Welcome to Web 2.0 in the Classroom – Part 8! In previous posts, you discovered several excellent web tools and curriculum integration ideas. Now let’s look at how to decide which web 2.0 sites to use for your lessons. You’ll explore several ways to evaluate sites, discover what is required for their use and determine if they will be viable tools for your students.
Before you introduce a lesson to your students that involves web 2.0, make sure you fully understand the website’s requirements. For example, most sites require an account and most accounts must have an email address. Sometimes this is not obvious until you have created a masterpiece and try to save or share it. Your lesson will come to a screeching halt in this situation.
The easiest way to detect website requirements is to create a project as though you are a student. You will quickly discover if you must create an account and if an email address is required.
One of the huge advantages of web 2.0 websites is that most are free. Some are absolutely, 100% free while many offer a free version and then a subscription for expanded functionality. When you are using one of these tools with students, you must know the limitations of the free account. For example, Animoto is an excellent video, multimedia creation site. A free account will only let you create a 30 second video which can’t be downloaded. However, if you sign up for an education account, which is also free, these restrictions are lifted. So, you have to do your homework.
Other common restrictions include a limited number of projects and few library elements or effects available. An example is GoAnimate4Schools which is a fantastic site where many of the features are free, including the ability to create student accounts without email addresses. But, if you want the really cool features such as the ability for students to create their own characters, you have to pay.
When you are having students create content on the internet it is very important to protect their privacy. Your school or school district probably has guidelines to help you determine what can be shared and what must remain private.
Note: Free accounts sometimes do not let you restrict access; all content is public. Make sure you investigate this prior to using web 2.0 websites.
Before you use a website, research carefully whether or not students can protect their content. This, of course, depends on the situation. Some content contains no personal information and is less sensitive to share. A student who is writing personal reflections on a classroom blog should be able to keep that content private.
As stated in Lesson 1 of this course, there is no firm division between social media and cloud-based apps websites. Most websites are a mix of both properties. As a teacher you need to be aware of any social media properties of any sites you have your students involved in.
Here are a few properties to look out for. Many websites have a comment feature where anyone can write comments about content. This may not be a desired trait depending on your project. Also, numerous web 2.0 websites allow users to “friend” each other. This can result in unsolicited friend requests. These properties are not universally bad but should be factored in when choosing the tool for your project.
Advertisements pay for many free websites. You get to use their technology but you have to see ads. When using a website with students, carefully screen the site for inappropriate ads. Websites that cater to children will have ads that are irresistible. This is a good chance to discuss media literacy and encourage the students to stay on task.
You just discovered website properties to watch out for. Please post your comments below.
Thanks for reading the educational technology blog Teach Amazing!