Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Online Tools for Online Schools

I'll be doing some training with my colleagues in about a week's time, and one of the sessions I'll be running will cover a few of my favourite online tools for teachers and students.

So what are they? First cab off the rank is Diigo. Since I found Diigo, I've hardly looked at my delicious account.

Why do I like Diigo? The ability to highlight a section of a web page, add a sticky, bookmark it, send it to a group, all very quickly and easily makes Diigo the stand-out bookmarking service, IMHO.

Interestingly, on the home page of delicious, there's a public Diigo bookmark which has the interesting observation that Diigo is the best way to manage bookmarks, delicious is the best place to find bookmarks. That seems a fair observation, so I'll probably now look to see how I might be able to make Diigo and delicious work together.

Next fave: Evernote. If Evernote was just a note-taking app on my laptop, I probably wouldn't use it that much, to be honest. But I have Evernote as an iPhone app, and my iPhone is always with me. Now I find myself continually taking notes on my iPhone, taking photos and adding tags to them. Evernote synchronises between my laptop, my iPhone and my Evernote web account, so if I have my phone or can get to a computer, I can get to my notes.

The best thing for me is taking photos. For example, say I've been teaching a senior computing class, mapping out things on the whiteboard, jotting down key points, etc. and it's the end of the lesson. I pull out my iPhone and take a photo, add an appropriate tag and upload to Cloud Evernote. It's automatically dated and geo-tagged from my phone! Later, I can search my Evernote account for certain words, and Evernote's text recognition finds those words in the photo. (Well, more often than not - my handwriting on a whiteboard can be rather messy, and any OCR program would struggle to make sense of it - heck, I've walked in the following day and found myself looking at my own writing and struggled to make sense of it!)

#3: Flickr - an idea I got from Alan Levine's blog was to put up images and then use Flickr's notes tool to make 'hotspots' on the image. You can put hyperlinks in the notes and suddenly your picture becomes the central focus for a web-based exploration.

#4: Dabbleboard. An interactive, collaborative online whiteboard. Ridiculously simple to use. I've only recently starting using this, but I can see students loving it!

#5: Stixy. Another collaborative environment, but with a very different emphasis to Dabbleboard. Stixy has no drawing tools as such. Instead, you upload images and documents, and add sticky notes and todo lists. As a tool for allowing a group to manage a project, this seems far more intuitive than list-based approaches to collaboration.

On a side-note: it's disappointing that Ning has decided to do away with their free plan. Apparently someone (with plenty of money) has decided to pay for the new first tier plan for educators in North America, which is good for them, but the rest of us will have to pay to continue using Ning, or migrate to an alternative (Spruz and Zuku appear to be ready to step into the breach).

Addendum: I've just been looking at Zoho Notebook - this is a seriously good tool! As a workspace for students to compile items for a project they're working on, or keep notes, or even create a multimedia presentation, this is well worth considering - and the price is right.


pasa said...

They can migrate to http://grou.ps too.



Bdidi said...

@pasa: thanks for mentioning grou.ps - I hadn't come across them. The link to Emre Sokullu's blog was also helpful, an interesting read.
Thanks again.