At the Decatur Jump! event last week and, for that matter, anytime I share with any group a sampling of Web 2.0 technologies, I reminded participants not to be overwhelmed, but to consider their own curriculum and their own students and to try to identify 2 or 3 tools which would be most beneficial to them. Certainly, I can identify with the thoughts expressed by some, that their brains were filled beyond capacity. As I read countless blog articles detailing one new site after another every day, it can be numbing, to say the least. In truth, while I do join many sites and give them a test run, the number I use on a regular basis is much smaller sample. My list of tools that I would hate to give up (until the next, better thing comes along) includes:
- RSS (Bloglines and Google Reader)–Absolutely critical to anyone who wants to keep abreast of the latest tools, news, issues, discussions, etc., without spending hours on end visiting site after site. After a lot of reflection, I’d say this is THE most important tool I use.
- Blogs (Edublogs and Blogger)–Blogging has not only given me an outlet to share information, but it has connected me to some great educators, who have shared some wonderful ideas and made me think things through.
- Wikis (WetPaint, Wikispaces, PBWiki)–The best tool for collaborating and creating online stores of information and resources that I’ve found. They are particularly great for students, given their simplicity of use and variety of tools. Plus, who doesn’t like saying “wiki?”
- Microblogging (Twitter, Twhirl)–When it’s working, Twitter has expanded my network of fellow educational technology practitioners dramatically, and it has been both entertaining and educational. This is a tool that seems to inspire love or complete dismay, I know, but it can be very powerful.
- Social Networks (Ning, Facebook)–Ning is a remarkable tool for communication, collaboration, and the sharing of resources. In the larger groups, such as Steve Hargadon’s Classroom2.0 group, the amount of information can be staggering, but the ability to create communities focused on one particular area is invaluable. Facebook has become an addiction for me, too, due to the connections I’ve made with lost friends, but also due to the educational opportunities I’ve had through group membership.
- Online Bookmarks (Del.icio.us, Stumbleupon, Diigo)–Having the ability to access my bookmarks from any computer, anywhere, and to share useful sites with other users has been a powerful organizational and informational tool.
- Skype–While email, Twitter, or blog discussions are powerful, the ability to talk by voice or video to anyone in the world for FREE continues to amaze me. I feel like George Jetson!
That’s all for my top tools, although I certainly use others. Were I still in my own classroom, I know without a doubt that I would have to include tools for digital storytelling, such as Kerpoof! and Voicethread, and podcasting tools (Gcast, Jott, Podomatic, Audacity, etc.) as both are easy to learn, highly effective means for fostering student creativity and literacy. Digital video and image creation/sharing sites would probably also rank high on the list.
The key, again, is to know your kids and know the needs of the curriculum. Technology can be as ineffective as any tool of the teachers’ trade there is, when it is used simply for the sake of using it. However, it also can allow our students to accomplish things that we never imagined as children. The key is putting the right pieces into the puzzle.
As always, any input on what is essential would be highly appreciated to me!