There are many great websites that provide opportunities for students to develop language skills, tell stories, and share back their knowledge in fun, creative, and meaningful ways each using a computer. There are also terrific websites and portals which have links to excellent online interactives which can be used in the classroom with an interactive whiteboard. Below are links and short descriptions of these sites.
- Learning happens socially and through language
- Expressing ideas through multiple forms of media can enhance and deepen the meaning-making process
- Children benefit from opportunities to share what they know and how they feel in creative ways
- Sharing ideas and understanding in the form of a story helps with memory retention and sense-making
- Technology can offer learning opportunities consistent with a Universal Design for Learning environment:
- Multiple means of representation (taking in information)
- Multiple means of expression (sharing back knowledge)
- Multiple means of engagement (motivation for learning)
- What are your educational goals? These types of websites come and go, so understanding your purpose for using these websites and applying those goals to whichever website you use is key. Connecting images to text, developing writing skills, practicing oral language skills – these are goals which can be applied to new web tools that emerge over time.
- Fun is not enough – keep the academic rigor present in the websites you choose for students. While there may be ‘free time’ for students to explore sites, there are real opportunities to build knowledge, reflect on learning, and develop skills.
- Break down a larger project into smaller chunks – If you are having students create a multimedia story or digital narrative project, set a specific productivity goal for each student for each block of time you work. Once students reach that goal for the day, have an alternative activity for the students to do. In this way, the gap doesn’t widen between faster and slower working students, students have a specific task to focus on, and it will be easier for you as a teacher to keep your project on track.
- Start with a piece of writing in class – For a digital storytelling or narrative, do as much of the writing components in class on paper as possible (or create the digital text on the computer before the multimedia components). Very young students often get ‘stuck’ with spelling, and students in general lose themselves in the multimedia aspects of a digital storytelling tool, the text being almost an afterthought. Bernajean Porter statesthat students must be ‘meaning makers’ first, then ‘media makers’. The quality of the work will be higher and students will stay on track more easily.
- Put website links in a network folder or on a web page – If you have a “Student Share” network drive and a folder for your class, simply resize the browser and folder windows to both fit on a page, then drag & drop the icon next to a website url into the folder.
- Bring a buddy class with younger students – Students in kindergarten or the early grades are capable of doing a lot with a computer, but they need a lot of individual help early on. Bring a buddy class in the upper grades of your school to work one on one with your younger students to develop skills, add websites to ‘Favorites’ or assist with mousing skills. *Important to let the older buddy students know that to best help, never take over the keyboard and mouse but instead show the younger students what/where to type/click.
- Encourage students to help each other – there may be only one or two adults in a computer lab setting for 20+ students, so having students help each other is important. Remind students again that the best way to help others is to show the other person where to click or type, not to do it for them.
Digital Storytelling Web-based Tools
Storyjumper.com is a web-based tool that lets students create an online book with background scenes, props and characters, uploaded images, and text on digital pages. There is a free education version that allows teachers to create student accounts. Finished stories are viewed on the computer and pages can be virtually ‘flipped’ beautifully, but can also be printed off on paper. These finished stories show beautifully on a large classroom display. How can Storyjumper.com offer this service absolutely free? Users have the option to purchase bound, hard-copy print versions of stories for $25-$30 USD which can be mailed to them.
Animoto – http://www.animoto.com
Get your own education (free full length videos) code – http://animoto.com/education/getting_started
Signing Up Your Own Class – https://animoto.com/sign_up
Animoto allows users to create multimedia slideshows using text, images, music, and/or short (10-second) video clips. Educators can register to get a code which allows numerous full-length video accounts to be created for free. While there is no audio recording component currently available in Animoto for voice narration, users can use text slides to compliment images or video to create the digital narrative. Any sound on a video clip can also be brought in to the Animoto.
Storybird – http://www.storybird.com
Storybird provides beautiful collections of artwork from a variety of artists, to arrange and use as inspiration for a story. Users can add or remove pages, arrange artwork on the pages, and add text. Finished stories are displayed beautifully on the screen. While not as much control over layout as Storyjumper, this is a quick and easy way to generate text based on beautiful images.
Glogster EDU is a multimedia poster creator designed specifically for schools and students, and can be a great tool for students sharing back what they know in a particular subject area or displaying a piece of writing. Though these posters can be printed, they are primarily for online viewing. Over 800 free graphics, beautiful styles for backgrounds and titles, ability to upload and add pictures, video, and audio are included in the free education version. Users can arrange and resize elements on the page quickly and easily. Teachers can create up to 100 student accounts with the free version and control/monitor student work. Glogster EDU is truly a wonderful tool that children of all ages enjoy using.
VoiceThread for Education – http://ed.voicethread.com
From the VoiceThread website: http://ed.voicethread.com/about/ “A VoiceThread is a collaborative, multimedia slide show that holds images, documents, and videos and allows people to navigate pages and leave comments in 5 ways – using voice (with a mic or telephone), text, audio file, or video (via a webcam). Share a VoiceThread with friends, students, and colleagues for them to record comments too. Users can doodle while commenting, use multipleidentities, and pick which comments are shown through moderation. VoiceThreads can even be embedded to show and receive comments on other websites and exported to MP3 players or DVDs to play as archival movies.”
From the Voki website: “Voki is a free service that allows you to create personalized speaking avatars and use them on your blog, profile, and in email messages.” Voki is being used by teachers in many creative ways across the curriculum to both enhance language skills as well as to offer students non-textual ways of taking in information.
Grabba Beast – http://grabbabeast.com/
Grabba Beast is an interactive website which allows users to create a unique ‘beast’ with numerous choices for body parts, accessories, and colors. This can be a great tool for a descriptive language activity. For example:
Monster Match (approximately 45-60 minutes total)
- Each student (or pair of students) creates their own unique monster
- The monster picture is saved using the “Download Wallpaper” button on the right
- Each student (or pair) creates a detailed written description of the monster
- The written description ONLY is exchanged with another student (or pair) who attempts to re-create the monster using ONLY the written description
- Partners compare both monsters to see how close they are to each other.
Build Your Wild Self – http://buildyourwildself.com/
Build Your Wild Self, created by New York Zoos and Aquariums, works very much the same as Grabba Beast, only you build a boy or girl with animal parts. This can be a fun way to learn about different animals. Sometimes in computer labs Grabba Beast loads very slowly, and when that’s the case I use Build Your Wild Self for the Monster Match activity.
GoAnimate For Schools – http://goanimate4schools.com
GoAnimate For Schools is an easy-to-use, yet powerful cartoon movie editing software full of great characters and scenes and the ability for students to give their characters actions and dialogue. That dialogue can be given in text speech bubbles or even recorded by the user through the microphone, making it a great tool for students of all ability levels to participate with successfully and independently. There is a superb built-in tutorial which walks the students through all of the tool’s features and controls quickly and intuitively. What’s best is that GoAnimate For Schools is FREE for up to 100 students!
Bitstrips For Schools – http://bitstripsforschools.com
Bitstrips for Schools comic strip creation tool is a versitile, fully-featured, yet easy-to-use web 2.0 tool. While there is a cost for school use, the benefits for this subscription service are many:
- Quick, easy-to-use comic strip creator
- Teacher controls over student content
- Ability to save or embed comic strips
- Assignment bank where teachers can create or assign activities to students
Zooburst – http://www.zooburst.com
I’m not recommending Zooburst.com just yet, as the plethora of advertisements and the open gallery make it not quite safe enough for students, particularly in the younger grades. Still, there is something very exciting about a web-based application that not only allows users to create 3-D popup books, but also adds in a layer of “augmented reality” whereby, with a printed Zooburst image on a paper and a webcam, you can make any Zooburst popup book appear next to you through your webcam!
Zooburst Sample: http://www.zooburst.com/zb_books-viewer.php?book=zb0_4d9359dbf1998
Publishing Tools for Digital Media
Kidblog – http://kidblog.org
Handout – Getting Started With Kidblog (750Kb PDF Document)
Kidblog.org is an excellent choice for teachers who wish to publish digital storytelling and multimedia student products. When a teacher creates a kidblog and adds students, each student has her/his own blog, and the class has a main ‘landing page’ where any new posts from any students, and all class member blogs are linked to. There are security features which many teachers enjoy which dictate who is allowed to both read and comment on student work. Thus, the teacher who only wants her/his class to see each other’s work and/or parents to be able to log in from home to see their children’s work have this feature as the default setting. Teachers may create multiple ‘class’ blogs from a single teacher account. Embedding media onto a blog post is as easy as uploading photos, videos, audio files, and/or documents. As well, many multimedia creation sites such as Glogster EDU, Voki, and Animoto include ‘embed code’ to allow users to copy and paste the code into a blog post where the multimedia can be interacted with right on a blog post.
Online Interactive Websites
ABC@2Learn.ca – http://www.2learnabc.ca/
ABC@2Learn.ca is an incredible site which houses hundreds of ‘net resources for kindergarten students. Websites are listed in different categories and can be filtered out for sites especially suitable for interactive whiteboards (such as SMART Boards) by clicking the “IWB” button. Designed and run by the 2Learn.ca Education Society of Alberta and continuously updated, this is the perfect resource for any kindergarten class!
Ready 2Learn.ca – http://www.2learn.ca/r2l/
Ready 2Learn.ca, also run by the 2Learn.ca Education Society, is full of ‘net resources for grade 1 and 2 students. The educational websites are organized by subject area and can also be filtered for sites ideal for classroom interactive whiteboards. Every site has been screened for educational appropriateness and therefore teachers can feel safe using them in their classrooms or sharing them with parents.
Kids Love 2Learn – http://www.2learn.ca/kids
Kids Love 2Learn.ca (another fabulous 2Learn.ca website), is the equivalent of Ready 2Learn.ca, only for grades 3-6 students.