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Phoenix Forward

5 useful websites for teachers

Look up educational tools online, and you’ll find an inspiring range of websites — playful or serious, elaborate or streamlined, with options addressing every grade level and interest. Kathy Cook, director of educational technology for the University of Phoenix College of Education, helps narrow down the choices by recommending five classroom-friendly websites for help with:


1. Digital storytelling

Storybird encourages even the most reluctant young writers and readers to dream up creative stories, Cook says. The site gets the ball rolling by providing hundreds of illustrations, which fire up students’ imaginations. Students fill in blank e-book pages with their own words to accompany the art. For instance, they might spin a tale about a chimp and a deer dancing a tango, or a fearless knight battling a dragon. Teachers can open private accounts to keep tabs on students’ writing progress, while classmates add real-time feedback. Finished stories can then be shared through classroom wikis or school-run parent blogs.


2. Organizing

Diigo is a free social bookmarking site that allows users to tag, highlight, attach notes and share web pages,” Cook explains. The public group settings let teachers collect and share their findings. The site also motivates students during collaborative learning projects, as teachers and students can share their work with other Diigo users who are researching similar topics.


3. Sharing curricula

Educreations “allows teachers to both create and share classroom lessons with a global community of educators,” says Cook, a former public school teacher. Using iPad® tablets, teachers can use a “recordable whiteboard” to create a short video, recording their voice, adding in pictures and tracing their handwriting as they explain concepts such as the Pythagorean theorem or plate tectonics. Users post their lessons and download contributions from other teachers, getting fresh ideas or sharing videos with their students.


4. Finding charitable donations

DonorsChoose.org, an online charity, invites the public to donate to classrooms in need. Teachers request funds for supplies for specific classroom projects or goals, such as microscope slides for an ecology class or digital cameras to create a yearbook. The organization — approved by both the Better Business Bureau and Charity Navigator — then delivers the materials to the school. Once the project gets under way, students send photos and appreciation notes to their donors.


5. Customizing flash cards

Quizlet provides more than 12 million free sets of flash cards as studying resources, with subjects ranging all over the humanities and sciences, including vocabulary sets in more than 40 languages. Cook says she especially likes that teachers can make their own decks based on their specific classroom needs, and then create a user group to share the decks with students. Other features allow students to study via audio cues, timed tests and competitive games — on both computers and mobile devices.


iPad is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.

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