For the last 2 years I've written an annual blogpost listing my favourite websites and web apps to support blogging in school. The last one was in Feb 09 so a revision is slightly overdue (the original is here). The number of tools that you can create stuff with, then embed the results in your blog is now truly immense and choosing a top ten is nigh on impossible - some apps are brilliant, but are niche in their use. So this list really reflects my current classroom favourites - at the risk of suffering from bloat, I found it was impossible to pick ten, so the list has grown, and that still doesn't leave space for excellent tools such as the timeline tools, Dipity and Timeglider; wordcloud generators Wordle and Tagxedo; live blogging tool, Coveritlive and many others. I'm also deliberately mixing up the list from past years, so do have a look at previous posts to see what is on those lists too. Finally, I'm going to categorise them, too, being aware that any categorisation is pretty arbitrary as many of the tools mentioned could easily fit in other categories. Where possible, I've given alternatives in case personal preferences or local authority filtering etc. gets in the way. And if I've missed an indispensable tool or website, please feel free to add it as a comment.
Personal Productivity and SharingMany of the tools listed under productivity are indispensable to me in my everyday interactions with the internet and my personal learning network and I don't always use them in the context of blogging. However, I also find them incredibly useful tools to add interactivity to my blog for example through using Google Forms to add a survey (see below).
Google Docs Impossible to describe in one paragraph. You get spreadsheets, documents, slideshows and forms. The latter is particularly useful for bloggers as it allows you to generate a survey which you can simply embed into your blog and it auto collates the results into a spreadsheet for you. Here's my blogpost on using Google Forms for datahandling.
Delicious One of the first social bookmarking tools was Delicious. Others such as Diigo and Digg have come along with extra features, but the great thing about Delicious is its simplicity. I use it for myself to collect useful resources (my Delicious page is here), but I also use it with children as a research tool and too put links on blogs (Here's Chorlton Park's Y6 Delicious page.)
Twitter There is lots of lazy and ill-informed criticism of Twitter (celebs tweeting what they had for breakfast etc.) I would simply say that developing a worldwide network of educators through Twitter has opened my eyes up to more ideas, opportunities and resources than any piece of CPD I have ever attended. Follow me on Twitter here.
Slideshare Simply a way of putting the PowerPoints that you and your class make online. It doesn't support all the fancy transitions and sound that you can put into a PowerPoint which is a good thaing as the class have to concentrate on content. Here's an example of an embedded Slideshare that I made with PowerPoint:Compfight Teaching children (and teachers) to respect intellectual property is always a challenge and I always try to do this by being scrupulous in my modelling on my own blogs. As an image search engine my first port of call is Compfight. And if that doesn't come up with the goods, then I'll try the Creative Commons search engine which also includes video and music. For more royalty free resources try my Delicious tag here.
Picasa Deciding to move your own image collection online is a big step, but one that is well worth it. Other services include the ever popular Flickr and the more commercial Photobucket. My current favourite is Picasa as it automatically syncs My Pictures on my PC with the web. It also has some great photo editing tools including a cool collage builder. You can also download the Picasa software to your PC for faster editing and easier management of your albums. Incidentally, if you would like to make online collages from photos stored on your PC (or from the results of a Google image search) then Shapecollage is simply fab.
CreativityAnimoto This is a brilliant tool that takes images and video and mixes them into a very slick movie incorporating sound, titles and your own audio track (or just choose from the free music on the site). As a teacher you can apply for a free educator account, too (click here). Criticised by some as being anti-creative as it does all the mixing for you, in the right hands it is brilliant for children to select their own images to send powerful persuasive messages through making adverts or persuasive movies etc. I've blogged about it here.
Glogster generates superb interactive posters that can incorporate audio and video (from Youtube) as well as slick animated graphics. Fantastic for topic work, election posters, displaying poems etc. It also has a social element, and for that reason you need to sign up for the educator version (link in title) which effectively gives you your own Glogster site for your class.
Voki is the ever popular talking animated heads generator. Children will love playing with the characters and using them to demonstrate their language skills, poetry reading, foreign language acquisition etc. You can record audio directly into Voki, use audio recorded elsewhere or simply use the text-to-speech capability of the site. Photopeach is the simplest slideshow generator I have come across. It's a great first web tool to explore if you are new to the business of blogging. As well as simple slideshows it will also allow you to generate questionnaires. Here's my most recent post on how to create a Photopeach slideshow and put it on your blog.
CollaborationVoicethread Imagine putting up an image and then capturing all the comments that people make about it verbally. That's the premise of Voicethread. Put up an image, or series of images and get collaborators to add their comments via a USB mic, a keyboard, or even a webcam. This brilliant tool can be used in all kinds of educational contexts. Here is one from the children of Chorlton Park telling us about their dreams for the world.
You can try the service for free, but it's well worth upgrading to an education account.
Wallwisher is a brilliant tool for capturing ideas. Think opening sentences for stories, arguments for and against, plenaries capturing what we have learned. Signing up for an account gives you control over your wall and enables you to control your wall, keep an eye out for updates and delete anything off topic. Setting up a wall is so quick and easy that it's possible to do it on the fly and to get the class adding to the wall, simply share the URL. Primary Pad Primary Pad is an amazing collaborative word processor. Multiple people can edit the same document in real time with each person's contributions showing up with a different colour. Think of several groups around the classroom on netbooks working on their own writing tasks together with the teacher "dropping in" on their group via their own pc and making suggestions, editing mistakes and marking etc in a non-intrusive way. Or use it as a research tool where children are all independently researching and contributing to a project document - a bit like a wike, but much simpler and everyone can see everyone else's edits in real time. Based on the code from the now defunct Etherpad, Primary Pad is not free, but well worth subscribing to.
Blog ToolsFeedjit Live traffic feeds for your blog
Clustrmaps Those little maps covered in red dots: each one a learning opportunity.
Solidcasts Free podcast hosting up to 100mb