Social Media Tool Search – Teachers . . . Have You Tried These Tools in Your Classroom?

With the plethora of social media tools available today, many teachers avoid using them because they feel intimidated or overwhelmed.  There are so many benefits from using these tools, that it is worth it to take a little time to get to know them.  Look at it this way – every journey starts with a single step.  Just focus on one tool at a time.

Here are three excellent tools that many educators are using, which means that there are lots of resources available – lesson plans, best practices, learning communities, etc.  Just pick one, incorporate it into one of your lesson plans, tweak it, and master it . . . then consider adding another.  Before you know it, you’ll be a social media master, and your students will me more engaged.

Tool #1: Voicethread (http://voicethread.com)

Description:

Voicethread is a platform where you or your students can upload all types of presentations.  Once the presentation is uploaded, students, family members, and teachers can leave voice, text or video comments.  The service has a free public version, as well as a paid, secure environment designed specifically for educators ($15/month).  Entire schools or school districts can also subscribe.

Free resources for using Voicethread in K-12 eLearning Design:

A collection of scholarly articles and studies about the use of Voicethread in K-12 – Click here

How to Use VoiceThread from Edutopia’s New Teacher Bootcamp – Click here

Voicethread 4 Education Wiki – Click here

Here is a link to a voicethread where teachers are asked how they will use it in their classrooms:  Click here

Benefits:

Easy to use, which keeps the focus on the content instead of the tool

Encourages collaboration and conversation

Multiple ways to interact (voice, video or text)

Can engage shy or uncomfortable students

Gives students a voice

Multiple uses – for storytelling, personal narratives, lectures, research, stimulation of deep thinking/creativity, communication, feedback, and assessments, just to name a few

Can accomodate multiple learning needs and styles

Facilitates student-centered learning by making students’ voices heard

Helps build students’ confidence by showing that their work is great and worthy of the world’s attention

Challenges:

Time to learn it and integrate it into the curriculum

The cost

It does not upload complex PowerPoint presentations very well

Tool #2: LiveBinders (www.livebinders.com)

Description:

LiveBinders offers free digital three-ring binders, which serve as a way to collect, organize and share online knowledge. Each binder is given a unique URL for easy sharing.  You can add a “LiveBinder It” button to your browser’s toolbar so that it is easy to add information to your binder as you are surfing the web.

Free resources for using Livebinders in K-12 eLearning Design:

Free Tool Challenge # 15: Organize and Share with LiveBinders (from The Teacher Challenge) – Click here

LiveBinders: The Educative Tool Teachers Should Not Miss – Click here

LiveBinders Blog – Click here

Benefits:

It is free!

Accessible anywhere – since it is online, all that’s needed is an internet connection

Really easy to use, especially if the “LiveBinder It” button is added to your browser

Flexible – educators can use it for anything they would use a real three-ring binder for

Students or instructors can create them so it facilitates many instructional goals

Can use it on iPads

Challenges:

Taking the time to search for information and keeping binders up to date by deleting dead links

Information overwhelm (too much information for you or your audience)

Taking the time to narrow it down only keep the best

It takes making a decision to integrate it into your lesson plans and stick with it (a new habit can take time)

Tool # 3 – Weebly for Education (www.education.weebly.com)

Description:

Weebly for Education is a free platform for creating websites.  It has a really simple drag and drop editor and lots of templates, and provides a managed, protected environment for students.  Teachers can use Weebly to create a classroom website, student e-portfolios or websites for assigned projects.  Teachers can also allow students to create their own websites.  Here is an example of the website that I created for my daughter’s 4th grade classroom.  Weebly also has a blog option that can be added.

Free resources for using Weebly in K-12 eLearning Design:

Slideshare Presentation entitled, Weebly Education Website Building – Click here

How to Set Up Weebly Student Accounts – Click here

Detailed Weebly Tutorial with lots of examples – Click here

Weebly Forums – Click here

Weebly Blog – Click here

Benefits:

It is free for up to 40 student accounts.  They do have paid options, and the ability to purchase and host a personalized domain name.

Accessible anywhere – since it is online, all that’s needed is an internet connection

User friendly and intuitive interface

No advertisements

Unlimited bandwidth and pages

Secure, reliable and flexible

Students or instructors can create web pages

Challenges:

As with the other tools, it takes time and commitment to decide to do whatever it takes to use to implement this.

Learning curve.  It takes some time to learn how to use this well, especially if you have no experience creating a website.

Keeping the website current.

There are a lot of technical shortfalls listed here, but those who need a simple straightforward website will not encounter them.

So there you have it – three options for dipping your toes into the wonderful world of Web 2.0 media with your students.  Remember, pick just one to start.  You can add others later.  Good luck!

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