As regular readers know, I’ve begun posting my end-of-year “The Best….” lists. There are over 1,600 regularly updated lists now. You can see them all here.
As usual, in order to make this list, a site had to be:
* accessible to English Language Learners and non-tech savvy users.
* appropriate for classroom use.
* completely browser-based with no download required (however, I’ve begun to make exceptions for special mobile apps).
Some sites I’m including this year are primarily geared towards teachers creating content for classroom use, but could also easily be used by students.
It’s possible that a few of these sites began earlier than this year, but, if so, I’m including them in this list because they were “new to me” in 2016.
You might want to visit previous editions, as well as The “All-Time” Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education; The “All-Time” Best Ways To Create Online Content Easily & Quickly and The “All-Time” Best 2.0 Tools For Beginning English Language Learners.
Feel free to let me know if you think I’m leaving any tools out.
Instead of ranking each of the fifty tools on this list in order, I have them organized into three general groups: Useful, Good, and Excellent. The “Excellent” tools are added to the “All-Time” list mentioned previously.
Here are my fifty choices for The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2016:
WebReel lets you create a “reel” – a slideshow – of links to web addresses. You can also write a description of each site in the presentation. It would be an easy tool to use if teachers or students were creating webquests or internet scavenger hunts, which is why I’m adding it to The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests.
Elink is a new tool for collecting and curating web resources. For teachers, I think it would be most helpful in creating Webquests or Internet scavenger hunts – you can leave comments about each site you save.
Ormiboard lets up to four people collaborate on an online whiteboard and is free, at least for now. I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration. Thanks to Shelly Terrell for the tip.
Wakelet is another addition to the very crowded resource curation market. It does seem fairly easy to use, and you can leave notes to the links you save. Because of those features, I’m adding it to The Best Places To Create (And Find) Internet Scavenger Hunts & Webquests because teachers and students can use it for that activity.
Chalkmotion is an intriguing free tool that lets you either draw or choose “hand-drawn” illustrations to use in a slideshow (you can also add text). The intriguing part comes in when you publish your show – instead of just showing the images, it shows the the process of actually drawing them, too. It can be a little annoying because of the time involved, but also sort of fun. As you can see from the simple one I created, I could see ELLs using it for vocabulary reinforcement. I’m not ready to put it on any “Best” list, but it’s worth a look.
BeatLab seems like a very accessible way to create and share lots of different kinds of music. Thanks to Richard Byrne for the tip. I’m adding it to The Best Online Sites For Creating Music, which I just updated and revised.
Mad Libs, I think, have very limited usefulness with English Language Learners since they really don’t promote accurate understanding. However, for ELLs who are in the high-intermediate range, I’ve found they can be an occasional fun activity that also reinforces parts of speech. Having students create their own versions for their classmates can move this activity to a much more productive level, however, and the Word Blanks site is the easiest tool out there for making them.
Clarisketch looks like an excellent app for ELLs — you can draw and then record audio about it. Unfortunately, it’s only available as an Android app. I hope they’ll have an iPhone version soon. I’m adding it to The Best Sites To Practice Speaking English.
Google unveiled a new collaborative space called…Spaces. It appears to be a private space where invited users can share posts, photos and links.
Prisma is a new free app that lets you turn your photos into manga. I could see this being a very attractive tool for reluctant writers to use — they can create their own web comics. You can read more about it at TechCrunch.
Participate lets teachers collect different learning resources.
Votesy is a free and simple survey tool that lets you ask one text, image or video-based question. It really does seem super-easy to use, and the polls are embeddable.
Opinion Stage is a free and easy tool for making online tests, polls and lists.
Stephen Fry, who I had never heard of but who is apparently a well-known British actor and comedian, has launched Pindex, a “Pinterest For Education.” You can read more about it here, and it has a user-guide here. It really is a “knock-off” of Pinterest, so one might wonder why the world needs it. I think it might be useful to educators for two reasons — one, with luck, since it’s focused on education, school content filters might not block it as so many do Pinterest; and, secondly, because it has a nifty quiz-making feature that lets track if students have completed them. In other words, teachers can create a board which students study, followed by a quiz. After students complete a quiz (after they have registered for Pindex), their username appears under the quiz for its creator to see.
I’ve written about Russel Tarr’s extraordinary ClassTools site often (see This Is The Best Web 2.0 Site For ELLs & May Be The Best One For All Students). He has a zillion of easy-to-use (and with no registration required) tools for creating online content. He recently added another one to his vast suite of options — this time, it’s a super-simple way to create interactive online crossword puzzles.
Synap is a new easy tool for creating online quizzes. It will really be useful when there’s a large bank of user-created quizzes for teachers to draw upon.
I’ve been hearing a lot of “buzz” about Versal, which lets teachers create online interactive resources.
NoteBookCast is a simple online virtual whiteboard that can be used by many people at the same time.
I’ve written a lot about tools that students can use for annotating documents online (see Best Applications For Annotating Websites). I’m primarily interested in tools that don’t require any downloads at all because that makes it problematic for use in schools/ I recently learned from InterCom about a tool called Annotation Studio. It’s free and is from MIT.
ClassKick lets teachers create virtual classrooms with pre-made or original assignments. It’s free.
The Learnia lets you create interactive video lessons.
Poll Deep is a tool for…taking polls. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Creating Online Polls & Surveys.
PullQuote is an easy tool for creating visually attractive quotes online.
FotoJet is a new free online photo editor. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Online Photo-Editing & Photo Effects, which I’ve just updated and revised.
NowComment seems like a good tool for students to use when annotating online documents and they can see the comments of others, too (teachers can create private groups). The reason it’s under “Useful” instead of “Good” is because the only way you can annotate a website is by copying and pasting it, and I’m not sure if that’s legal or not.
Coggle is a new mindmapping tool. I’ve added it to Not “The Best,” But “A List” Of Mindmapping, Flow Chart Tools, & Graphic Organizers.
Thanks to David Kapular, I learned about a new site where users can create animations. It’s called Animatron. You can create five animations for free, but after that the cost is $15 per year. The feature that made it stand out to me was its audio recording capability, even though the sound quality isn’t top notch.
Tour-Builder by Google lets you easily create…tours. It’s super-easy to add videos or photos (uploaded or via searching the Web), and can be used to document literary journeys, field trips, historical events, etc. I’m adding it to The Best Map-Making Sites On The Web.Thanks to Sarah Thomas for the tip.
Perusall is a new online tool inspired by Eric Mazur. I’ve previously posted about his work encouraging college instructors to move away from lectures. Perusall is a free site where teachers can assign student readings for homework and where students annotate the text while connecting with other students doing the same thing at the same time. The tool then also supposedly provides some kind of automatic assessment for the student annotations. Teachers can upload anything they want, as well as assigning textbooks that then have to be purchased through the site (I assume that this is their strategy for making money). You can read more about it at This new tool makes the flipped classroom more social. I’m adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.
Vicki Davis shared a link to a new resource, Write The World, on Twitter. Write The World lets teachers set-up virtual classrooms for free where they can monitor student writing progress and, if they wish, let classmates use it for a peer review process. They can be private or public groups. In addition, the site has writing contests, provides prompts, and encourages students to view each other’s work from around the world. I’m adding it to: The Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience” and The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.
I learned about Genial.ly from Shelly Terrell’s excellent post, Visualizing Learning with Infographics: 23 Resources. Genial.ly seems like a new and useful free tool for creating infographics.
eMargin is a free tool developed by Birmingham City University in the United Kingdom. You can upload any text and have students annotate it, and the same text can be annotated by a closed group. In addition, you can “upload” a web address and annotate it, as well. The lay-out can be a bit funky with websites, but it’s still workable. I’m adding it to Best Applications For Annotating Websites.
Creating their own unique English subtitles to funny “foreign language” or silent movie scenes has been a fun language-learning activity done in many English Language Learner classrooms for years. There are several tools that teachers have used for just that purpose, which you can find at The Best Places To Create Funny Subtitles For Silent Movies. Caption Generator lets you do that for any video on YouTube, so ELLs and their teachers can now have even more choices. However, you probably want to use it with caution. Some of the videos that have been captioned and viewable on the site may not be classroom appropriate. However, I assume (thought haven’t checked at my school computer) that those videos will be blocked by district content filters. I can’t be sure, though.
Thanks to Sara-E. Cottrell, I recently learned about Sugarcane, a free web tool that lets you easily create lots of different kinds of learning games, as well as access ones that others have created. It’s owned by IXL Learning, but your school doesn’t have to be subscribed to it in order to use Sugarcane. I’m adding it to The Best Websites For Creating Online Learning Games.
The new PhotoScan app from Google, for both Android and iPhone, lets you easily convert your old “paper” photos into high-resolution digital images. It’s great for personal use, but I’m also finding it helpful for scanning some of the many old photos I’ve taken over the years that would be good for the classroom.
Most of us are probably familiar with the famous ethical “Trolley Problem” (see The Best Videos About The Famous “Trolley Problem”). Now, MIT has created what’s got to be the most engaging online version of the age-old ethical dilemma in its “Moral Machine.” Their take on the problem is that you are designing the moral decisions a self-driving car has to make. You’re given thirteen scenarios and, after you’re done, you can see how your answers compare to those of previous participants. The best part, though, of the site comes next. You can then create your own scenario that others can play! I think it’s safe to say that for as long as this site is up, any IB Theory of Knowledge class that has access to technology will be playing it during their Ethics unit.
Unsplash has been on my The Best Online Sources For Images list for quite awhile. It has tens of thousands of images that can be used for free – commercially or for educational purposes – without having to provide any attribution to the photographer (though, of course, it’s still a nice thing to do). Until relatively recently, however, it didn’t have a search feature. They recently unveiled a great one, and it’s super-fast. I’m still going to go with Photos For Class as my favorite free image site (see “Photos For Class” Is My Favorite Site For Finding Images), but Unsplash is a close second.
Pablo lets you create visually attractive quotes and provides access to over 50,000 royalty-free images.
I have a huge The Best Online Sources For Images list (and one needing some revising and updating). And, with all those resources available, Photos For Class has become my “go-to” site for blog and presentation images. It’s free and, when you download the image (all Creative Commons licensed for public use), proper attribution is shown with it. It can’t get much easier than that….
The History Project is a new free online tool for creating timelines, and its partially funded by The New York Times. It’s very easy to use, with web and social media search capability built into the site when you are creating a timeline. In addition to letting you create a sequential list including images and videos, and also shows the events on a map. Best of all, in my opinion, you can easily record your own audio thoughts for each event. I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Making Online Timelines, and it may be the best of the lot…
My Simple Show lets you create free audio “explainers” – about biographies, chemical reactions, you name it. What makes it truly exceptional is the scaffolding and support it provides each step of the way, plus so much of it is automated – down to the selection of images (which you can easily change). You can provide your own audio narration or choose its computer generated voice. It’s very, very simple to use and accessible to English Language Learners.
Zooniverse is an amazing site where scholars put up projects that require “people-powered research” – for example, attempting to decode formerly secret Civil War telegrams. It has many projects in multiple subject areas, along with very cool online tools for students to use when doing the research. The site also has lesson plans for teachers to use when introducing students to the site. A site like this offers real purposes for student learning. I’m amazed that I hadn’t heard of it before today when Stephen F. Knott sent the tweet about the Civil War project. Further exploration led me to all the site’s other features. I’m going to add it to Best Places Where Students Can Write For An “Authentic Audience,” but it deserves to be on a lot of other Best lists.
Reader Gabrielle Klingelhöfer shared the site Learning Apps with me, and I’m sure glad she did! It’s a free site that lets teachers create virtual classrooms where students can uses lots of different kinds of online exercises and games to learn many subjects. There are tons of already-created exercises divided by subject, and it seems super-easy – and I really mean easy – for teachers to create their own. There are many ESL and regular English interactives. There are tons on other subjects, as well. My only suggestion to the site is that it would be nice to have a further search parameter to divide by language. The other subjects have many exercises in other languages (the site itself appears to be from Germany) and it would just make it a little easier for teachers. But it’s really a minor issue for a fabulous site.
Wizer lets teachers easily create online, multimedia online “worksheets” (even better, you can use or modify ones other educators have made), give students the url address to the “worksheet” (I’d just copy-and-paste it on our class blog), students quickly and simply register on Wizer, complete the worksheet, and, voila, teachers can easily see each students’ work. In some ways, it’s like a somewhat less-sophisticated SAS Curriculum Pathways, which I think is the most useful site on the Web for teachers. There, though, only SAS creates the materials.
The KnowMe app is a Web 2.0 tool I found this year that I immediately added to The “All-Time” Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education list. You can combine photos from your phone with live video (f you want), easily add narration, and voila, you have an audio narrated presentation. You just hold down on the photo with a finger and talk. You can read about, and see many examples, about how I use it here.