I’ve done some additional thinking and experimenting since I wrote Part One of The Best Sites For Students To Easily Create & Display Online Projects, and thought that readers might find some of my preliminary conclusions useful.
This list is primarily, though not exclusively, focused on blogging (or “blog-like”) tools. I have students generally use these tools to:
* Display examples of their online products (see Part One for ideas), though not necessarily soliciting comments from others online (though we do discuss them face-to-face in class).
* Leave comments responding to my prompts (see our Academic Reading & Writing blog for an example).
* Display specific online projects, or respond to the projects of others, related to our International Sister Classes Project. Intermediate English classes from ten different countries collaborate on our Student Showcase blog.
I don’t have students write their own individual blogs, though certainly many teachers around the world do so. You can learn how they’ve done so successfully, and what web applications they’ve used, by reading Sue Waters at The Edublogger.
I don’t feel like I can really rank the applications I’ve been exploring in a straight order of preference. There’s not one that works best for all three ways I use them.
I’ll list the best tools I’ve found for each of the three categories (and they’re all free and accessible to English Language Learners):
FOR EASILY DISPLAYING STUDENT WORK WITHOUT SOLICITING ONLINE COMMENTS:
As I’ve written several times before, Jottit is a super-easy way for students to create a webpage and display their work. It’s also very easy to embed their creations. Here’s a great Jottit screencast from Demo Girl that is worth reviewing.
Two other micro-blogging applications — Tumblr and Soup — are also easy-to-use, but it doesn’t appear to me that you can embed anything into them. However, you can do a lot with images, writing and linking within the micro-blog itself.
(Note that Soup’s staff left a comment correcting me — you can indeed use embed codes in that application. Sorry)
I love Edublogs, and think it’s the best application for my next two categories. However, for English Language Learners in particular, I think the posting process and interface is just a little too complicated (at least compared to the three other options I’ve just mentioned).
It would be nice if Jottit, Soup, or Tumblr allowed readers to leave comments, but at least for now that’s not an option. But that’s okay for me since for many student online activities I’m more concerned about me, and their peers, seeing their final projects, and then following that up with oral discussion in the classroom.
I liked what I found after spending a little more time on the site.
It’s extremely easy to register and, it’s very easy to write text. Plus, like Posterous, you can just copy and past images off the web. But it seems even easier than Posterous. Of course, it won’t look as pretty and it’s not really in a blog format. But I think if you’re working students who have very little technology experience, and you just want them to have an easy place where they can paste their work (and where other students can view it, too, after the links to all student sites are posted on a teacher page), Note Pub might just be the web application to use. Obviously, they won’t be able to post comments, but that can all happen orally.
Wallwisher lets you, with very, very minimal registration, create a “wall” where you can place virtual sticky-notes. You can allow others to also place notes on the board, or keep it so that only you can do so (which is what I would recommend for students). The sticky-notes can include images you grab off the web, videos, or websites, and you can add text to them (you can also just include text without adding anything else). Each sticky has a 160 character limit for text.
TxtBear is a new and very useful web application that allows you to easily upload and document and immediately turn it into a webpage. A site like this is one is wonderful for students and others who are not very tech savvy. All they have to do is create a document in Word (including easily copying and pasting images into it), which they might be more familiar with, and easily turn it into a website. Students can upload papers they’ve written, as well. Then, they can just copy and paste its url address into a teacher or student blog. For example, now I have students type essays in a Word Document and then copy and paste them directly into the comments section of our class blog. With TxtBear, they use Word, illustrate it if they want, and then paste the link into the class blog. It makes the document much more readable that way.
FOR LEAVING COMMENTS IN RESPONSE TO TEACHER PROMPTS:
There’s no question that Edublogs fits the bill here. It’s easy to use, it has lots of neat tools, it’s attractive, and commenting is simple and can be moderated. Plus, it’s not blocked in many, if not most, school districts.
FOR DISPLAYING STUDENT PROJECTS SPECIFICALLY SOLICITING COMMENTS
Edublogs again is my choice. Embedding VoiceThreads, Splashcasts, and other multmedia presentations is easy for teachers to do, and then students can easily leave audio, visual, and text comments on them.
It’s worked great for our International Sister Classes Project, though we are also exploring a social network site called Webjam as an option to create a little more on-going student-to-student interaction. Ning is blocked in my District, so that rules out that tool.
We’re also looking at possibly integrating the new Edublogs Forums into the Student Showcase blog, which might fit the bill (if a comment moderation feature gets added).
(Also check-out Webon, which I wrote about after initially posting this list)
There are two other applications which look intriguing — Nota and Streem. They’re both worth checking-out but, unfortunately, they both allow unmoderated comments. Anyone who has registered with the site can leave a comment without it being approved. That issue eliminates them from being on my list.
I learned about Diary.com today from TechCrunch. I’m adding it to my Part Two Of The Best Sites For Students To Easily Create & Display Online Projects under the “Honorable Mention” category.
Themes is a nifty application that has apparently been around for a year, but I just recently learned about it. I’m immediately adding it to The Best Places Where Students Can Write Online, Part Two Of The Best Sites For Students To Easily Create & Display Online Projects and The Best Social Bookmarking Applications For English Language Learners & Other Students.
It allows you to basically create individual webpages (theoretically based on “themes”) and very easily add maps, images, documents, text, and even RSS feeds.
It’s not perfect, since it doesn’t have an embed option, and it doesn’t have a “drag-and-drop” functionality for images and webpages that some of the other sites on the best Bookmarking list have, but its ease of use makes it very attractive. Students could certainly use it to create categories of images of texts, for example, which is something I explain a bit more in the best bookmarking sites list.
I’m also adding PB Works, formerly PB Wiki, and Wikispaces to this list. The best explanation I’ve seen about what a wiki is and how it works is at the Ask Auntie Web blog. It has a great step-by-step guide to using Wikispaces.
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