If a tool passes these two tests, I try it in class. Since I teach over 430 students every week, that's the true beaker. If a program survives the hands-on grade-level labor of dozens of students, if they can get through the required steps to create a project that supports their learning in new creative ways and still have fun, I've found a good tool.
Here's my list of 2011 favorites that have run that gauntlet:
- BigHugeLabs - create trading cards, posters, puzzles, mosaics using the student's own images. Quick, easy, pain-free and fun
- Bubbl.us - create mind-maps to brainstorm topics. No-frills and easy to use
- GettingTrickyWithWikis - format wikis with lots of bling to better communicate ideas
- iMindMap (free version) - create mind maps easily that inspire brainstorming
- Jing - take screenshots and screencasts for free. No ads. Require registration to install software.
- Polldaddy - create surveys and polls and embed them into blogs, wikis, websites (for free)
- Scribd - share lots of document formats with the public or a limited audience for easy viewing online. Embeddable into websites, blogs, and more.
- Tagxedo - create word clouds with unique shapes, colors, that can be saved, printed and embedded to wikis, blogs, etc.
- Voicethread - collaborate online by sharing media and comments. The perfect tool for whole class projects.
- Voki - create avatars that interact visually and audibly with others Wikispaces--free wikis for educators. They're simple to use and easy to set up.
- Wolfram Alpha Widget Maker - instantly add live computational knowledge to your blog or website. Create your own or use someone else's.
- WordPress.com - build and share a blog with students or classes or colleagues. WordPress is the simplest of the many I've tried, with the most options.
- Xtranormal (free version) - produce short films with virtual characters and a text to speech facility
Here are a few more great ones that I didn't consider in my Top 13 because most educators already know about them:
- Edmodo - a micro-blogging service (like Twitter) for teachers and students. Use it to share information, set and collect assignments and more.
- Glogster - create media rich online posters that can be embedded into wikis, blogs and more.
- Google Apps - offer a suite of Google Apps designed especially for educators. Include Google Docs, Google Mail, and Google Sites
- Khan Academy - offers a library of over 2,700 free videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 268 practice exercises
- Livebinders - organize your resources in an online three ring binder
- Prezi - create awesome presentations live and on the web!
- Wordle - generate word clouds quickly.
Should be on the list, but I've had too many problems either in their set-up or stability of their platform:
- MuseumBox - lets you describe an event, person, or historical period by placing items into a virtual, interactive box. Unfortunately, several times, it has been inoperative and that's a nonstarter for a teacher. We plan a lesson. All the parts must work reliably.
- Only2Clicks - a visual collection of website links. Same problem as MuseumBox.
- Wallwisher - build a wall to share ideas, online notices, notes, and more. Same complaint as the first two.
Please take a minute to vote in my poll and share which tool is your favorite. If you have a different one, leave a comment.