Thursday, September 3, 2009

Back to School: 15 Essential Web Tools for Students

Watching students stagger out of CCHS with armloads of freshly issued textbooks, backpacks loaded with sports gear, musical instruments, and assorted bags, made me think of Sherpas bowed under their loads. They have to manage a lot. Schedules, classes, homework, activities, and all the stuff that goes along with these various commitments. There are free, web-based tools that can help them, and cut down on what they need to lug. Portable, accessible, and they won't get left behind on the bus or in the locker room.

However, it isn't just about making it easier for students. These tools will help build skills they will need in business, and in their lives as citizens of the 21st century. Collaborating, organizing, scheduling, time management, creating, publishing, and communicating with co-workers from around the world are important , and can be introduced through many of these applications.

Stay Organized:
  • NoodleTools - A fantastic note taking and citation tool that keeps getting better and better, and available for free through the CCHS Library Learning Commons website. Every student should have an account. This is heavily used during research projects, and is also a great tool for writing assignment.
  • Evernote is so cool everyone should play with it. You can synch notes between the web, your phone and any computer. It handles multiple media formats and is available via mobile apps (think cell phones).
  • Notely is an organizational suite of services that allows kids to manage their calendar, assignments, note taking tools, and more. Very friendly and intuitive.
  • GradeMate is another online student organizer. I had never heard of this one, but it looks pretty good, too.
  • Backpack was designed for businesses, and also offers really robust organizational capabilities. I consider this one to be over-kill for your typical high school student.
Study Better:
  • Diigo is something I can't be rational about because I think it is one of the best bookmarking and organizational tools for the web I have ever seen. Reading web content, whether it is a website, a pdf file, or an online book, will never be the same. Highlighter, sticky notes, collaboration, tagging, they have it all.
  • StudyRails was a new one for me. They describe their service as "an online study tool for effective study habits and homework management". Think of this as a personal tutor who schedules a student's study opportunities and blocks out potential digital distractions. It is not a free site, so I haven't tried it out.
  • Delicious - "The tastiest bookmarks on the Web", is the leader in social bookmarking. I tried it but it didn't suit my needs or personal style, and yet I know many people for whom it is a way of life. I think students need as much focus as possible, and that is not what Delicious is about. Given its popularity though, they are clearly on to something.
  • Mindmeister is for visual learners and offers collaborative online mind mapping. I believe many students would get a lot of benefit from using graphic organizers as part of their process. This looks like a good one.
Work and Collaborate:
  • Google Docs should be a part of every student's academic tool box. Many schools have switched to Google Apps for Education just to roll out Google docs to students and staff. Why? It is a great tool for collaborating on documents, powerpoint presentations, and has a great forms feature. This allows for students to work together without having to sit next to each other. No carpooling! This link has a really good little video explaining Google docs.
  • EtherPad - I saw this for the first time at a conference I attended over the summer and was very impressed. It is a web-based word processor that allows people to work together on the same document, at the same time. Wow! You can see the other person, wherever they might be, typing on the same screen as you, simultaneously. Businesses are using this for meetings and collaboration, but it is very user friendly.
  • Sliderocket is really powerpoint on steroids. Web-based and accessible on any computer, on any operating platform, this tool allows you to build really stunning presentations online. Your work is username/password protected, and is stored in the cloud. Check out the little video tutorial. Cool, cool, cool.
  • Wikispaces (Concord-Carlisle Wikispaces is the district account) is a collaborative platform students and parents will be seeing quite a bit of, as more teachers are launching online discussion forums. Wikis are the best for fast, quickly updated, easy to manage web pages. Wikipedia is the most famous wiki of them all. Did you know that wiki means "fast" or "hurry" in Hawaiian?
  • NoodleTools - Gotta come back to this gem of an application. Again, this is free via the Library webpage.
  • CiteMe is a Facebook app (!) and works with WorldCat, the world's largest library catalog. I just added it to my Facebook page so I can mess around with it.
  • EasyBib is very good. A lot of kids use this, but it doesn't have the note card and outline feature that I think makes NoodleTools better for research projects.
  • Zotero turns people into evangelists. It is browser extension, and has a great track record.
The source for this post is Mashable, one of my favorite resources for information on emerging web tools and social media. I learned a lot from this post and played with some new tools. Thanks, Mashable!

ManagingBack to School: 15 Essential Web Tools for Students

Also from Mashable:
Back to School: Top 10 iPhone Apps for Students

Photo credit Flickr Creative Commons:

bright idea...

Uploaded on September 15, 2008
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Blogger Kathy Codianne said...

Excellent entry on essential web tools for students! Is there any way that we can see which kids have used and which they might be willing to try? Do you have any idea which tools are being incorporated into classes at CCHS? I'm so excited about the potential of these tools for helping students develop as independent, responsible learners! Thanks for keeping us in touch with these ideas.

September 7, 2009 at 9:25 AM  

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