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Online Tools

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This post was originally published on the HS Bits Blog, which was active from 2008-2013.

I didn’t plan this post, but it fits nicely into my “tech in the classroom” series, so here goes: some fun online tools that you can easily use to jazz up your lessons, class activities, and assignments. Many of these tools are free and largely Web-based.

Annotate Web sites by highlighting and posting sticky-notes individually or in groups/classes with Diigo. Similarly, mark up other types of electronic documents (PDFs, Word documents, images, etc.) with Crocodoc or A.nnotate.
• Vary a process-analysis essay assignment by showing students videos from Animated Explanations or Common Craft and then asking them to create their own, starting with a script and storyboard created with a graphic organizer (see next item). Then post them for private viewing at Screencast.
• Move beyond PowerPoint with Prezi to create interesting interactive presentations and graphic organizers. Creately is another, more traditional graphic organizer.
Transform text into visual poetry using a word-cloud generator like Wordle or TagCrowd. Have students select colors and fonts to suit the imagery of the text.
Create a customized search engine for your class, limited to pages you have selected, with Google’s Custom Search Engine.
Use (and in some cases contribute to) creative and interesting online dictionary and vocabulary sites such as Wordia, IdiomDictionary, Etymonline, and Flocabulary. Help English-language learners and other students properly pronounce new words with the audio recordings attached to each entry at Merriam-Webster’s site.

A few more fun tidbits will be included in my next “tech in the classroom” post, which will focus on adapting to the increasing presence of mobile phones in schools.