Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Students Use Web Tools!

There is a seemingly endless number of web-based tools for just about anything you can think of in education and beyong... creation, sharing, collaborating, developing and communicating, just to name a few.  The daunting fact of this reality is that the number of web tools is growing and not everyone knows exactly where to start.  Finding just the right tool can be a challenge, regardless of the desired outcome.

But one of the wonderful things about web tools is that when you find the right one, it can make a project or task increasingly engaging and a final product incredibly valuable.  This year I am using a foundation of five web-based tools in my fourth grade classroom, with others to be utilized as needed throughout the year.  The big five for my students so far this year are Edmodo, ConnectED, Xtra Math, Custom Typing and Google DocsEach of these domains offer very specific tools for assignments and skill development for nine and ten year olds.  They also offer great opportunities for children to acquire technology skills and develop their Internet awareness. 

The power of each tool can be calculated according to student outcomes and progress.  For example, Xtra Math can be great practice or mindless repetition, depending on how the student approaches it.  On the one hand, a child might be very engaged and love competing against a timer to practice basic math fact knowledge, which is ideal.  On the other hand, a student might not be motivated to do repetitive fact practice, even though they don't know all their basic facts.  In which case, there are plenty of other ways to learn and practice math facts. The final outcome of any approach, however, is the end result of student effort and ability

As my class and school continue to learn the power of these tools, we will undoubtedly find others that will help us with assignments, projects and assessments throughout the year.  An awesome aspect of many of these tools and portals is the variety of ways students learn to use and manage them.  Most importantly, the tools have a very specific purpose in the learning process for students.  And it is important to make the children aware of that fact.