Want a Quick Guide to Web 2.0 Tools and Projects?

One of the challenges that teachers often have when working in digital spaces is identifying tools that are worth exploring and/or experimenting with.  To help with that process, I’ve whipped together a Quick Guide to Web 2.0 Tools and Projects that I’m currently using in my work with teachers and students.

You can check it out here:


Notice that the tools and projects are organized by the essential skill — information management, collaborative dialogue, verbal and visual persuasion, collaborative problem solving — that they are designed to support.  The way that I see it, tools are useless if they aren’t being used to help kids master the kinds of core behaviors that define efficient and effective learners.

Technology IS just a tool, after all.

Now, I’m not going to guarantee that this is the PERFECT list of Web 2.0 Tools and Projects, y’all.

The simple truth is that there are TONS of really great products that teachers and students are using to do remarkable work in the classroom.  If you think I’m missing a killer tool, leave me a link in the comment section.  I love finding out about the tools and services that others believe in.

But I CAN guarantee that the tools on this list are worth exploring because I use them all in my own classroom.



Related Radical Reads:

Technology is a Tool, Not a Learning Outcome.

Resource Collection – Teaching the iGeneration

In Celebration of Teaching Geeks


THIS is What a Growth Mindset Looks Like in Action.

Carol Dweck’s Mindset — which argues that success depends on our willingness to be resilient and to believe that potential isn’t determined by ability alone — has been driving my thinking for the past year.  

People with fixed mindsets, Dweck argues, are all too willing to give up when the going gets tough, convinced that they “just don’t have what it takes” to overcome intellectual challenges.

People with growth mindsets, however, see struggles and failures as opportunities to learn.  “The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it,” she writes, “even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset” (Kindle Location 184).

One of my struggles, however, was having tangible examples of just what growth mindsets looked like in action.

That all changed in our faculty meeting last week, however, when my principal shared this video describing the efforts of Malcom Mitchell, a star football player at the University of Georgia, to improve his reading ability:



Related Radical Reads:

Being Responsible for Teaching the Bored

How Gritty are Today’s Learners?

Talent is Cheaper than Table Salt

Canva Makes Your iPads Even MORE Useful

One of my biggest beefs with schools that spend thousands of dollars pushing iPads into classrooms has been the fact that the iPad has never REALLY been a great creation tool.  Instead, iPads often end up doing nothing more than reinforcing the kinds of passive consumption behaviors — watching videos, reading text, searching the Web — that I think we ought to be pushing OUT of our classrooms.

That’s why Canva’s new iPad app has caught my attention.

Designed to extend Canva’s remarkable desktop design functionality (see here and here) to mobile devices, this app has the potential to turn classroom iPads into tools for teaching students how to create stunning visuals.

Check out this video introduction:

The simple truth is that learning to create remarkable images is an essential skill in a world where we are surrounded by visual messages.

While being persuasive will always depend on written text — think about the the fact that I am trying to change your thinking every time I sit behind my keyboard to blog — being persuasive in a skim-first, read-later world ALSO depends on the ability to craft content that captures the eyes of viewers.

Canva remains the most approachable tool for helping kids to design extraordinary visuals.  If their new app makes it possible to do so on the iPads sitting in our classrooms, they will have hit an #edtech home run.

In the next few weeks, I’ll have some of my students experiment with the app.  I’ll share what they create here.



Related Radical Reads:

Check out this Anti-Bullying PSA [ACTIVITY]

Five Tips for Creating Slides that WON’T Bore Your Audience

Using Canva to Teach Visual Influence

In Celebration of Teaching Geeks!

One of my professional mentors is Tom Many — longtime superintendent in the Chicago area and full-time consultant with expertise in setting up professional learning communities.  Tom — who writes a regular bit for the Texas Elementary Principals and Supervisors Association — reached out a few months back, looking to interview me for a column on teaching with technology.

Thought you’d be interested in the conversation that we had:

Tom: I often hear that technology motivates kids? 

Bill: The notion that technology increases a student’s motivation to learn, Tom, is fundamentally flawed.  While it is true that today’s kids are comfortable with technology, being comfortable with technology is not the same as being motivated by it.  Sean Crevier – a business teacher in the Greater Chicago area – probably said it best when he argued that today’s kids are no more motivated by technology than they are by their shoes and socks.  To kids, technology is functional, not fantastic.

What really motivates today’s students are meaningful learning experiences built around the chance to do work that matters.  For example, the kids in my classroom are the most motivated when they are fighting global poverty or raising awareness about the sugars in the everyday foods that we eat.  While technology serves as an accelerant in both of these examples, the technology that we use is irrelevant.

Long story short:  Real power rests in the hearts and minds of teachers who are working together to design lessons that introduce students to required content and skills while they are solving real-world problems together.

Tom:  Another reason in support of using technology is that it results in higher levels of student engagement.

Bill:  I’m not a big fan of the notion that we can use technology to engage students, Tom, because it suggests that technology alone can overcome poorly designed lessons.  In fact, I’d argue that using technology to sweeten boring lessons is a lot like drowning Cheerios in sugar:  Today’s students are savvy enough to know that you are still serving Cheerios.

I’d even go as far as to say that trying to use technology to engage students is inadvertently insulting to kids because “engaging students” still fundamentally suggests that we are trying to teach our content and our skills without any effort to listen to the voices of the learners in our classrooms.

How would instruction change if our primary goal was to empower – instead of engage – our learners?  The beautiful part of technology is that it makes it possible for anyone to ask and answer their own questions and to work together to wrestle with knotty problems.  Shouldn’t we be designing lessons that show students how to actually leverage the learning potential in the devices that surround them?

Tom:  I am told that technology encourages kids to engage in higher level thinking, does technology increase the rigor of classroom lessons? 

Bill:  Technology is never rigorous, Tom.  Tasks are.  When we spend time focused on the tools kids are using instead of the tasks that they are wrestling with, we inevitably end up failing ourselves, our communities and our kids.  Does technology make it possible for teachers to effectively and efficiently develop and deliver more rigorous tasks?  Sure.  But until we center our collective attention on tasks instead of tools, we’ll never increase the rigor of classroom instruction.

Tom:  Some argue that schools need to expose students to technology in order to better prepare them for the 21st Century.  Can you share any insights into that idea?

Bill:  The students who succeed in tomorrow’s world, Tom, will be those who learn to filter, manage and evaluate information in increasingly complex literate environments.  What’s more, the students who succeed in tomorrow’s world will be those who can build knowledge together through cycles of collaborative dialogue and who are skilled at solving problems that cross domains.  Finally, the students who succeed in tomorrow’s world will be those who can influence and persuade those around them.

That should be good news to teachers and schools because those skills – evaluation, persuasion, collaborative dialogue, problem solving – are skills that teachers are already comfortable with and believe in.

The difference is that technology makes it possible to for everyone to efficiently wrestle with those skills on a more regular basis.  So in a sense, I guess that exposing students to technology matters – but only because it will enable every kid to develop fluency with the skills that once only mattered to the small handful who were headed to college.  Divorced from those skills, however, exposing students to technology is somewhat pointless.

Tom:  I appreciate you sharing your thoughts on the relationship between teaching, learning, and technology.  In closing is there anything else you would like to share?

Bill:  I guess I would like to close by saying again that there is no substitute for good teaching.  In order to better prepare today’s students for tomorrow’s world, it is far more important to have a school full of learning-savvy teachers than tech-savvy teachers.

The folks driving meaningful change in the classroom through the innovative use of digital tools aren’t tech geeks, they are teaching geeks.


Related Radical Reads:

Technology Gives Kids Power

Daniel Learned that He Had Power Yesterday

Should We Be Engaging or Empowering Learners?

Problemitizing the Curriculum [SLIDE]

The thinking of Garfield Gini-Newman has been a source of challenge for me lately.

One of Garfield’s arguments is that problems should be used as an invitation to bring students into the learning process.  Here’s a slide that makes Garfield’s point:

(click here to view and download image on Flickr) 


Related Radical Reads:

My Kids, a Cause and our Classroom Blog

My Beef with the Gamification of Education

Introducing Our Newest Cause: #SUGARKILLS