What are the best tools?

I talked with the head of technology in my district today. It was great to bring up many ideas in my head to bounce off of him. Our district is just getting started investigating the on-line tools that many of you have been using for years. He understood more than I expected and agreed with my overall philosophy of opening up the filter and getting more technology into students’ hands.

The big difference between us is the rate of adoption. I am a no-holds barred, dive-in, and experiment with everything at once kind of guy. He is much more cautious and wants to integrate things slowly. I understand his position as an administrator and even the philosophy as to why it makes sense as articulated here by Chris Lehman. So I left the meeting excited that we are moving in the right direction philosophically and of course offered to pilot anything that he wanted to try.

So I need to give him a list of the five tools I would like unblocked for students. The district has unblocked almost everything for teachers this past year which was great. Now will begin the slower process of unblocking for students. Things like twitter and youtube will not be unblocked. I need the best tools that can be private, or self-contained in the district. I do not think they will unblock tools that give students access to outside chats.

I would like to blog, backchannel, bookmark, podcast, digital storytelling, and make stop-motion videos this year. My list right now is :

Voicethread-for digital storytelling
Livestream or jaycut-for video
Pixton-for cartoons
xtranormal or Glogster-for digital storytelling
tinychat or todaysmeet-for private backchannel
Diigo or Delicious-social bookmarking and collaborative editing of on-line texts

Sites that are already open include:
Google Docs, Earth, and Sketchup-collaboration and drawings

So readers, as you can see my list is too long. Based on your classroom experience which ones are the best? What tools have you used? Which would you recommend? What tools am I missing that I should include instead of these? Please give opinions in comments (I know I should have a poll).

3 thoughts on “What are the best tools?

  1. Anonymous

    Saw your tweet on this, so here’s my two cents. I will need to check my filter to see how many on your list are open for the students here.

    VoiceThread for sure.
    Delicious or Diigo. I use both, but find Delicious is easier for most to get the hang of.
    I like xtranormal, but would be reluctant to unblock for all students across the district. I would have no problem unblocking for arts/digital stuff students.

    Good luck!

  2. Matt Townsley

    A few comments: aren’t some of these “sites” on your list actually places to download applications to install on the computers? i.e. Audacity, Google Earth). Using these tools may depend on your ability to install them locally Is your tech director willing to do this for you? is there an admin password you need? or are your machines pretty ‘open’ for installing new apps? The reason I ask is because if your desktop/laptops are locked down, simply having access to the software downloads won’t do you much good – even adding a Diigo toolbar could be tricky if stations are restricted locally. On the flip side, online software tools such as voicethread and tinychat are immediately useful and available to use once the filter has been changed.

    Personally, I’d request YouTube to be in the mix. Does your staff have access to any other sources of video clips, i.e. Discovery Learning?

  3. concretekax

    Thanks anonymous, Those are my top choices also. Why would you worry about opening xtranormal for everyone? I am not sure if they can open it just for me?

    Thanks for your input. I have a desktop lab that is not locked down so I can download things without a problem. Youtube is unblocked for teachers, but not students. I am not sure that I want it unblocked for them and I know that they would not be willing to unblock it at this time.

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