Here are recommended free and easy-to-use websites that allow students to explore perspectives, communicate ideas, and to shape the future through social media-all on a global scale.
Focus on coaching students through content development: how to use evidence, weigh perspectives, and communicate with the world. Most students know how to use the online tools.
Writing projects: blogs, online newspapers, literary journals, epic stories, and more
"Blog," or web log, is a general term for an online publishing tool. While there are millions of personal blogs on the Internet, many institutions, such as The New York Times and Washington Post use blog software for their online publications. It's an incredibly versatile system, and a good basis upon which to display photo, video, and other multimedia projects.
WordPress.com and Blogger.com are easy-to-use blogs and allow you to get started in one minute. Built-in design tools allow customized layout, colors, and fonts and let you add images and videos with a click of a button. The most difficult part is deciding on a writing project. Try moving an existing student project, such as a student newspaper or a journaling exercise, online.
Tip: Most school districts have adopted guidelines for formal and informal school websites--consult with the rules first. It's important to use an anti-spamming software, like Akismet (free, one-click installation). Instruct students to set their blog to a private setting. Students can invite their friends, teachers, and international peers to read the blog, but can block out the general public. When students reach a certain aptitude for journalistic practices, try to make the blog public, but never publish student names next to their images.
Fine arts projects: photo or art exhibition, story or comic books, and more
There are many online tools to create and publish photo essays and virtual exhibitions. These tools can also support many other projects that photography and art.
- Picnik.com is an image-editing tool. Crop, rotate, enlarge, re-color, or place type on images. See the range of possibilities by browsing through real-world examples.
- Flickr.com, Picasa.com, and many other photo-sharing sites have slideshow tools. Simply load images into a set, and view as a slideshow. Privacy settings allow students to control who can see the photos, be it teachers, project partners abroad, or the whole world. Flickr.com takes part in Creative Commons.
- Carbonmade.com is a portfolio site that showcases marketing campaigns, fashion shows, fine art exhibitions, and more to a global community of creative types.
- Teen-art.deviantart.com is a global community of teenage illustrators. Create an illustrated storybook or comic book and share it with peers worldwide.
Video projects: public service announcements, documentary films, and more
- OneTrueMedia.com is an editing tool for video and images. Assemble title cards, film footage, infographics, and pan images to create a professional-looking product.
- YouTube.com, Vimeo.com, Blip.tv, among many others, allow free uploading and controlled sharing of video programs. The comment boards, if activated, allow students to solicit real-world feedback.
Audio projects: podcasts, radio programs, sound tracks, and more
- Gcast.com provides tools to record, upload, and mix audio.
- SoundCloud.com, Jamendo.com, SpinXPress.com, and many others allow amateur radio and podcast programs, as well as music and soundtracks to be uploaded and shared with selected audiences. The latter two websites take part in Creative Commons.
There are hundreds of other web tools. What's your favorite?
What web 2.0 tools have you used successfully in class projects? What was the global element (or potential for global connectedness)?