Lucky 13: Excellent Tools for Blended Learning!

Creating something can be an overwhelmingly rewarding experience. You may have read the Lucky 13: Resources for Blended Learning list I posted last week. This week I wanted to share 13 online tools that educators or students can use that inspire creativity and learning. Tools are great because they can help teachers create original and engaging content for their courses or they can be recommended for student’s use on projects. Creating something related to a topic can achieve one of the highest levels of critical thinking so encouraging students to use these tools for projects is a win/win situation for any educator. If you just want to use them to develop your content, then that’s great too!

Here are 13 Excellent Tools for Blended Learning:

#1. Jing Screencapture. I use this tool all the time. It’s made by Techsmith, the same company that makes Captivate, another great tool but this one is free and excellent. Use it to take a screenshot of your desktop. Easily select a portion of your computer screen and select an area you wish to copy. Then use the tools available to draw call-outs, textbooks, shapes, and arrows. When I make tutorials I often use this tool to help guide students through steps. You can also create a video screencast using the tool complete with audio. Imagine how helpful it is to show to demonstrate how to do something with audio walking the student through a process, website, etc. It is a great tool and even makes sharing the information a cinch. If you haven’t tried it check it out. I have the paid version of Snagit on my computer, but instead I use Jing for most of what I do.

#2. Imagination Cubed Instant Whiteboard. Very simple tool you can use to draw out a process or explain something. It has shape options and a pen/ marker to draw with as well. Simply draw what you like and then save it. The student can quickly watch the entire process of how you drew it. I think this would be a great tool for showing math practice examples. For me at least, I can use all the examples I can get, so something like this would be pretty cool!

#3. Animoto. An alternative to using PowerPoint for presentations. This nifty tool allows you to upload images, and create text to appear over it, similar to a slideshow but then you select music to go with it, hit publish, and wallah you have an interestingly original presentation. It is much more fun than just slides going by. Students love it because it allows them to be very creative with the text. It also requires that they be concise with the message they are portraying. The 30 second version is free and there are educational licenses available as well. By the way, there is an Animoto app now too!

#4. Voki. Create an avatar of yourself. It is very addicting and fun. You can select a person to represent you and then either type in the text to make him/her speak or you can record yourself speaking and the mouth moves with you. It’s a fun and personable way to connect with your students through announcements or other communications.

#5. Xtranormal. Warning! Once you start playing around with this, you may be distracted for the rest of the day. 😉 I love this tool. Use it or even better have your students use it to explain a topic. You select a character and a background. Then by using type or drag and drop options you create a cartoon video. It is so easy to use. I love it for Foreign Languages since the avatars will say whatever you type in there in English, French, German, and Chinese. It is so fun and students will never complain about creating a presentation to share again if they use this tool. Very fun!

#6. Voicethread. Have you ever posted a comment on a chat board or blog? Well this is much better than that. With Voicethread you can have students interact and collaborate all around a piece of media (video, image, document, etc). They can post comments by text, audio, or video comments. Voicethread also recently released a mobile app that makes it even more accessible to students. There are free versions and pay for versions with more options.

#7. Audacity. Do you want to create a podcast? This is an excellent open source tool which you can use to record your voice and quickly publish to MP3. It is widely used and works very well. An online alternative that is fantastic is Aviary’s Podcast Maker. On a side note: check out the whole Aviary.com suite. It has several good online tools for image editing and music creation.

#8. Hotpotatoes. This trusty friend has been used by educators for years to create multiple choice, true false, and fill in the blank practices. It is free and very easy to use. It isn’t the most engaging of sorts, but practices are so important for students to grasp a concept so the more opportunities for them to strategically practice something, the more prepared they’ll be for assessments. In a face to face classroom where you have 25 different students, you might suggest specifically targeted practices for the student.

#9. Many Eyes Data Visualizations. Sometimes it’s impossible to effectively explain large amounts of data. Data doesn’t have to be boring and “pie chartie”. Just check out a few of the visualization options available and you will not want to go back to boring basic data charts ever again. It’s much easier to get your point across using tools like this and its interactive which engages people much more than a flat image of a chart. Another great tool is the Google Public Data Explorer. Just check out this example here: The World’s Fertility Rate.

#10. Big Marker Webconferencing. You may use Wimba, Elluminate, Collaborate, or other web conferencing tools, but one free option for webconferencing that is getting a lot of attention and is free is Big Marker. With this tool you can various participants on at the same time, desktop share, draw using the tools available, and have webinars and webconferences with students. Think of all the great guest appearances you can have in your courses using a web conferencing tool like this? Suddenly the world is much smaller when you can bring almost anyone into your class. We also use a tool like this for Math tutoring afterhours as well as teacher office hours.

#11. Collaborize Education Platform. There are many learning management system options but this one I played around with a bit and I like it. It’s free so it may not have all the bells and whistles but it is pretty cool. It’s a free collaborative education platform for students & teachers. I set up an account and was surprised at how simple it was to use as well as all the different options I had.

#12. Google Education Apps. This is a suite of software tools like no other. We use this for email, document, spreadsheet, presentation sharing & collaboration, chatting, calendar, etc. It is fantastic! If you are a district or college administrator, I would definitely check this out. I can confidently say these that these educational apps help everyone I work with be more productive and collaborative on our projects, processes, and creations. It is much more than just an email service.

#13.Realplayer Video Downloader. Okay this one is not something you can use to create something but it is so helpful I’m listing it as a way to create convenience. ;-). Once you install this free tool, whenever you see any video on the web ( in your browser) such as youtube, etc, you can hover your mouse over it and click the “download” button which downloads an .FLV (flash video) version right to your computer. This is so handy! Then if you need to convert it to another format, the realplayer tool does that as well.  You can even convert it to mobile device friendly format (please be sure that you obey copyright and attribute anything you download). Realplayer is not my default media player by any means but it sure is great for downloading videos from the web.

What other tools are you using for blended learning?

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