I’ve posted 60 (yes, 60) “The Best…” lists in my series on tools to “create online content easily & quickly.” You can see all of them under the Web 2.0 category on my “The Best…” list page, as well as my annual best list on this topic for the past several years.
In this “The Best…” list, I’m going to highlight “The Best of the Best” of these tools for English Language Learners. I’ll be creating a similar list for non-ELL’s soon, too.
As in all the web apps I recommend in this series, they had to meet the following criteria:
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.
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 most 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.
The immediate impetus for this list is that next week we’ll be giving the California High School Exit Exam. This causes a huge two-day change in our schedule, and the bottom line is that I’ll have all of our school’s Beginning and Intermediate English students in the same class for eight hours during that time. We’ll be spending some time in the computer lab and, in addition to various regular sites we use, I wanted to pull together a few others that students could use for simple and fun creation of online content that also includes language learning opportunities.
During a portion of our time in the lab, I will be asking students to — either on their own or with a partner — use these apps to develop short narratives that should reinforce what we have been learning about writing essays — an autobiographical incident, problem/solution, or persuasive. I’ll be making a simpler version of this list for our class blog, and students will copy and paste the url addresses to their creations under the post.
So, here are my choices for The Best Ways For English Language Learners To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly (not in order of preference):
WRITE A PICTURE STORY: Five Card Flickr Story lets you pick five photos from a group of pre-selected images from Flickr and then write a story about them. It saves your selection and story, and provides you with a link to it. No registration is required.
MAKE A TALKING PERSON: The Arby’s restaurant chain will let you take any image off the Internet and then make it talk by either recording a message on a computer microphone or using the text-to-speech feature.
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.
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 one is Bubblr.
SUBTITLE A CLIP FROM A BOLLYWOOD OR A B-MOVIE: Bombay TV lets you choose a scene from a B movie from Bollywood and have fun creating subtitles for the clip.
WRITE A STORY WITH PAINTINGS: The Art of Storytelling is a site from the Delaware Art Museum that allows you pick a painting, write a short story about it, record it with your computer microphone, and email the url address for posting on a student website or blog. It’s extraordinarily simple, and extraordinarily accessible to any level of English Language Learner. No registration is required.
MAKE A “FAKEBOOK” PAGE FOR A HISTORICAL Or FICTIONAL CHARACTER: Fakebook lets you make a fake Facebook page for a historical or fictional character. No registration is required, and students can see a ton of examples here.
CREATE A PAGE OF CATEGORIZED VOCABULARY IMAGES & WORDS: Copytaste or Freedom Share let you copy and paste images from the Web into an automatically created webpage. ELL’s can be given categories (like “transportation”) and have to find images they would label for their own personal online dictionary that could be seen by the entire class.
SEND AN E-CARD: E-Cards are always ways to make the idea of writing more engaging, and the visual prompts of the photo can make it easier, too. Nations Illustrated has thousands of world images — all of which can easily be converted into an E-Card and posted on a blog (students can send it to themselves or to their teacher). If I was teaching a Social Studies class, Smithsonian Images and Picture History would be other E-Card sources. More sites include Cardkarma, The Guggenheim Museum, and Worldwide Health.
Feedback is welcome.