Top 5 Web 2.0 Tools (for me anyway :) )

March 2, 2010

So during this class I’ve had an opportunity to explore and play with a variety of Web 2.0 tools and I’ve been impressed with the quality and the potentialities of all of them! Well.. at least all of the ones that appear here in this post anyway. I still can’t really get into Twitter, no matter how I try to think about it. I know it’s useful, I know I can get some really great resources from it and if I were to ever Tweet a question, I’d likely get some really great responses. But I still can’t get into it despite being able to see the potential of its usefulness for me and my PLN. However, I still do have an account and I’ll keep it in case I do have a burning question I need to Tweet one day.

#1. Skype: This is hands-down the BEST Web 2.0 tool ever created! I really love it, not only for the purposes of talking with my classmates and my students, but personally as well. My boyfriend lives halfway around the world from me (in France) and Skype saves us hundreds and thousands of dollars in long-distance charges. I love to use Skype at work too with my students. I teach online courses and chatting on Skype with the students frees my hands to be able to use my computer to help walk them through different things. I learned about Skype several years ago and I didn’t use it for years. I don’t know why not, except that I felt shy (and still do to some extent) about talking over the computer. I don’t even use a webcam even though my computers come equipped with it! I’m just too self-conscious I think. I love it now though and I can’t imagine living without it. Maybe one day I’ll feel the same about Twitter as I do about Skype!

#2. Blogs: I really like the blog tools available. There are several and this WordPress one is my first foray into blogging anywhere on the Internet. I love that there is a whole community of teaching professionals with blogs and that help for practically anything I can think of is just a search away. I love that I’m able to contribute little tidbits here and there too, even though I don’t think I have anything particularly profound to share with anyone. I feel as though I’m just puttering along at my own pace, doing my own thing and while I find what I do to be important and worthwhile, I’m not sure others would perceive it the same way šŸ™‚ I still appreciate the chance and opportunity to share what I’m doing, to reflect on it in a meaningful way, even if the meaning is limited to myself.

#3. Google Docs: I have started to use Google Docs at work to keep track of online student enrollments as well as other sorts of Ā information (such as exam specifics and MarkBook reports). There are currently 167 online students registered from all over the province with us (and some are out of province too actually. There is one student who is living and working as a nanny in France and she is taking a couple of online courses with us at the same time. There is another student in the Yukon also working and taking classes part time too. It’s really quite amazing!!) and they are taking a variety of courses. We have 10 different courses we are running concurrently and some of them have departmental exam sittings, some don’t; some require the shipping of textbooks to students while others don’t; there are three online instructors, aĀ counselorĀ and several other support staff involved with delivering the program; and we also have a mix of adult basic education students as well as 58 high school students from around the province. The tracking of information becomes critical for our success as an online education provider and Google Docs plays a critical role in that. Everyone involved has access and editing rights to the documents we use to keep track of the students. It’s really wonderful that there exists such a comprehensive collaboration tool. I have no idea how we’d manage to do what we do without this particular Web 2.0 tool.

#4. Animoto: I loved PowerPoint when it first came out by Microsoft and indeed, in my Information Processing class, I still have a unit that I use with the students that utilizes that program. After being introduced to Animoto, however, I’m thinking I may be making some fundamental changes to the Information Processing class I provide online to my students. I love Animoto. It is a truly wonderfully easy program to use and I can see the applications of it for my practice as an instructor as well as seeing the possibilities of the program for my own personal use. I’ve created a couple of Animoto shows using images I captured from my Second Life experiences and these shows can be viewed in a previous post I made on this blog site. The only thing I’d like to see changed about the Animoto application is the length of text allowed on a slide. I find it to be too short for somethings I’d like to use. I realize that a highly visual medium like this is meant to show images first and text only as a distant second, but for teaching purposes, it’s nice to be able to have the ability to explain things in more detail once in awhile. I also would like to be able to increase the length of my movie if I wanted to.. and not have it limited to the length of the soundtrack I used. It’d be GREAT to be able to link together a couple of sound tracks actually.. to have the music change with the mood, etc. Oh well! It’s still a great little tool to use and it’s especially wonderful that educators can get an account for free, not only Ā for their use, but for their class as well.

#5. Jing: I’m just starting with this little gem really. I’m going to be using Jing to capture my Second Life educational video tour clips for my final project in one of my classes. I have to do some more playing with the program but so far I’m SO impressed with it! It’s really quite simple to use and they have made some very helpful video tutorials that I’m able to watch time and again. I also really appreciate the idea suggestions and success stories that can be found on the website. Often it’s not a case of not being able to use a tool, but not being able to see the use of a tool. I will most definitely be using Jing frequently in my work and personal life, there is no doubt! I will likely end up buying the Pro version, just so I can link the videos I create to YouTube as well. YouTube is a tool I didn’t mention!! I LOVE YOUTUBE! If there are school administrators out there who are considering banning YouTube from your school, please, please, please!! I implore you!! Don’t do it!! There is a wealth of resources there and sooo many opportunities for students to create digital projects and demonstrate their learning in a vast array of modalities. I could not do half so good a job as an instructor without being able to have access to YouTube videos.

Well.. I seem to have snuck in an extra tool here and there are SO many other really wonderful Web 2.0 tools out there. These are the ones that are shaping and changing my practice as an instructor and these are the ones that I value the most. There are many others out there that I find useful too, such as wikis, Wordles, Prezi, Smilebox, Voicethread, and the list just goes on and on. One piece of advice my instructor Marnie gave me on another post in a comment she wrote was to use a filter of some kind when searching for Web 2.0 tools .. something that had recommendations for various sites. There are an immense array of tools out there and some will inevitably be more useful than others. I think the key thing to keep remembering with any of these tools is that they should be serving an identifiable purpose. They need to enhance the learning or the professional or personal goals one might have. It’s notĀ advisableĀ to add a technological component just for the sake of adding technology. I know for me, when I consider the different tools out there, I’m always weighing and judging the value added to the costs of learning how to use the technology. Not only for myself, but for my students as well, if it’s a tool that I expect them to use to showcase or deepen their learning. Some things just aren’t worth the investment of time, frankly. Fortunately all of the tools listed here are worth the investment, however, and I know there are many others out there just waiting for me to discover them!

Edit: Ā I just found this really neat blog about different Web 2.0 tools that has a slideshow that showcases a number of different applications. I’m quite gratified to see the tools I recommended and several others that I use (but forgot to mention here) also made her list!

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3 Responses to “Top 5 Web 2.0 Tools (for me anyway :) )”

  1. Marnie said

    Being able to use many of these tools with your online students will provide you a tremendous insight as to what is useful and what isn’t at this time. Reading about the variety of your students and classes boggles the mind!
    Do any of your students submit their work through Google Docs or Google presentations?

    • Hi Marnie!

      I fortunately don’t teach all of the 167 (now it’s 183) students enrolled in the online classes. There are two full-time instructors, me and a colleague based out of For Qu’Appelle and another instructor who teaches just one Math class part-time. It is challenging and hectic for sure and organization is KEY!

      As far as assignment submissions go, we use Moodle as our learning management system. I really love Moodle. It’s a very … no I won’t say easy… the program is HUGE and there are many features I don’t use yet myself.. but it’s a user-friendly system I find. We don’t have a lot of presentations at all either, as all of our courses are offered in an asynchronous format, so we have students at every stage of every course (hence the need for extreme organization. Good thing I’m so obsessive, hehe) so for right now at least, we use Google Docs as a way to collaborate and keep the paper trails straight. Parkland College also has 5 different campuses and students can be taking exams or register for their classes at any location, so when you are trying to co-ordinate that large a group of people, anything that makes life easier is welcome! Google Docs is just perfect for these purposes.

      Perhaps after I see some of the other student’s projects in this class, I’ll have some more ideas spark for me and I may one day incorporate Google Docs into the online offerings we have šŸ™‚

  2. […] and learning. A synopsis of the best tools I’ve found and used this semester can be found here at this blog post I wrote earlier in the […]

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