As regular readers know, I’ve begun posting my mid-year “The Best….” lists. There are nearly 1,500 regularly updated lists now. You can see them all here.
As usual, in order to make this list, a site has 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 2015.
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.
The Best Tools For Creating “Word Frequency Charts” For Books, Articles & Movies and The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay are also new Web 2.0-related “Best” lists I published this year:
Feel free to let me know if you think I’m leaving any tools out.
Instead of ranking each of the forty-eight 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 ranked choices for The Best Web 2.0 Applications For Education In 2015:
I’ve written about Russel Tarr’s site ClassTools many times, including featuring it in a post titled This Is The Best Web 2.0 Site For ELLs & May Be The Best One For All Students. He recently released another tool to join the many he has already. It’s called the Breaking News Generator!. Students can create a screenshot of a newscast with a news crawler at the bottom. Like his other tools, it’s free and simple to use.
Deekit is a new tool for collaboratively creating online whiteboards.It’s similar to other whiteboard tools on The Best Online Tools For Real-Time Collaboration list, though it does appear to have more bells and whistles. It’s free — at least, for now — and you can read more about it atTechCrunch.
Classmint is like a super Flashcard site.
Five Thirty Eight wrote an extensive article about a new free Google Chrome Extension called Draftback. It allows you to see the entire writing process unfold for any Google Doc. In other words, every mistake, correction, revision, etc. — either in the “realtime” it took or in a “speeded-up” time. You can then easily embed the created “Draftback.” I’m not sure if it’s just a cool toy that people will use once to try it out, or a tool that could be very effective in teaching writing to students.
Firefox has unveiled “Hello,” a video-calling system that is built into its browser. No registration is necessary. All you have to do is easily “create a conversation,” name it, and send the url link to the person with whom you want to talk. You can also create a contact list. They can use other browsers, like Chrome, and still use the link to the video call. Unfortunately, it appears to me that you can’t have group video chatrooms — in other words, it appears that you can just have two computers using the url address.
Trello is another free tool that teachers and students can use to create online corkboards/bulletin boards (like Padlet and other sites on The Best Online Virtual “Corkboards” (or “Bulletin Boards”) list).
Prezi, the incredibly popular (though, to me, still rather discomforting to look at) presentation tool, has unveiled an iPhone app called Nutshell.
Presentate is a new tool for creating online presentations. It looks nice, but you have to register for its beta. I received my invitation fairly quickly. I’m not convinced the world needs yet another online presentation site, but I’ll still add it to The Best Ways To Create Online Slideshows.
Thematic is another tool for creating slideshows. I like it a little better than Presentate, and it’s now open to the public. You can learn more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog. I’m adding it to that same “Best” list.
Speaking of online slideshow tool, here are two more:
One is Bunkr. Last May they unveiled a “new” Bunkr, which was a big improvement. Recently, they supposedly unveiled a new Bunkr which has been completely redesigned. You can read a wayover-the-top review of it at TechCrunch. It is worth a look, though.
Sway is Microsoft’s new online slideshow tool.
Hstry is a nice new online too for creating timelines. Richard Byrne wrote a post about it, and I’d suggest just you visit his blog to learn more. As he points out, one of the particularly nice features of this free tool is that teachers can create virtual classrooms for their students.
MoocNote is a new site that lets teachers create video playlists, along with notes and questions for students to answer. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog. I’m adding it to A Potpourri Of The Best & Most Useful Video Sites.
I learned about Biteable from Ed Tech & Mobile Learning. It seemed a bit clunky, but it’s also new, and it’s free. It would be an easy tool for students to use — it’s sort of a somewhat less sophisticated Animoto. You can’t embed the video, but it provides an easy option to upload it to YouTube.
Write Lab looks like a very interesting, and unique, online writing tool (it doesn’t quite fit into a Web 2.0 category, but I’m putting it here, anyway). Once students upload their essay, its software provides a lot of critical feedback. In my experiment, the feedback seemed pretty accurate. The problem was there was way too much of it, and that will be a problem for students — to be able separate the really important stuff from the little stuff. I’m adding it to The Best Online Tools That Can Help Students Write An Essay.
Polarr is yet another online tool for photo-editing, and it looks like a good one. I’m adding it to The Best Sites For Online Photo-Editing & Photo Effects.
Vibby lets you share segments of YouTube videos with inserted questions. You can read more about it at these two Richard Byrne posts. I’m adding it to The Best Tools For Cutting-Out & Saving Portions Of Online Videos (Or Annotating Them).
Playbuzz lets you create a variety of online games and quizzes very easily – for free. You can embed them, too.
Plotagon is a free app that lets you create simple animations with a text-to-speech ability. A very nice feature it has – which sets it apart from a lot of animation tools — is that it provides a lot of prompts for users. That could be a big help to English Language Learners.
I am amazingly ignorant about math, but a zillion math teachers tell me that Desmos is the best math app out there, which I shared in recent ASCD Educational Leadership article, Apps, Apps Everywhere: Are Any Good, You Think? Dan Meyer has just shared the Desmos unveiled a new feature – the ability for teachers to create their own activities on the site. I don’t understand any of this, but I’m assuming this makes Desmos even better!
Sketchlot lets teachers create virtual classrooms for their students, who can then create drawings or other products on an online whiteboard that can be monitored by their teachers. I’m adding it to The Best Art Websites For Learning English and to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress. Thanks to – who else? – Richard Byrne for the tip.
Animaps is a new tool for created an sequential series of points on a map — in another words, an animated video of a trip, a series of events & where they took place from literature or history, etc. It seems very easy to use. You can read more about it at Richard Byrne’s blog. I’m adding it to The Best Map-Making Sites On The Web.
Chisel is a simple way to create visually attractive quotations to share online.
eQuiz Show lets you easily create online Jeopardy-like games without requiring registration. There are already a number of similar tools on the list, but you can never have too many because who knows what School District content filters will block and what they will let through.
Thanks to Alison Rostetter, I learned about Teachers-Direct. They have two styles of games you can create without registering. One is called Quiz-Busters. The other is sort of interesting. I’m not a big fan of Word Searches, and view them as basically busy work. At this site, you can create a Word Search – with a twist. Instead of listing the words students have to find, you list sentences with a blank and the students have to come up with the word and find it. I wouldn’t spend any teacher time on creating one, but I could see having students use it to create ones for classmates to play now-and-then.
Inspirok is a web tool that lets you develop itineraries for a trip. I’m adding it to The Best Sites Where Students Can Plan Virtual Trips.
EdShelf looks like yet another place where educators can curate and discover useful online tools and sites.
Riddle looks like an exceptional site that you can use for creating a survey or a quiz.
Hypothes.is is a neat-looking online tool to annotate webpages.
Russel Tarr unveiled yet another new feature at his ClassTools site that lets users create a “3D Gallery” with captions.
I have a lengthy list of free tools at The Best Tools For Creating Visually Attractive Quotations For Online Sharing. Here’s a new addition to that list: Live Luv Create .You can use many of their stock images or use your own, and then add text. The two negatives to the site are, one, even though it’s free, you do have to register with it. Most of the other tools on my list let you create quotes without requiring registration. The other problem is that though it provides an embed code when you first create your image, unless you grab it then there doesn’t appear to be any way to find it again.
Russel Tarr has yet another new online game called Dustbin. Students can very easily create a game — without registering — that requires players to categorize words. Categorization is a higher-ordering thinking skill, and I’m always on the look-out for interactives that have that requirement.
Here’s another new online game from Russel Tarr’s ClassTools site: It’s called Connect Fours and is based on a BBC game show that I’ve posted about previously in “Only Connect” Is A Great Game For The Classroom. As I wrote then, the concept of the game was great was for English Language Learners, but the online BBC game itself was too advanced for them. I had suggested, though, that it would be easy for students and teachers to create their own versions with paper and pencil, and I’ve done that numerous times in my classes. Thankfully, though, Russel has now created a super-easy version that teachers and students can use to make their own online without having to register. In the game, there are sixteen squares with words on each one. The player needs to use the words to create four categories of four words each. It’s a great game that helps develop the higher-order thinking skill of categorization.
I’ve previously posted several times about how much I love the Shadow Puppet app — there isn’t anything out there that’s an easier tool for creating a quick audio-narrated slideshow. It’s perfect for English Language Learners. The company behind Shadow Puppet has released another new and free educational app that looks like it could be very useful. It’s called Seesaw, and basically lets students easily create digital portfolios that can be shared with teachers and parents. It’s free for teachers and students, and has a free and paid version for parents.
Jukedeck lets you specify the kind of music you want and the length of track you need, and then it creates the music for you, which you can download for free. The entire process takes a minute or two. You still have to request early access to be able to use the service, but I received mine pretty quickly.I’m adding it to The Best Places To Get Royalty-Free Music & Sound Effects.
In June, I wrote about the welcome web version of Skype, which means you don’t have to download software in order to use it. It makes it a lot easier to use in schools where downloading software to school computers is often limited to a select few. A few months later, Skype announced another big improvement — now, when you start a Skype conversation, all you have to do is share a link to it and anyone can join even if they are not a registered Skype user. Click on the link, type in your name, and you’re in!
Zing! has thousands of free Ebooks that students can read, and it also lets them easily annotate them — without requiring any downloads. Most of the books don’t seem to have an audio option, but it still has a nice collection of those that do. Of course, books with audio narration are ideal for English Language Learners. Teachers can create virtual classrooms though the process is a little time-intensive. It would be nice if they didn’t require as much information on each students as they do in order for a teacher to add a student to their classroom. Even better, it would be great if they allowed students to just use a code given to them by their teacher so they can sign-up for themselves (other similar sites have that feature). But they are new, so I assume they’ll be making those kinds of changes over time. Their selection of books really stands-out right now, and their annotation process is easy-as-pie, so it’s really worth looking into it despite my minor complaints. I’m adding this site to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress.
Richard Byrne wrote about a new tool called Actively Learn, and it really looks like a winner. Richard provides a pretty thorough explanation of the site, and I’d encourage you to go to his post to read about it. A quick summary is that it teachers can create virtual classrooms, students can read and annotate tons of materials the site already has (and teachers can upload their own, too – including webpages), and teachers can embed questions they want students to answer. And it’s free (you can pay for a premium service, but what it offers for free works for me). One other great feature of the site is that it has tons of videos clearly explaining how to use each of its features.I’m adding it to The Best Sites That Students Can Use Independently And Let Teachers Check On Progress and to Best Applications For Annotating Websites.
I was searching online to find simple tools for making online matching games (the ones that, for example, have questions on the left and mixed-up answers on the right) and was pleasantly surprised to find the SuperTeacherTools site. Not only does it let teacher and students create these kinds of matching games without having to register and very easily, it also has other game-making features. Here’s a quick one I did on a growth mindset. There were a few others, including Eduplay, but SuperTeacherTools was by far the best one.
Quizalize is a relatively new addition to The Best Ways To Create Online Tests. It’s very similar to Kahoot. My big critique of both Quizalize and Kahoot has been that neither have allowed students to see how they are faring against their classmates in answering the questions, which is an important component (used appropriately) in using them as games. That’s why I’ve featured an alternative called Quizizz on my The Best Websites For Creating Online Learning Games list over the first two. Quizizz lets students see their standing in the competition. Even though I don’t think it’s been a problem in my classes for low-scoring students to see their low-standings because of the super-strong culture we develop around student challenges being around learning the English language and not about intelligence, I can see that problem potentially being an issue in many content classes.
Quizalize recently announced a new feature that I think deals with that problem — now students are automatically grouped in teams and the teams compete against each other, plus students see how their teams are doing. This is how I typically organizing learning games in the classroom, and I think it’s simple, yet ingenious, that Quizalize figured out how to do it automatically online. I’m now adding both Quizizz and Quizalize to The “All-Time” Best Online Learning Games.
Edueto has got to be one of the best Web 2.0 sites of the year, and perhaps the most useful one for teachers and students. And it’s free. Teachers can create exercises in any of the forms listed in the above screenshot and assign them to a virtual class they create. Students can do the activity and teachers can track their progress. You can also access a library of exercises created by other teachers that you can assign “as is” to students or edit. The exercises are very easy to create, and each has a short instructional video (I have to say that I wish the videos didn’t move quite so fast, though). One of the particularly important features it has, unlike some quasi-similar automatic activity creators out there is that, for example, teachers can strategically place the blanks to be filled in the “gap-fill” exercise, instead of just having an algorithm choose them. I’ve added Edueto to my All-Time Best list.
Anyone who’s every listened to NPR is probably familiar with StoryCorps, and I’ve published several posts sharing their resources. They recently unveiled a new free mobile app at the TED Conference that allows anyone to record an interview with anyone and upload it their new site, StoryCorps.me. They have both iPhone and Android versions, and they’re great! The app provides multiple suggestions for questions, depending on who you are interviewing (you can also add your own). It’s a perfect tool for having students interview their parents, grandparents or other older family members (which also makes it easy to ensure students have parental consent — by the way, their policy states users must be over 13). It’s super-simple to use. Of course, classmates could also interview others, as long as teachers had parental permission. I’ve added this app to my All-Time Best list. Also, StoryCorps is inviting high school teachers and students to participate in the Great Listen this Thanksgiving.
Let me know what you think!