List of Tools

There are a variety of digital tools and resources that I use personally, professionally, and in my English classroom. My favorites are listed below.

 I use frequently!

Illum_Ed Illuminate Education

What is it? 

Illuminate education is a web-based program that generates scantron-like sheets that students can use to bubble their answers for an assessment. The program also allows a common camera to scan student bubble sheets, and generate correct/incorrect percentages to measure student proficiency.

Affordances?

The program will chart question groups with objectives and standards, juxtapose pre and post tests, generate customized data reports, and do it all with answer sheets that I can print on any printer and scan with any camera. It’s amazing. My favorite use is showing my classes their pre-test data to show how they’ve grown after a post-test. Students (and myself), find it hugely motivating to see the difference in growth. The best part is how instant it is. Students can see their score minutes after they’ve taken an assessment.

Constraints?

It’s not free. For me, it’s provided by our ISD. It’s also not a very intuitive program, so learning how to use it (much less use it effectively) takes a bit of time and patience. It’s also easy to become a little “hooked” on it. The instant and easy nature of testing kids can be alluring. Teachers using it must remember that objective response tests are certainly not the limit of assessment.

FormsGoogle Forms

What is it? 

Google forms is a web-based program that is provided with the Goggle Apps Suite. I mention it here because it seems under-utilized. Google forms are used to create a form, or a survey, that can be posted, sent, or embedded on a website to gather responses by anyone that takes it.

Affordances?

I love that a Google Form can be embedded anywhere, and that I can use a variety of questions groups (multiple choice, extended response, short response, etc). It deposits all responses into a spreadsheet that can be manipulated just like Excel- which is helpful for sorting or searching. Also, Google will automatically chart, and color code the data in a summary. Teachers can even download a free extension called “Fluberoo” that will score question groups.

Constraints?

I can’t think of any constraints that I deal with, when using Forms. I suppose because it’s online, one only has access to it whenever there’s access to the web.

 

Prezi  Prezi

What is it? 

Prezi is an online presentation platform that is similar to Powerpoint, except that it uses camera zooms instead of slides.

Affordances?

Prezi is very visually dynamic and attractive. It arrests the attention. It also allows the user to embed media like pictures, or videos. I use it when I teach narrative, grammar, and anything that might benefit from a visual metaphor. It’s also shareable via email, or embedded on a website. This is great for my kids who are absent or studying. It’s also free!

Constraints?

Prezi can be a bit difficult to work with. At times, it’s not very intuitive, and can actually limit itself with the “zooms”. It also boasts that it’s a collaborative program- but it struggles to accommodate multiple users.

 

poppletPopplet

What is it? 

Popplet is an online mind-mapping platform that illustrates user’s ideas in a web, flow chart, or a diagram that can be made with text bubbles connected by lines.

Affordances?

It’s fun and easy to use! The kids really like it. Bubbles can be color-coded- which is nice for assessment. Users can also upload pictures and doodles. It’s also easily printed, shared, and embedded on a website. It’s also free!

Constraints?

It can take a while to load, and sometimes my kids get hung up on the fun. They go overboard with the colors, and pictures instead of the content. They also seem to struggle to remember their login information. Sometimes the program also glitches, but not so often that it’s useless.

 

EasybibEasybib

What is it? 

Easybib is an online program that generates citations and assembles them into a works cited page.

Affordances?

In addition to generating a citation from only an ISBN number or URL, it also asks step by step questions to help a user create their citation if the online machine can’t. It also collects all of the citations and assembles them into a downloadable document that can be attached at the end of a report. It offers this service in MLA , APA, Chicago Format, etc. It’s also free and students don’t need to create an account.

Constraints?

It’s rare that it is able to generate a citation with only a ISBN number, or URL. Users also must proofread their citations because the generator is not intuitive enough to make a flawless citation.

 

I use often!

 

Jing  Jing

What is it? 

Jing is a downloadable screencaster that can either cut specialized screen-shots (not just the whole page), or record the screen and voice of a user.

Affordances?

I can cut any part of the screen I want, big or small. It also does a fabulous job at a screencast. It generates a link to share that seems to work every time.

Constraints?

It only records up to 5 minutes, and the user has to download the program for it to work. It also has a convenient “button” that hangs out in the top of the screen, which is constantly in the way.  It’s easily shared but not embedded.

 

Screencastomatic   Screencastomatic

What is it? 

Screencastomatic is a screencaster that records whatever is on the screen.

Affordances?

This screencaster is a web program- so there’s no need to download it. It also allows up to 10 mins of screen casting.

Constraints?

This program is kind of clunky. It also doesn’t do the screenshots that jing does. I don’t use it often, because jing is technically better. However, it comes in handy when jing times out. Both jing and screencastomatic are free.

 

Haiku_DeckHaikudeck

What is it? 

Haiku deck is a web-based alternative to powerpoint.

Affordances?

It’s extremely visually dynamic, offering really rich, open source images as the background to all slides. It’s also designed for a brevity of text. I think this is nice because I often fall into the temptation of TOO-MUCH text on my slides. Presentations are supposed to be visual aids, not the heart of the presentation. A presenter can also embed it into a website, or share with a simple link. It’s also free!

Constraints?

It’s glitchy. I think they’re still refining it. I wouldn’t depend on it for a massive presentation, nor one that might be high stakes. It’s also impossible to edit the text. It auto-sizes, which is obnoxious. I’ve used it for professional development and in class, but I’m not crazy about it.

 

Fotor  Fotor

What is it? 

Fotor is for photo-editing, and creating collages of images online.

Affordances?

It’s free and relatively easy to use. Users also don’t need an account to make it work. I use it for juxtaposing images to ask students about the power of images. I also use it for my own photo-editing needs. It’s a supportive tool for other tools- for example Haiku Deck or Prezi. There are also apps that support the program for tablets or mobile devices.

Constraints?

It’s also glitchy, sometimes taking too long to load without any warning that it’s still loading.

 

Jeopardy_LabsJeopardy Labs

What is it? 

Jeopardy Labs specialize in creating jeopardy templates for anyone who uses their free service.

Affordances?

The templates are pre-made; all a teacher has to do is click on each square to add questions, or rather answers, for students to play with later. It even comes with a score counter with any number of teams. No account is necessary, and a link is generated each for both editing and viewing. It even keeps track of which jeopardy box has already been selected. They also offer access to pre-made jeopardies created by other teachers. These are even searchable, though not always very good.

Constraints?

Jeopardies are difficult to edit once they’ve been created; sometimes it will delete everything. It’s also not very visually appealing. It comes in bright blue, and only blue. It’s functional but not customizable.

 

DoodleDoodle

What is it? 

Doodle is an online scheduling program that sends out a link to interested parties who are able to select their availability to agree on a common time easily.

Affordances?

It’s extremely easy to use, no tutorial or account necessary. It offers a quick and easy solution to the scheduling nightmare that can come as a result of working with teachers who already have such busy lives. It will even send out an email to all interested parties once it perceives the best time to meet has become obvious.

Constraints?

They’re aren’t really any- other than the lack of ability to procure time out of nowhere. That’s to be expected.

 

Still worth looking at… 

 

Glogster_   Glogster

What is it? 

Glogster is a web based poster-making program.

Affordances?

A glog is a nifty poster that can have video, pictures, and even animations. It’s much more than a regular poster, and can be used for all kinds of lessons- anything that you could make a poster for. It’s flashy and visually appealing, and even free for teachers and students. It can be shared easily and embedded as well.

Constraints?

It’s super glitchy. It doesn’t always load, and sometimes the tools don’t really work the same way consistently. It can be baffling and frustrating since it’s not always logical. It’s also not collaboration-friendly at all.

 

MindmeisterMindmeister

What is it? 

Mindmeister is an online mind-mapping tool that acts much like Popplet. In fact, it’s probably much more professional than Popplet as well.

Affordances?

Where Popplet has an almost candy-like appearance, Mindmeister is more graphically mature. It looks almost like a scientific diagram than a flow chart. The connections are thinner, and more spider like. When there are lots of thoughts in the diagram it almost looks like a family tree.

Constraints?

Mindmeister will limit your mapping to only three maps. It’s not very user-friendly, and although it boasts collaborative ability, it seems to be clunky when handled alone, so I have my doubts about that. Mindmeister can be colored, but not really color-coded, and it doesn’t allow the use of video or images, much less doodles, in its thought bubbles. It simply doesn’t have the momentum of Popplet.

 

Kindle  Amazon Kindle for Desktop 

What is it? 

This is a reader for digital books that can be read on Kindle.

Affordances?

Cloudreader presents the book on a computer screen, syncs bookmarks and notes, and syncs across devices. It can also be read as white text on a black background, which is more visually dynamic, and easier to read for the visually impaired. I can also change the size of the text, and it does a very good job of “getting out of the way” when reading. I use it when I read aloud to my classes. I display the book via my projector. I’ll walk around with my kindle to manage the room, and give my wireless mouse to a student so that they can turn the pages from their seat. They really get into it.

Constraints?

The Cloudreader itself is free, but the books that I choose are often not. It also displays whatever is in my library, which can be seen whenever I fish the book from my digital shelves. This can be awkward depending on what I’m reading personally. However, I’ve recently bought a cheap little Nexus 7 for my classroom that I’ve loaded with a bunch of the free classics that Amazon offers in their Kindle Store. I created a new login just for kids, so that I can hand them the App version when they want to read by themselves. This works extremely well, but there is the possibility that my kids could use the app to buy more books. It doesn’t lock down the “1-Click Purchase” option.

 

I’m looking forward to trying out…

 

Thinklink   Thinklink

What is it? 

Thinklink advertises the ability to easily create interactive websites, blogs, infographics, maps, photo albums, and presentations.

Affordances?

I haven’t used it yet, but what it seems to do is take images (or videos I suppose) and allow the user to embed links for further related media directly onto the content. This seems like it would be very nice for photo informational collages on a particular topic. It supports students’ (and their viewers’) visual literacy as they examine the impact of images for their desired purpose.

Constraints?

It’s not designed for education, as far as I can tell. It seems to be designed for publishing, or maybe advertising. I’m not sure if it’s just mostly “glam”.

 

Toonlet   Toonlet

What is it? 

Toonlet is an online comic building tool that provided a panel of squares to be filled with avatars that can interact with one another- like a comic. The characters are semi-realistic and stationary.

Affordances?

They just look like fun! I could see myself using this with kids and their book reports, or perhaps some kind of sequencing project. I could use it for building a very fundamental argument, or maybe a public service announcement. My kids LOVE graphic novels, so the idea of creating their own would really engage them. Plus, they are easily printed, shared, or embedded for a variety of audiences. It’s also free.

Constraints?

This seems geared for older audiences, like my 8th graders and high schoolers. I worry also that this might be a fluff activity, with more fun than rigor. It could certainly be used to address a variety of standards, but I wonder which I would be sacrificing in the process. Perhaps this is better suited to a brief project? I’d also worry about students mismanaging it to create something inappropriate. That is a risk for a variety of tools however.

 

2014-07-16_10-06-20Easel.ly 

What is it? 

Easelly is an online program that helps the user to create infographics, or presentational flyers that give more background and context to information. They are dynamic, visually arresting, and becoming more popular as a genre.

Affordances?

Easelly acts very much like CorelDraw. The tools, although basic, are very similar. They offer a variety of pre-made symbols that the user simply drags and drops to arrange on the canvas. Text is easy to add, move, and re-shape. It’s also easy to share a final product via link, or an embedded code.

Constraints?

Unfortunately, it’s a little glitchy. There’s no undo button, and although it responds to ctrl+z it’s just as likely to undo as it is to delete the component you were trying to fix. Text is also easily re-sized, but the text boxes must be edited from within to re-shape the box. This is tedious. Overall, the program is not intuitive, and doesn’t offer many tutorials to help you problem solve.

 

2014-07-16_10-12-00PopcornMaker

What is it? 

PopcornMaker is an online video maker that specializes in re-mixing. It takes links from videos, images, and music files and helps the user to blend them using very intuitive tools.

Affordances?

They make it very easy to drag and drop files, and then arrange them on the canvas, with a preview screen clearly displayed the whole time. The end products are smooth and professional looking.

Constraints?

Maybe I don’t understand how to use it, but I ran into a lot of problems with their tools. I would drag and drop different materials, and the uploader would say it was already in my library, when it wasn’t. Then, I thought I knew how to change the volume for each layer, but I couldn’t actually get it to play along with that command. Then, later when I had to cite my sources, it was obnoxious to try and extract each one. I wish that it manufactured a bibliography automatically. Overall, I wasn’t impressed. However, I can see myself using it with my kids, who would absolutely LOVE the opportunity to remix.

 

Answer Answer Garden 

What is it? 

Answer Garden is a self-professed “scribble space”. When a question is posted by a presenter, the user can link to the question, answer it, and then see a word cloud appear in real time. The more an answer is repeated, the more a word is enlarged.

Affordances?

It’s instant! Rather than waiting for everyone to submit their response, and then enter it all into a Wordle, it’s done automatically, while the audience watches. This is great for brainstorming, or commenting on a particular response. Very powerful!

Constraints?

Unfortunately, I haven’t used it as a presenter, so I’m not confident about it’s use. One thing that I noticed as a user is that it doesn’t automatically update instantly. I had to reload in order to see my peers responses. It also didn’t look like I could make it any color or shape. But it’s free!

 

Emaze   Emaze

What is it? 

Emaze is a presentation alternative that is very different from Powerpoint, but very similar to Prezi. It uses camera zooms to highlight text entered into an image. However, where prezi is typically a 2-D experience, Emaze uses depth in its images to create an illusion of depth. This makes a presentation extremely dynamic and effective depending on the discipline.

Affordances?

It’s 3-D! Figuratively speaking, anyway. I’m a huge fan of anything that is visually dynamic. I think it “sticks” for students better, and it leaves it talking point. Since I haven’t used it before, but would like to, that’s really I can say.

Constraints?

I’m not sure of the constraints of making an Emaze, however, I noticed that the final presentation I observed had little arrows at the bottom, suggesting slides- so it’s not as interactive as I would wish. I’ve also heard from others who have done one before, that it’s not a very collaborative media. Saving will favor one of several simultaneous changes, and abandon the rest. This would be a huge disadvantage for group projects and presentations.

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