Potentially useless, but…
As an instructional technology specialist, I review a lot of different Web 2.0 tools to see if they are useful for instruction and collaboration. GoogleDocs, Wiki, Delicious, collaborative mind-mapping tools (like Mindmeister etc.), Voicethread and Diigo are definitely my favorite tools of trade, depending on what I’d like to use them for. Students’ favorite, Facebook, also has potential for use in classrooms. I’m still struggling to see the real potential of Twitter in a classroom setting, but I see people use it effectively for instruction.
Again, tools are just tools. Those who have attended any CTLT workshops or events have probably heard us say that frequently. “Tools are to help you achieve your goal, but not the goal in itself,” “we should first identify learning objectives and then use the tools appropriately,” and many reiterations of the same message. Yes, that is true, but I (and other people at CTLT) also believe knowing what’s available out there is also important so when you identify a goal, you have a tool to achieve the goal.
So, I go through a lot of tools for reviewing purposes. I find some tools I recommend to faculty, and others I don’t. The ones I don’t recommend are not necessarily low-quality tools (that’s true sometimes as well), but I don’t recommend them because I can’t think of any instructional purposes that the tools may achieve. There are some cool tools out there that get me excited for a few seconds, but then I realize they are not very useful for most instructional settings. I think they are cool, and I wish there was a way to integrate them in teaching. So I just keep them on my bookmark in case something comes up and I might need to use or recommend it to faculty. Here are a couple of tools that fall into the category. Maybe you have a suggestion for use in classroom?
Wordle is a tool that creates “word clouds” from any text. You can cut and paste text from anywhere – your academic paper, class syllabus and really, anything) and it’ll create a visually interesting collage of words (the more a particular word is frequent in text, it gets represented larger). You can also import text from blogs and website and see what comes up. Click on the picture on the left to see a visual representation of CTLT Blog posts.
Prezi is an online presentation tool that allows you to show the relationship of concepts by creating a big picture and setting up a zooming effect to illustrate each concept. Sounds great, huh? But for some reason, I get nauseous watching them because of how the presentation moves. Also, we’re thinking this does not meet ADA requirements because a text reader will not be able to process the text in a flash video. But I’m approached by many instructors about this tool. It is a cool idea, but it takes lots of planning to come up with something that is meaningful for learning. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen too many presentations that take full advantage of this tool.