Free web tools for classroom educators


Free web tools help engage students of all ages.


Although the 2011 Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) conference urges educators to explore how limitless technology can transform education, presenters and attendees also acknowledge the tough budget situation that schools across the nation are facing.

Doing more with less has become a mantra among technology enthusiasts, and in turn, free resources are more popular than ever.

On Feb. 10, technology integration specialists Jenni Keith and Sarah Daugherty from Coppell Independent School District in Coppell, Texas, presented a round-up of free web tools to a packed room.

WebList is a tool that gathers different resources and aggregates them under one main URL. Users can collect different websites, images, documents, and videos in an editable list. Each resource receives its own URL, but users can send the main URL to colleagues and share all resources in one place.

TypeWith.Me lets users collaborate in real time in a chat-like format. One user creates a document and sends the URL to others, and each user types in a different color. Users can import and export text files, websites, and documents for collaborative learning, brainstorming, and editing. Students can collaborate with one another on projects or group study sessions, and revisions are saved. A time slider function lets users and teachers view the chat progression.

My StoryMaker, from the Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh, lets students create their own stories that are archived for 30 days. Once created, a story is saved as a PDF and can be exported to a computer for permanent access. Students can play with characters, shapes, colors, movement, and sentences. Because users can’t edit a story after it is created, Daugherty recommended asking students to map out their stories before creating them online. It’s particularly popular with first and second grade students in the district, she said.

Glogster EDU lets educators and students create online multimedia posters with text, photos, videos, graphics, sounds, drawings, data attachments, and more.

A “Glog” is created using a drag-and-drop feature. Once projects are complete, a teacher can share students’ work in a variety of educational settings. Glogs can be embedded in a blog, wiki, or website, or shared with others using Glogster EDU’s presentation capabilities. The teacher easily creates a private virtual classroom with students by registering for a teacher-administered account, generating student accounts with safe logins and passwords, and monitoring all activities within the account throughout the learning process. Student accounts can be created without providing eMail addresses or other contact information. Educators can choose the number of student accounts, and Daugherty recommended signing up for the maximum number of free accounts available, because educators will keep all the accounts they open when they sign up.

Tagxedo turns words, including speeches, news articles, and student research papers, into a tag cloud. Students and teachers can choose the shape of their tag cloud, and they can import a picture if desired. The most frequently-used words appear the largest in the cloud. The site also features a list of 101 ways to use the resource.

ViewPure is exactly what the name implies: pure video viewing. It gives educators the ability show students YouTube videos without advertising, free from links to suggested videos that might be inappropriate, and without user comments below the video. Users can copy the video’s “pure” URL for future reference. In addition, teachers can opt to install a “Purify” button on their browser’s toolbar. Instead of pasting a YouTube video’s URL into the ViewPure URL field, an educator can simply click on the “Purify” button while viewing the YouTube video to instantly clear it of questionable advertisements and materials.

(Editor’s note: M86 Security has created a free website that also strips YouTube videos of their comments, links, and advertising. This website, called VuSafe, lets teachers create online video libraries of their favorite educational videos from YouTube and other sources, but unless the school uses M86’s web filter, YouTube must be unblocked on the teacher’s computer if he or she shows the videos in class.)

TubeChop helps educators avoid the hassle of skipping through videos to find a certain clip within the video. Instead, users can select and “cut” just the portion of the video they would like to show or share with others.

Museum Box is a presentation tool in which students put pictures, videos, and text into a virtual box. For instance, a student researching a project on the Renaissance might identify artwork or important documents from the time and place those into the box to show what life was like during the period and what important discoveries or advances occurred.

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Laura Ascione

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