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Free Web Tools for Collaborative Projects
More and more classroom teachers are tossing out their paper, scissors, and glue in favor of using technology for collaborative projects. With free web tools such as Wiki, Prezi, Glogster, and VoiceThread, teachers can not only make learning more engaging and meaningful, but also prepare students to meet 21st century learning expectations. The following free creative web tools are helping students of all age groups work together to achieve success in the classroom and beyond:
According to its website, Glogster is a global education platform that allows students to express their knowledge and skills inside and outside of the classroom. Students create online multimedia posters called “Glogs.” They start with an empty canvas and add text, photos, videos, graphics, sounds, drawings and more. The drag-and-drop interface is easy to use, and students working on collaborative projects can take turns adding content.
The free educator edition is appropriate for all subjects, grade levels, and learning styles. With the free account, a teacher can manage up to 10 student accounts, but additional students can register and create Glogs using a special code on the teacher’s account dashboard. In addition, old poster projects can be deleted to make room for new ones. See sample Glogs at the Glogpedia Library.
A wiki is a constantly evolving community website that allows any user to create and update content. This makes it an ideal web tool for collaborative projects. Students can sign up for wiki accounts and collaborate on school projects from any location. Wiki projects can include study guides, vocabulary lists, group research projects, and more. Wikis can expand to accommodate large portfolio projects or be kept small, centering on individual topics. The wiki tracks version history so the teacher can monitor student work. Wikis can also be used as a communication tool with parents. Consult EduWikis for ideas on how to use wikis in the classroom, links to free wikis for teachers, and sample educational wikis.
A Prezi is similar to a PowerPoint Presentation but more effective and engaging. Unlike a series of two-dimensional PowerPoint slides, “Prezi’s zooming canvas opens up the classroom to active learning and interactivity, making lessons understandable, memorable, and fun (Prezi.com).” A Prezi enables a teacher to make lessons more relevant to students by showing them connections between ideas. A Prezi can zoom out to show the big picture, then zoom in to show the details. Because Prezis are stored “in the cloud,” students can work on them from any computer in any location. This makes it an ideal web tool for collaboration.
Prezi offers free public and educational accounts. However, since Prezis created with a free public account can be viewed by anyone, teachers should apply for the educational version to keep projects private. Click here to browse sample Prezis.
VoiceThread is an interactive cloud application that allows users to upload, share, and discuss a variety of digital media from slide presentations and images to audio files and videos. Users can share comments by phone, record themselves on the computer microphone, type their comments, or upload an MP3 file. Webcam commenting is also available, which enables the hearing impaired to collaborate through sign language. VoiceThread can be used to extend classroom discussions, facilitate peer review, provide online tutoring, solicit feedback, tell stories, and more.
Teachers can apply for a free account using their school email and create five VoiceThreads of up to 50 slides each. It is important to note that a free account does not allow users to share VoiceThreads securely or delete old VoiceThreads. An educator license is available for teachers looking for more control. The VoiceThread site offers a video introduction and examples of how educators are using VoiceThread in the classroom.
The above article offers only a snapshot of free web tools that provide today’s tech-savvy students with dynamic work environments that get them excited about learning and sharing what they’ve learned. With all of the collaborative resources available on the web today, it is no surprise that the dog-ate-my-homework excuse has become as antiquated as the chalkboard.