Jan. 16, 2011

Simple Communication Tools for Schools

This is a follow up to my blog post at the end of November urging educators to improve communication with their students and their families. I contend that publishing basic class information gives parents a window into your classroom and helps students get digitally organized. It’s now easier than ever as a plethora of tools exist to help people publish without a lot of technical steps. Creating and maintaining a class web site also does not have to be a time consuming chore.

Now that holidays are over and schools are back in session, perhaps now is a good time to explore a few recommendations of simple communication tools for schools.  The following are a few that are popular with educators; start playing with one tool that appeals to you and see where it leads!

One method of publishing is through bloggling. Blogs are made up of a series of linear posts.  The following blogging tools share many of the same features which include posting by visiting their website, through mobile devices or by emailing posts. They have design templates which are generally customizable and support the embedding of media such as links, photos, and videos. A few to try are:

Many teachers prefer wikis which are easily editable web pages. Wikis tend to provide more flexibility than blogs in terms of design. Most wiki providers give you a choice of templates and allow for the embedding of widgets which provide additional functionality. For instance, if you are a Google Docs user, you can embed documents in a Wikispaces wiki or you could use Google’s own wiki tool, Google Sites, to do the same thing. While you can usually assign multiple authors to a blog to create individual posts, wikis are better suited for collaborative purposes as you can invite others to edit your entire wiki. A few wiki services to try are:

To see how other teachers are using blogs and wikis, browse through the nominations and winners of the 2010 Edublog Awards and through CASTLE’s list of blogs by discipline and wikis.

Keep in mind that Blogger and Google Sites can be used by themselves or within Google Apps Education Edition if your school has adopted this platform. Wikispaces and PBWorks also offer no cost ad-free wikis to educators and Glogster also has a version for educators. Edublogs is also geared towards school audiences. Education versions of Web 2.0 tools usually give you more security options so that students can use them as well.

Edmodo is another tool worth a look and it defies categorization as a blog or wiki. Designed specifically for schools, Edmodo promotes the concept of micro-blogging and teachers can post easily to their Edmodo space on the web or using a mobile device. Calendars, assignments, links, files, and polls can be shared with students. Groups can be created, and educators can also connect to colleagues.

The selected resources mentioned in this blog post were picked for purely their ease of use and my intention was not to create an overwhelming list that might be interpreted as intimidating. However,  if you are interested in trying additional tools, read on.

Via Twitter, I asked other educators for suggestions of simple to use publishing tools and VoiceThread, Animoto, Wallwisher, and Audioboo were mentioned. Also, Larry Ferlazzo recommends various tools within his great list of his blog posts geared toward tech novices.

If you have any additional tools or strategies that you recommend, share them in the comments of this blog!

6 Responses to “Simple Communication Tools for Schools”

  • Geoffrey Gevalt

    Lucy,
    Good, interesting post. I have a similar post I will share here, but it has a slightly different take that I think is important to emphasize …

    In our experience, the most powerful aspects of getting kids online is getting them to provide each other feedback. Some of these programs and apps allow for that, some don’t.

    Also, I think more should be said about the fact that if students have accounts at a number of these sites, it becomes very difficult to keep track of it all and the power of building community is lost.

    But I agree that these tools you mention are all good and useful. Thanks for sharing.
    geoff

    Reply
  • Lucy Gray

    Geoff,

    I totally agree that kids should be online in order to provide feedback to each other. However, if you read my two posts devoted to this topic, you’ll see that my goal here was slightly different. My intention was to simply encourage *teachers* who have not published before in order to communicate more effectively with their students and families.

    I think another related and important topic would be to add student voice and participation into the mix. Before some teachers get to that point, I think they just need to start with some sort of basic web site.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Reply
  • Leslie

    We are going to have our students create a blog and post for several different lessons as a form of reflection and a final presentation. I’m looking for good examples to show the students. Any ideas?

    Reply
  • -->
    1. Larry Ferlazzo says:

      Lucy,

      Thanks for sharing my post with your readers, and thanks for the kind words!

      Larry

    2. Geoffrey Gevalt says:

      Lucy,
      Good, interesting post. I have a similar post I will share here, but it has a slightly different take that I think is important to emphasize …

      In our experience, the most powerful aspects of getting kids online is getting them to provide each other feedback. Some of these programs and apps allow for that, some don’t.

      Also, I think more should be said about the fact that if students have accounts at a number of these sites, it becomes very difficult to keep track of it all and the power of building community is lost.

      But I agree that these tools you mention are all good and useful. Thanks for sharing.
      geoff

    3. Simple tools for digital classroom | November Learning says:

      [...] Gray has a great post here on November Learning which offers some simple guideposts, apps and links. I encourage you to read it. Rather than [...]

    4. Lucy Gray says:

      Geoff,

      I totally agree that kids should be online in order to provide feedback to each other. However, if you read my two posts devoted to this topic, you’ll see that my goal here was slightly different. My intention was to simply encourage *teachers* who have not published before in order to communicate more effectively with their students and families.

      I think another related and important topic would be to add student voice and participation into the mix. Before some teachers get to that point, I think they just need to start with some sort of basic web site.

      Thanks for your comments!

    5. Leslie says:

      We are going to have our students create a blog and post for several different lessons as a form of reflection and a final presentation. I’m looking for good examples to show the students. Any ideas?

    6. Lucy Gray says:

      Try combing through my list of blogs here: http://www.delicious.com/elemenous/blog. Also, check out CASTLE’s wiki: http://movingforward.wikispaces.com/Blogs

    Leave a Reply

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