best ones are Bubblr and Caption Bubble.

TELL A MEDIEVAL TALE: Use the great Historic Tale Construction Kit to tell a story with images and text while you create a virtual medieval tapestry.

WRITE A POEM: Write ones using virtual refrigerator magnets at Shocked Poetry or Fridge Messages.

CREATE A POLL: Come-up with questions for a poll you want your friends or others to participate in with Snappoll or Flektor (click on “guest”).

DESIGN AN EARTH-FRIENDLY HOUSE: My Abodo lets users design a house and then get a rating for how environmentally-friendly it is.

SUBTITLE A CLIP FROM A BOLLYWOOD MOVIE: Bombay TV lets you choose a scene from a B movie from Bollywood and have fun creating subtitles for the clip.

DESIGN A VERY STRANGE-LOOKING BACKYARD: You can design a bizarre Backyard Paradise, name it and then add a description. Here are some student examples.

SEND A TALKING EGG-A-GRAM: This is another strange example of viral marketing. You can choose the way you want your eggs — scrambled, hard-boiled, etc. — and then use the site’s text-to-speech feature by having your chosen egg “speak” your Egg-A-Gram. Again, you can see some student creations here.

WRITE AN E-CARD: I have links to literally thousands of different kinds of E-Cards on my website. They include ones of images from every country in the world (Nations Illustrated), a Dancing Santa Claus or a Christmas tree, dinosaur pictures, a Valentine’s Day virtual cake, and a big selection of virtual gifts. You can see student examples of these at my website.

CREATE A PICTURE SENTENCE: Write a sentence and select an image to go with each word by using Phrasr.

CREATE A CHARACTER FROM THE DARK AGES: Dress-up the character of your choice from the Middle Ages (Viking, nun, knight, peasant, etc.) with all the accessories.

MAKE A TALKING OTTER: Yes, that’s what it is. Build and send an Ottogram. I wonder how they come up with these things….

DESIGN A FLAG: Go to We Are Multicolored and design and describe a flag that represents you.

CREATE A MUSEUM EXHIBIT: The Object Of History from the National Museum of American History allows you to create a virtual museum exhibition about a number of historical events, including the California Gold Rush, desegregation, and organizing for the rights of farmworkers.

Well, that’s a long enough list for now. I’ll be writing a Part Two of this list in the near future. You might also want to explore my other “The Best….” lists and the 8,000 categorized links on my website.

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

22 Comments

  1. You are a true “list-master”, Larry, and you put together lists that are so very practical. This list is an instant favourite with me!

  2. Some great links here, thanks Larry.

  3. David,

    I’m glad you’re finding them helpful. Thanks for stopping by.

    Larry

  4. Paul,

    “Listmaster” — I like it! Part Two of this post will also be coming up in a week or two.

    Larry

  5. Dear Listmaster!

    Thanks so much and this gets my vote for post of the year! (and it is only Feb.).

    I really think you say it well when you say that it is all about effective language learning for students and all other issues about technology use are mute.

    I love your criteria and glad you shared it. I do have my own favs. for the above that differ but the point is I guess, we all have a reason for our use of a particular application but most importantly we should allow students choice and expose them to these. I really hope more applications become easier to use and more “free” and this will help immensely in our own teaching.

    I just checked out Jottit and agree. A very neat thing and students will love having their own site….

    Thanks,
    David

    PS> I’ve been lost in the wilds of Canada but am now back at it……

  6. David,

    You’re too kind! Maybe I’ll have more of your favorites in Part Two that’s coming up. Welcome back from your trip..

    Larry

  7. This is gorgeous Larry, incredibly useful! Thanks a lot for sharing that much.

    alicia

  8. Another great list to mine and forge lessons from. Thank you Larry for this service. I don’t know how you keep up with everything, but it is an unselfish service to other ESL teachers wanting to integrate more technology into their teaching.

    I explored the Otter-gram, bookr, bubblr, and now am thinking about what lessons I can build around them. Thanks again!

  9. Another great make-your-own Valentine’s e-card site:
    http://www.sirendc.com/ecard/

  10. Larry, Thank you some much for this article. I’m just starting a social network and this gives me a good starting point to create online content.
    Daniel

  11. Daniel, Collen, Nedra and Jeff,

    I’ve emailed each of you individually with some responses and am just too tired tonight to copy and paste them all here, too…

    Thanks for your comments!

    Larry

  12. Dear Listmaster,

    Absolutely fabulous! EFL teachers should start as from this list when in need of any tool to generate content.
    Very gratefully, on behalf of soooooooo many users!!!,

    Rita

  13. Larry,
    Thank you for sharing this. Look forward to part 2.

    I would like to underline a few of your words here:
    “leading with ears instead of mouths — identify teacher self-interests through listening and relationship-building, and afterwards help them see how using technology can help them get what they want — if it can”

    I want to make sure I remember them.

  14. There is so much fun to be had here. Thanks for the great links. Many excellent ideas for Middle School Spanish and French classes. I’ll be checking back for more inspiration.

  15. Larry,
    The best website I’ve visited for sharing resources. You must be VERY organized as I know the amount of time that goes into creating and publishing content is huge. You are being placed on my daily watch list (thanks for the feed) so I won’t miss anything new. Since your site has so much content and control I am assuming you are a paid subscriber to edublog.
    I have just started to set up my edublog for my high school library and will be using you and your site as a model.
    Thank you for your interest and dedication.
    Majandy the librarian

  16. Larry,
    I was looking for something to help me create a simple comic strip for a lesson idea I had and came here to see what you had first. I tried MakeBeliefsComix and it was just what I was looking for…simple, quick and free. I’m still going to check out the others you have listed but for now this one will do.

    Thanks for making my searching easier.

    -al

  17. Hi Larry
    What a wonderful list of resources you have provided. Thank you.
    I have also clipped your phrase “identify teacher self-interests through listening and relationship-building, and afterwards help them see how using technology can help them get what they want — if it can.”
    Several years ago a colleague of mine coined the term ‘DMF’ (Digital Maternal Factor) which we used to use after PD sessions when had we found the ‘hook’ for mature teachers. So often it seemed to revolve around finding a technology that strengthened their relationshisp with their children or grandchildren. We would be so excited when we talked about bringing teacher X onboard because we had identified the DMF! eg show a grandmother/father that they can be in touch with their grandchild in London on a daily basis from New Zealand and not only do they learn how to use Skype, but they also learn how to configure a webcam AND they upgrade to broadband at home. And other teachers would think we were wasting our time doing this instead of ‘proper’ PD! Wrong…

  18. Absolutely fabulous! EFL teachers should start as from this list when in need of any tool to generate content.
    Very gratefully, on behalf of soooooooo many users!!!,

    thanks

  19. The Jottit is really painless!!! There are three Polish services like that:
    http://pokazywarka.pl/
    http://wklejacz.pl/
    http://www.artypo.pl/
    I think they’ve got some more functionalities, but they’re still very easy.
    And another one: http://write4.net/en – it is similar but the text is not only published but it’s instantly tweeted as well.

  20. Pingback: Webskills | Building Teacher Skills Through the Interactive Web

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