Terrific Tools

Like most people who write a blog, there is never enough time to write about all the wonderful and interesting tools that are constantly evolving.  To keep this post manageable, I’m mentioning a few of the fabulous tools that I have come across in the past weeks  via the various networks that I attempt to keep up with.


StumbleUpon, a social media site that enbles users to discover and rate webpages, photos, videos, and news articles, has become a favourite plugin on my toolbar. If you haven’t tried it out, I’d encourage you to do so.  Like most networks or tools, StumbleUpon’s features are best experienced than described.  Briefly, you can identify the topics/areas you are interested in, then when you click the Stumble! button on your toolbar, it will present a site based on your selected interests.  You can then give it the thumbs up or down to refine your preferences.   Once you start using the tool, you see its wonders (and its addictiveness).  Since using it, I’ve come across some fabulous tutorials which I may not have otherwise found.   It can be used as a marketing tool, or in the case of educators, networking with other users to gain interesting and useful information.  Here are 5 power tips to get the most out of using StumbleUpon.

Information Organiser

The Personal Brain is a free downloadable visua information organiser that sits on your desktop and facilitiates keeping track of projects.  Great for a visual overview of what is going on either at work or home.  You can have as many ‘brain’ projects as you wish, or you can divide one ‘brain’ into different projects.  So it can be used for work/home.  Keep all your work related projects together and same with personal.  Notes can be added, web links, even files and images and there’s also a calendar.   It has potential in the classroom for brainstorming projects, project planning and even as a revision tool. Here’s a Youtube review of Personal Brain.

After using this tool now for several weeks, I’m quite impressed with its functioning.  It is intuitively easy to use, adding a new project is as simple as clicking on ‘Thought’ from the drop down menu > Parent Thought.  Add a sub-thought to this > Child Thought.  For a completely new brain > File > New Brain.  A paid version is available, obviously with more features. The free version has enough options to make it very usable and worthwhile.

Educational Videos

Teachers TV is certainly one of my favourites places to go when I want videos for the classroom, classroom management and personal development. Although I joined earlier this year, a mention of Teachers TV on Paul Hamilton’s site prompted me to go and take a deeper look.  As mentioned in Paul’s post, there is an incredibly rich supply of resources available on this site. What makes the site even more usable is that vidoes can be downloaded or watched directly via Quicktime or Windows medial player.  This overcomes the buffering problem that happens with watching online videos.  If you haven’t been acquainted with Teachers TV, I’d certainly encourage you to do so.

WatchKnow is an emerging  non-profit, online community that encourages everyone to collect, create, and share free, innovative, educational videos. Although not yet officially launched, it is available for beta-testing.  You just need to sign up (username and password is all that is required) to add videos.  The library is still building up.

Presentation Tools

Flowgram is Larry Ferlazzo’s No.1 site for Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education 2008. This is a great tool for presentations, tutorials, web and photo sharing; audio can be added and comments made by viewers. 

Magshow is a slide show creator alternative to my favourite slideshow creator, Smilebox (which requires a download and this proves difficult on different computers in a school setting).  Magshow enables the creating slideshows, panoramas or make your own map.

Rock You is a great new slideshow sharing site I came across via Larry Ferlazzo’s Best Web 2.0 Applications for Education 2008, rated No. 11by Larry.

Automotivator is a poster site I came across via Paul Hamilton’s site.  Create a motivational poster by uploading your own image or choosing a random image, add a quote and title, save to your computer or upload to a site.  This is an alternative to Bige Huge Labs which also has a poster feature.

Extranormal is another great tool that has potential in the classroom for students across the curriculum and across the grades.   It’s new animation tool that is so easy to use.   It claims if you can type you can create a movie.  It could be used for story making, explaining facts or concepts (either the teacher creating or students displaying their knowledge), revision topics, language students and so on.  I came across this via Paul Hamilton’s site.

ICT Tutorials

I came across ICT Teach via Patricia Donaghy’s site and it has been a minefield of wonderful free tutorials. Not only for school use but for my own personal learning.   For example, I have never found easy to understand tutorials for Photoshop and gave up on mastering its workings.  ICT teach has great simplified vidoes which enabled me to finally grasp the program.  ICT teach is aligned to UK syllabuses, nevertheless  all tutorials have universal value.  I’m continually going back there to check the resources, lesson ideas and just-in-time learning.  There is also what appears to be just about a whole syllabus set of resources on the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) which is an internationally recognised qualification which covers the key concepts of computing.  I got really excited about the prospect of this availablility in schools in my country.  It probably won’t happen, but isn’t it a wonderful concept that we could be teaching kids skills that would have universal recognition?

Image by macropolous

Creating quizzes

I was searching for some easy quiz creators that I could use for students to create quizzes for their classmates. This is a great way for students to think about the concepts they have covered,  revise what they and have fun testing their peers!

Here’s a run down on the quiz makers that I came across:

Quiz your friends: free, easy and effective quiz creator, unfortunately the ads make it inappropriate for classroom use.  I’ve written to the creators asking if they can make it school-friendly.  This would be perfect for students to create quizzes, no registration required.

Classmarker: Requires registration but is free.  You simply create your quizzes and your learners or business clients take them online.  Great for teachers to create quizzes for students, but not really suitable for students to create their own quizzes to exchange with each other.

Mystudiyo is a free quiz creator that enables you to build a quiz and add it to your site. Great looking quizzes with a choice of templates.  As I learned from Larry Ferlazzo’s site,  Sue Waters has great screenshots about how Mystudiyo works.

I have written about Quia and Yacapaca! in a previous post, both of which have quiz making facilities. However, they are  teacher-generated.

So I haven’t found exactly what I am looking for. I’ll use Classmarker to create quizzes for students to do, but I’d really love to use Quiz your friends if only they could clean up the page.

After writing this post, Larry Ferlazzo kindly responsed to my plea and directed me to a few more options.

Smile allows teachers and students to create quizzes, drag-and-drop exercises and sequencing events.  The interface is very simple and clean, so very appropriate for student use.

Another extremely useful tool is to use google spreadsheets which enables users to create forms. These can be used as quizzes including multiple choice.  See Anne’s instructions for form creation.  I guess the only lacking in this tool is that it doesn’t give the sender the instant result of whether the answer is correct. Aside from that, it is a great way to create quizzes.

Summarising tool

If you have Word 2007, there is a really neat tool that will enable you to automatically summarise a lengthy document.  I used it for my previous post: Are Underprivileged Students Better Off Without Computers?

You simply need to add the icon to your tool bar.  The How-To Geek will show you how to do this.  Then whenever you want to summarise a document, click on the summarise icon and you have a choice of options. For example, you can replace the article with a summary, place an executive summary before the article or highlight main points in the article.  Besides being a great time saver for writing summaries, I find it useful when I have to read lengthy reports. If they are web based, I select the article, right click and select ‘text only’  paste them into Word and summarise.

Thanks to Paul Hamilton and  Free Digital Tools for a UDL approach for leading me to this great find.

Getting started with Web 2.0 tools

It can seem a little overwhelming knowing where to start with facilitating Web 2.0 tools in the classroom for teachers who are trying to embrace 21st century learning. I was so captured by this wiki: Webtools4u2se that I thought it would be a great tool to introduce teachers to cool tools and what is great about the wiki is that it gives lots of ideas for using the tools. Designed for school library media specialists, it is an ideal starting place for all educators.  It is very informative with a bright inviting home page (this is created using Glogster). It also has a page dedicated to Why Web 2.0 tools? Tools include:

  • audio and podcasting
  • blogs
  • calendars, task management and to do lists
  • drawing, charting and mapping tools
  • portal and web page starting tools
  • photo and photo sharing tools
  • presentation tools
  • quiz and polling tools
  • news feeds and aggregators
  • social networks
  • video tools and video sharing
  • wikis
  • productivity tools


Another great starting place for teachers wanting to know how to start or where, is Anne Mirtschin and Jess McCulloch’s project and wiki for laying the foundations for using Web 2.0 technologies for teaching and learning. Visit their wiki at: Laying the e-planks for a Web 2.0 school. Anne and Jess are embracing 21st century literacies at their Hawkesdale P-12 College (a small rural p12 school, educating 5 – 18 year old students om Victoria, Australia) and are documenting what they have achieved as well as their goals on the wiki.

In the Planks page, they have resources to important issues related to Web 2.0 use, such as cybersafety, digital media and copyright, joining networks and creating an online space. To follow their journey you can subscribe to their eplanks podcasts.

Here is a great  wiki, 23 Things introducing Web 2.0 tools to teachers. It is a 10 week course for teachers. Although it cannot be joined it gives a list of resources that are to be covered in the course. If you are interested in learning more about the course, participating in a future course session, facilitating the course at your own school or adapting the content under Creative Commons, please email Shelley Paul @ k12learning20@gmail.com

Read the words


Thanks to Kate Olsen for the lead to Read the Words, a text to audio site that enables users to have text read out by computer voices.  Once you create a free account you can then upload your document for reading and it will convert the text to an audio file.      Once your recordings are saved they can be downloaded as mp3 files or even embedded in a blog.

This is a useful resource for education.  I see its value in downloading text files such as lecture notes, revision notes and study material to an ipod.   The user can then listen as they travel, exercise or whatever.  This is a great easy way to prepare for exams and no-one will know you are studying!  Make sure the notes are not too abbreviated as the computer readers will have difficulty with abbreviations such as ‘eg’ (better to type the word ‘example’ for the reader).  You can slow the voice reader down and select from a variety of voices for your reading.

This is also a great resource for visually impaired learners and therefore has potential in the special education environment. 

To record, after opening an account, click on create a new reading, select your document type (such as Word or PDF), upload the file and follow the instructions for converting.  (Note: It will not accept Word 2007, so convert to 2003 before saving).  Once you have your recording made, you can click on download to mp3.  If when you do this you get the reading only and no download happening (which is what happened to me) follow the directions that the nice people at Read the Words sent to me:


Simply click the download mp3 button.  Some browsers are set up to just play the reading.  IF you are having this problem, right click the download button, and choose save as.  You can then specify the location where you want to save the mp3.  You can save it to your computer, and then put it on your ipod, save it in itunes, or plug in your ipod and save it directly on there.

I am always pleasantly surprised that there are real people who offer great support for tools that are available on the Web.  I wish some customer service reps were as helpful.

Click the play button to hear Michael, a computer reader from Read the Words reading this post.

Easy flash movie creator

This has to be one of the most versitile and easy flash movie creators, Toufee.  I came across it via Richard Byrne’s site, Free Technology for Teachers,  and was totally impressed with its easy drag and drop features.  As Richard states, it is not only capable of creating slides into movies, but also images, videos, audio and text can be incorporated into one video.  A great tool to bookmark.   When you sign up (for free) the interface looks different to the sample page  shown below.  The tutorial is voice guided, telling you how to create a video show.   It has everything you need to make an awesome multi-media presentation and all for free.  It is easy to spend hours trying out all the features and playing around.  Check it out.


Online tools for formative assessment

 Creating online assessment tools is so easy on Quia (pronounced key-ah, and is short for Quintessential Instructional Archive).  Although it costs about $50 a year (30-day free trial) I was really impressed with the array of formative assessment tools that could be created.  The following information is taken from Find out more about Quia:

The teacher can organize the test so that it evaluates the learning standard at a high level of thinking. For example, the first three questions could quiz at the Bloom’s Knowledge-Comprehension level, the next three at the Application- Analysis level, and the remaining four at the Synthesis-Evaluation level.

  • Templates for creating 16 types of online activities, including flash cards, word search, battleship, challenge board, and cloze exercises. Quia activities are designed with different learning styles in mind to suit the needs of all your students.
  • Complete online testing tools that allow you to create quizzes, grade them with computer assistance, and receive detailed reports on student performance.
  • Access to online activities and quizzes in more than 150 categories. All of the shared activities have been created by teachers from around the world.
  • A schoolwide network that lets you collaborate with your fellow teachers quickly and effortlessly.
  • An easy, centralized classroom management system including a master student list, archive of student results, and the tools to conduct schoolwide proficiency testing.
  • A class Web page creator that includes a course calendar and an easy way to post your Quia activities for students and parents.
  • Online surveys for gathering student and teacher feedback.

Hassle-free quiz creation

Not only are Quia’s quiz tools easy to use, but quizzes can be customized to fit any teacher’s needs.

  • Choose from 10 question types, including multiple choice, true-false, short answer, essay, matching, and ordering.
  • Include audio or pictures in your quizzes, if you like.
  • Have students take your quizzes from any computer with an Internet connection, or even on paper print-outs.
  • Select from a wide range of options for controlling student access during testing.

 A sample of a quiz that can be created:


 The site also enables instant grading and reporting and networking inter-school or between schools and districts.

There is already a huge resource bank available for all different subject areas and levels. 

There is another site for creating quizzes and flashcards, Proprofs.com but it was not as impressive. It did not have a huge range of subjects, shared assessment and was not age categorised.


Edu 2.0

Edu. 2.0  is an incredible free resource centre for teaching, learning and has a 10,000 plus bank of educational resources.   It provides networking and collaboration in a secure online community.    Teachers can contribute lessons, keep track of assignments, grades, participate in groups and forums.  Plus:

  • Students can create porfolio’s of their best work
  • Conduct surveys with your students
  • Create blogs
  • Games and quizzes
  • Create and share lesson plans
  • Create custom feeds for classes


Free technology resources for teachers

Centralised locations for resources saves teachers time and energy in locating suitable material for specific subject areas.  Another innovation for k-12 educators initiated by Richard Byrne  is his proposed FreeTech4Teachers site. If you go to the site you can register your interest in its launch.  Richard’s blog Free Technology for Teachers hosts a rich supply of k-12 resources and ideas for integrating them into education and will form the basis for the new site.    Additionally, it proposes to host a multi-media sharing component similar to “teacher tube” but with file sharing options.


Edutagger (created by Mark Schumann) is a new kid on the social bookmarking block for K-12 learners and educators for the storing and sharing of web links.  Del.icio.us works for many educators and there is talk of creating an import facility from it into edutagger.     Once you register to become an edutagger, you will have access to submit links.      Users will be able to tag links.  The most popular tags will reside on the front page.  The aim of edutagger is to provide a means for learners and educators to benefit from the many quality resources in a central location.