A year ago I wrote this article for The Apple, it just got published yesterday I have a few tools I would add to this list. The first is Wiggio, you can read more about it here. The second is Vyew, you can read more about it here. Since the article was written a year ago, some of the tools are no longer available or have changed a little bit. Drop.io just got bought out by Facebook and the service has been discontinued so that is no longer an option.
Read the original 12 Tools for Blended Learning article here. If you are unfamiliar with The Apple, they are a social network platform for teachers that is connected to Monster.com. The apple shares educational news stories, education articles on every topic, forums, collaborative areas, educational job postings, lesson plans, resources, and more. Definitely worth checking out!
Kelly Tenkely | TheApple.com
With H1N1 lurking in our schools and the possibility of pandemic illness, there has never been a better occasion for blended learning. Blended learning occurs when schools and classrooms mix traditional face-to-face teaching, with online instruction and interaction. Aside from the flu, there are other great reasons to create an e-learning environment for your classroom.
Natural disasters, weather, school closings, long term student illness, struggling learners, English language learners, and students who are entering your classroom mid-way through the school year would all benefit from a blended learning environment. This type of e-learning brings a continuity to learning that is not otherwise possible.
Additionally, a blended learning classroom prepares students for a future that is largely virtual. Students are able to go back and review lessons and learning at their own pace. Students who may lack support at home from parents or family members will have access to on demand learning. Parents will gain a better understanding of what is happening in the classroom and, as a result, will be more equipped to assist their child’s learning. Blending your classroom can save you time and energy by making your classroom more effective and efficient.
Making the transition to a blended learning classroom doesn’t have to happen overnight. Post teaching and learning materials online a little at a time, systematically increasing your offerings. This makes the progression for students, teachers, and parents seamless. Begin by providing instructional materials that were used throughout the school day online. Gradually add extra options such as online collaboration, assignments, grading, and lesson materials. Should your school need to go completely virtual due to school closure, the groundwork will have been laid to make it possible.
There are several free programs that help make e-Learning possible, choose the one that best meets your classroom and school needs.
1. Edu 2.0 http://edu20.org
Benefits: Edu 2.0 is a complete e-Learning solution. It is completely free to use with no hidden costs or advertising. Classes can be taught public (open to the world) or private (specific to the students in your classroom). A comprehensive gradebook is provided complete with weighting, statistics, and graphs. Online quizzes can be created that include a variety of question types. Messaging is built in and has the option of email integration. Within Edu 2.0 students and teachers can create public or private blogs and wikis.
Attendance gets tracked and teachers can optionally award points for consistent online attendance. The built in chat feature allows for real time group discussions. Create custom news feeds for classes with the built inRSS reader. Each student can create and keep an online portfolio of their best work. The site is multi lingual and available in 10+ languages. If you have a student user who has their language set differently from yours, all messages are automatically translated through Google Translate. Transcripts of all student grades are available and pull directly from the built-in gradebook. Conduct surveys from within Edu 2.0 and collect results. Multimedia can be added to any lesson including audio, video, photos, and slide shows. The format for building lessons is very simple to use, if you use a word processor you can use Edu 2.0.
Drawbacks: Edu 2.0 may be difficult for students younger than third or fourth grade to navigate independently. Younger students would require some adult assistance.
2. Hot Chalk http://hotchalk.com
Benefits: Hot Chalk’s free learning management system generates daily teacher and student activities while providing a safe and secure online environment where teachers, students, and parents can interact. Hot chalk offers a grade book, online lesson creation, automatically graded quizzes, and an extensive library of digital content. Search Hot Chalks large database of pre-made lessons or create your own. Students can complete and turn in assignments online in one easy stop. Teachers can comment directly on student assignments. The digital content in Hot Chalk’s library is aligned with standardized curriculums and comes from sources such as Globetrekker, National Geographic, PBS, VEA, and more. Hot Chalk is easy to learn and use for both students and teachers.
Drawbacks: Hot Chalk doesn’t contain as many built in options as some of the other e-learning solutions. This is not an all-in-one solution if you are looking for collaborative projects, blogs, wikis or more complex quizzes and tests. Hot Chalk does not advertise to students during the school hours, however the site is advertisement driven to keep it free.
3. Moodle http://moodle.org
Benefits: Moodle is an open source course management system that provides a virtual learning environment. Moodle is made up of action modules that include forms, wikis, databases, etc. that allow a teacher to build richly collaborative communities of learning around a subject matter. It can be used to deliver content to students and assess learning through assignments and quizzes. Moodle is a robust system and has nearly endless options for customization and implementation. It is comprehensive in its offering of gradebooks, collaborative tools, lesson building abilities, and assessment. Teachers have the option to fully conduct online courses, or simply augment face-to-face class time. Moodle works on all computing platforms including Mac, PC, and Linux. Moodle has extensive documentation and knowledge communities to learn from.
Drawbacks: Moodle is an open source software that has to be downloaded and installed on a web server. It is not as intuitive as Edu 2.0 or Hot Chalk. Moodle would be difficult for younger students to navigate and understand.
4. Think Quest http://think.com
Benefits: Oracle’s Think Quest is an online environment where students can learn, work together, and manage an online presence in a safe environment. Teachers can assign learning projects for students to work on collaboratively. Other teachers can easily be invited to participate in the online learning projects. Each teacher and student has their own pages where they can create an online presence using text, pictures, multimedia, votes, debates, messaging, and brainstorming. These pages are simple enough for even very young students to create and contribute to, and offer a great introduction to blogging. Think Quest has a library of 7,000+ ready made projects created by teachers from around the world. Think Quest was created for students in k-12 and has no advertising. It is password protected and teacher monitored. Teachers can set up their class to be private so that students can only view other pages of students in their class or public to see what other students from around the world are doing. Think Quest promotes critical thinking, teamwork, communication, creativity, the use of technology, and self-direction. This is a nice option for elementary schools or primary students. It is browser based making it accessible to anyone with an Internet connected computer.
Drawbacks: ThinkQuest is limited in its offerings as a virtual school. There are limits set on file sizes of multimedia that can be used on student pages. There is no built in gradebook and no central location for students to submit work.
The above e-Learning solutions can be supplemented with additional opportunities for one-on-one interaction between teachers and students. Record the live class activities, lessons, and tutorials for on demand learning.
5. Skype- www.skype.com
Benefits: Skype is an excellent way for teachers to connect with students over the Internet. Skype provides a free platform for chatting, audio or video messaging, and screen sharing. Skype sessions can be recorded and saved for future reference. A Skype session would be an excellent way to connect with students to deliver teaching, read a story together, or discuss learning.
Drawbacks: Skype does require a download and students must register with a username and password to use Skype. Skype is not a closed network, this means that students could use Skype to communicate with people outside the classroom.
6. Pal Bee- www.palbee.com
Benefits: Pal Bee is a free online service where you can set up meetings in real time to collaborate online. Pal Bee offers video and audio abilities and provides a virtual whiteboard where students can share ideas. Sessions can be recorded and stored online with Pal Bee.
Drawbacks: Pal Bee limits meetings to 9 people at a time so you may have to split your class into sections.
7. UStream- www.ustream.com
Benefits: Ustream allows you to stream video live. Create a UStream channel for your classroom and stream your lessons live. Students can tune in to view teaching and ask questions or add input via text chat within the UStream channel. You can record your live boradcast for future viewing.
Drawbacks: If you don’t direct your students directly to your UStream channel, they will see feature highlight videos created by other users. These are not necessarily education friendly.
8. Wall Wisher- www.wallwisher.com
Benefits: Wall Wisher is a fantastic little web application that provides a virtual bulletin board of sorts. Teachers can pose questions or ideas for students to answer or think about. Students are sent the unique wall URL and can leave virtual sticky notes answering the question. Students do not have to login to use Wall Wisher, a simple double click allows them to add any thoughts they need to the wall. The platform is very simple to use but provides the opportunity for discussion and collaboration between students.
Drawbacks: Each sticky note is limited to 160 characters making in depth answers difficult on this site.
9. Screen Toaster- www.screentoaster.com
Benefits: Screen Toaster is a browser based screen recording tool that allows teachers to create detailed screencast instructions in minutes. This free to use application can take a video of anything that is on your computer screen. Audio can be included (or not) for any screencast. The screencast video is given a uniqueURL that can be embedded on a webpage or blog or sent to students via email. This is a great way for teaching students how to use e-Learning tools or any online assignments.
Drawbacks: This site requires a robust Internet connection for video creation.
File sharing websites make it easy for your students to access large files, word documents, or pdfs. They are also an effortless way for students to turn in assignments.
10. Drop.io http://drop.io
Benefits: Drop.io makes it easy to put anything (pictures, audio, or documents) in an online environment where it can be accessed by others to collaborate and share. The documents can be accessed from the web, email, fax, or as an embedded widget. In just two clicks users are able to create personal sharing points, upload content via web, email, MMS, phone and fax. Each ‘drop’ is non-searchable and non-networked, does not require an account and can be password protected and set to expire after a period of time. This makes it very convenient for teachers and students to exchange files and documents online.
Drawbacks: Although Drop.io offers a free account, some of the functionality of a premium paid account would be useful in the classroom.
11. Google Docs- http://google.com/docs
Benefits: Google Docs is an online document, spreadsheet, presentation, and form creation tool. Google Docs are all stored online and can be easily shared with other Google Doc users for collaboration or to turn in an assignment. The layout of Google Docs is very intuitive and closely resembles office suites that students would be familiar with. Google Docs is a free online office suite.
12. Zoho- http://zoho.com
Benefits: Zoho offers a complete range of free online productivity and collaboration applications. These include email, word processor, spreadsheets, slide shows, document management folders, wiki, note taker, online organizer, group chats, web conferencing, database, project collaboration, and a repository to share documents with other users. All Zoho applications work together seamlessly. This is an excellent alternative to software based office suites. Students and teachers can create and share documents online easily.
Even if you never have a need to take your classroom or school into a completely virtual environment, blended learning will allow your students self guided learning opportunities where they can build communication and collaboration skills. These free tools will organize your classroom in new ways and provide learning that extends beyond the confines of the classroom.