Presentation Tools: in light of Common Core ELA Anchor Standards (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4, CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 AND CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 (Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas), these are most often requested in our district.
I recommend Google Presentation, Prezi, and PowToon. It is time to move students away from PowerPoint while still using the linear reasoning that PowerPoint offers. Additionally, each tool looks and behaves much like PowerPoint, which makes the learning process easier.
Google Presentation does not have the bells and whistles of Powerpoint; however, its ability to reside in the cloud, and counting in the new Add-On options, research menu, sharing and comments, far outweighs its shortcomings. Additionally, students can upload any PowerPoint presentation and keep the original theme in Google presentation. Prezi can be accessed by students on a PC, Mac, and iPad. It has a 3-dimensional, infinite canvas that allows the creator and user to zoom in for details and out for the big picture. Many students enjoy the open spaces and you can add text and multimedia items, like photo, video and audio files. Powtoon, is both a presentation tool and a 2d animator. Students like how easy it is make a high impact.
Collaboration tools: Google Docs, VoiceThread, and Padlet can work to provide transparent ways for students to show what they know and have fun doing it. As a Google Apps for Education district, collaborating and commenting on documents have become daily practice in most classrooms. Assigning peer editing jobs for students working in groups, learning to be critical and to work together far beyond the classroom walls are some of the basic tenets of Google Apps. VoiceThread (Edu) allows teachers and students to upload media (pictures, videos, text) into a “virtual slideshow” and then invite others to comment and participate. Visitor comments can be in the form of text, audio or video – it can even call your phone to receive a voice comment. VoiceThread (we subscribe to VoiceThread EDU) is engaging for the creator and the commentators because it offers several ways to connect with the “thread”. Padlet is a virtual corkboard that can be shared privately (or publicly) for students to post to—and is by far the easiest tool on the cloud for connecting students. Posts can contain video, images, text or documents. It is available on all devices, easy to learn, with no email needed and supports all levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy and collaborative work.
Communication Tools: Online communication lets students test their opinions, hear other’s thoughts, practice communication through writing, and expand their knowledge base. Google Groups allow classrooms to have online discussions around classroom topics in a controlled environment. All participants must be invited into the group and have a district email account. The discussions are saved in threads. Students can initiate and respond to prompts and/or their peers. EduBlogs (we have a campus license) or other blog platforms allows the conversation to be extended to a more global audience. Comments are moderated by the blog owner(s) before they are made public.
Curation Tools: When students curate, not simply collect, resources, numerous Common Core Standards are addressed (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8, CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2, and CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.5).
Curation involves critical thinking as students synthesize and evaluate resources to make learning connections and answer essential questions. Content curation includes searching, selecting, analyzing, evaluating, annotating, and sharing resources. Mind maps (graphic organizers) are essential in assisting with brainstorming structures for information. MindMeister is my first pick. It is multi-platform, incredibly easy to use, and free, enabling sharing and exporting. Infographics (information in graphics) are also excellent synthesizing tools. They aid in visually chunking information efficiently. I suggest PiktoChart or Glogster. Lastly, for a place to house resources into a single location, I recommend Google Sites as the Google Apps for Education built-in solution.
The tools discussed above also cover critical thinking, Global Issues (making it real), and creativity. Once students understand the buffet of options, they can mix and match the tools for most projects. This knowledge will also scaffold the selection, learning and use of additional web tools.
Denise Jaffe is technology integration facilitator at West Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut.