Our school is divided into seven “Small Learning Communities” (SLC’s). Our SLC’s contain 300 students and twenty teachers each, and we all stay together during the student’s four year high school career (see What Are Small Learning Communities? for more information).
I’m part of the Information Technology SLC, which means that most of my ninth-grade English students also take a basic computer class. Their teacher is gracious enough to let my colleague Katie Hull and me design assignments for our students to do every Friday in their computer class, and sometimes more often. You can see the types of assignments they do at our Ninth-Grade English Class Blog. It’s a huge asset to our class — like having an extra English class period each week.
Sometimes, though, students get done early with the class blog assignments and are unclear about what they should do next. And, since Katie and I are not actually present, we can’t be there to help them out.
I’ve written about the crazy schedule we’re going to have this coming week with some of our students taking the California High School Exit Exam. Because of that, I’m going to have some students for many, many hours on Tuesday and Wednesday. During part of that time when we’re in the computer lab, I’m going to help train a small number of our mainstream ninth-grade students on some easy tools they can use when they’ve finished our assignments early. They, in turn, can show their classmates.
Though these tools are very simple, most are slightly more complicated than the ones I highlighted in The Best Ways For English Language Learners To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly. I’ve continued to try, though, to only include ones that do not require registration. And, even though a few students will be learning how to use them under my supervision this week, I’m only listing tools that I’m confident most students can learn how to use pretty much on their own. All these sites allow students to create content that they will be able post in the comments section of our class blog. Finally, all these sites can challenge students to use higher-order thinking skills. I’ll be making a more simple version of this post over there. They will be able to use them to create online content for any unit we are studying at the time.
You may have noticed that I added a “qualifier” to the title of this post — (For Their Classmates & Teacher To See). The reason for that is that I’m creating another “The Best…” list in the next day or so that highlights what I think are the best places for students to create content that others — beyond their teacher and classmates – can see. I’ll cull them from two of my more popular “The Best…” lists:
Here are my choices for The Best Ways For Advanced ELL’s & Non-ELL’s To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly (For Their Classmates & Teacher To See)):
ANNOTATE A WEBPAGE: WebKlipper lets you easily, without requiring registration, annotate any webpage with virtual post-it notes or a highlighter. You’re then given the url address of the annotated webpage. It’s quite easy to use. Students can use it to demonstrate reading strategies (visualizing, asking questions, making a connection, etc.). Bounce is another option.
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.
CREATE A TEST: Testmoz is an app that lets you create an online, self-correcting quiz without having to register.
MAKE A LIST: Thinkmeter lets you makes lists and is designed as a survey-like tool, but I’d like students to use it somewhat differently. If you pick an item from Amazon, it will show an image of the item and, at least if you list a book, it will also show a description of it. In addition, if you insert the url address of an image from the Web, it will show it. You can post the link to your survey wherever you please. You can’t write descriptions of the items as you are making the list. However, once it’s made, you are given the ability to make a comment on each item. I think it’s the best thing out there (that doesn’t require registration) for students to make a list of their favorite books and explain why they picked each one, or, if we’re studying a unit like “Jamaica,” listing the things they like best about the country and explaining why for each one.
MAKE A MAP: Zee Maps, without registration, lets you create a map and add media by pasting the url address of any photo you grab off the Web.
MAKE A GAME OTHERS CAN PLAY: Jeopardy Labs lets you easily create an online Jeopardy game without having to register. Maybe I’m the only teacher who feels this way, but I’ve always found that playing Jeopardy the way they do on TV — giving players the answer and then they have to come-up with the question — to be overly confusing for students in the classroom. When I’ve played it in class, I’ve just given the questions and had students have to say the answers. Given my feelings about this, even though it’s super simple to use this tool to create the game, I tell my students to ignore the site’s instructions and just write the questions first and the answers second so that the board displays the question.
CREATE A WALLWISHER TO SUMMARIZE DATA SETS: Wallwisher lets you make a virtual wall of “sticky notes” where you can include images, text, and/or videos. Inductive learning is a key part of our teaching at Burbank, and we use what are called “data sets” as a major component of those lessons. You can read more about this categorization tool in both my book on teaching English Language Learners and my upcoming book on Helping Students Motivate Themselves. After students categorize the info in these data sets, they can summarize them and use them to create Wallwishers, as our students did in our Nelson Mandela unit. You can see many examples of their creations in our class blog. (You should be know, though, that Wallwisher has been “acting-up” a bit lately). (Corkboard might be an easier tool to use) You could also use a sites like Copytaste or Freedom Share to do something similar — they both allow just copying and pasting images from the Web.
CREATE AN INTERNET SCAVENGER HUNT: Students have been completing Internet Scavenger Hunts, which are basically a series of questions along with links where they can find the answers. We’ve just been grabbing ones we find on the Web and putting them on our class blog for students to complete, but there’s no reason why students now can’t start making their own. Their classmates can then complete them. Even though there are relatively simple sites that are solely devoted to the creation of scavenger hunts and more sophisticated Webquests (see The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests), I think, for our purposes, just having students come up with a few questions, then list a url address where they can find the answers, and then list a few more questions, etc. would be sufficient for what we want to do. For that purpose, I don’t there’s anything easier than a site like Copytaste (Freedom Share is another one). Students just have to make the list of questions and websites and the page is automatically converted into a website whose url address can be pasted on our class blog.
CREATE A POWERPOINT PRESENTATION: Like the online book and slideshow tools mentioned at the top of this list, converting something they’ve written in class (or writing a short piece in the computer lab about a topic we’re learning) into a PowerPoint presentation and uploading it to Slideshare is another easy way to create web content.
SEND AN E-CARD: In several of our units, we have students write “postcards” to people they know from the places we are studying, sometimes including some of the local dialect or slang. 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.
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.
MAKE AN ONLINE TUTORIAL: tildee lets you very easily create a simple step-by-step tutorial for just about anything. You can add text, maps, videos and photos (unfortunately, though, you can only upload photos — not grab them from the Web. They say they’re adding that ability soon). And you don’t even have to register for the service.
Feedback is welcome.