Teachers for all levels of students today have so many more teaching aids than even just a few years ago. That’s not just because of greater access to the Internet but also because of the growing number of web applications that they can use. Some applications are specifically geared towards teaching and learning. Other applications can be adapted for these purposes. Here’s a list of some online applications, listed alphabetically, that we feel are excellent for teachers.
1. Chalksite. Chalksite is designed for teachers to let them give students and parents access to grades and assignments and even to communicate with them. Teachers get a personal website that’s easy to use. Other features include student profiles, individual student accounts, messaging to one or more students or parents, grade entry and calculations, and discussions via messages and weblog comments.
Pricing ranges from a free plan up to US$14.95/ month. Students join free, and have access via an Internet connection and tested web browsers: Internet Explorer 6+, Firefox, Apple Safari. Since it’s a hosted application, no other softwareis installed.
2. Edublogs. While something like Chalksite is ideal for some teachers, sometimes you just want a simple way to distribute information to your students, or even other teachers. Edublogs is an education community built on WordPress-powered blogs. It’s free, and like most blogging platforms, you can embed video, podcasts, etc.
Edublogs offers 10 ways to use an edublog for teaching, which includes class publications and newsletters, online discussions, allowing student blogs, and adding multimedia. If you have a webcam, you can upload video files to YouTube and embed those into your blog. For more sophisticated video slideshows, try SplashCast Media’s player. If you have the budget, Couple this with Techsmith’s Snagit screen still capture and Camtasia Studio screen video capture applications.
3. Empressr. If you want to go beyond presentations into multimedia, try Empressr. It’s stil in private beta, but you can register. Empressr is one of many web serivces that allow sharing of multimedia content, including video, audio and images.
Essentially, you can put together slideshows and upload them to the Empressr site. Visitors can view your media content then email it or even embed it on their web page. So in fact, you could combine Empressr content with your Edublogs blog. The existing content on their site even has an Education category. So it’s ideal for teachers, but students can also use it to post their own multimedia content.
Similar tools are Slide, which let’s you upload a selection of images to produce a slideshow. Another is SplashCast, mentioned elsewhere in this article. Both allow embedding of content, which you can apply to an Edublogs blog.
4. Engrade. Engrade, as the name might suggest, is an online gradebook. Teachers can create grade and attendance books, post homework information to a calendar, and add student reports. Students and parents can check grades, attendance and homework.
Accounts are completely free of charge and the site claims over 200,000 teachers, parents and students are using Engrade.
5. Google Presentations. Many teachers use overhead projectors to give presentations. On the web, it’s a lot easier to produce more sophisticated presentations and even share them. Google Presentations, which is part of Google Docs, gives you the same functionality as Microsoft Powerpoint. The content is shareable, simply by specifying email addresses. So teams can work together online.
6. Mindomo. One of the most effective ways to brainstorm ideas is with mindmapping. This is because a mindmap allows a lot of freedom in terms of how you add new bits of information. Mindmaps are great for organizing information hierarchically, producing project plans, managing projects, critical thinking, and hundreds more uses. Because most good mindmapping software allows you to expand or collapse nodes, you can switch between high-level and low-level views.
Web-based mindmaps have not been around as long as the desktop versions, but a few of them have advanced features. Mindomo is amongst the most sophisticated, with more features than some low-end desktop mindmapping applications such as Freemind (free). Mindomo, amongst others, allows document sharing. Comapping allows real-time collaboration. Other alternatives include MindMeister and Bubbl.us. Most of these web-based apps have both free and paid options.
7. Moodle. Moodle is similar to Edublogs in that it’s a means to publish teaching/ training content online. It differs in that it’s not a hosted application. It’s a content management system that must be installed – either on a local computer or on a web host.
It’s free, Open Source software for building and publishing course material, and it can handle up to 200,000 students for one online “university”. There’s also a large user community (over 300,000 users) speaking over 70 languages, so it’s easy to get some feedback, ask questions, etc.
8. Schoopy. Schoopy bills itself as a classroom organizer. It also lets schools publish their own website, and offers educational games online. Websites can contain class calendars, information about assignments, answers to assignments and quizzes, images and files. Content can be accessed by teachers, students and parents. Ther are also social networking features, which will help students get used to using social networks.
This web software is free of charge, though to get rid of the default contextual advertising requires a fee of US$499 per school year.
9. Yahoo Pipes. Yahoo Pipes isn’t so much a teaching tool as it is a great visual platform to build powerful web-based research tools that manipulate web feed data. While it’s still in beta and thus buggy or even down for maintenance on occasion, it’s ideal for building filtered web feed aggregators, custom search engines, map-based interfaces for geocoded data, and more. You can even integrate your own web services. Pipes applications can be personal or public.
10. Zap Reader. Various studies – and personal experience – show that speedreading can increase comprehension. The net result of this, of course, is often increased IQ, better grades, and an increased love of reading.
The problem is that some people find it hard to maintain the effort of running their finger across a printed page. And what do you do online? Most print fonts are just not conducive to speed reading.