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12 Cool-laborative Web 2.0 Tools

In the rapidly evolving world of web 2.0, four experts offer their picks for the latest and greatest collaborative tools for classroom use.

Keeping up with the flood of web 2.0 applications can be a dizzying affair. Winnowing the worthwhile from the worthless can eat up time that you simply don't have, yet the instructional advantages offered by the most promising collaborative tools are too big to pass up. To help steer you in the right direction, CT asked four self-confessed web 2.0 junkies to share their 12 favorites--some still in beta and some that have stood the test of time (well, a year or two anyway).

CT's Web 2.0 Panel

Matt Brinton
Matt Brinton is the interim assistant director of student activities at Metropolitan State College of Denver, as well as the NASPA Region IV-W technology knowledge community representative.

Mark Frydenberg
Mark Frydenberg is a senior lecturer of computer information systems at Bentley University (MA). He introduced a new multi-disciplinary web 2.0 course that brings together students in both business and liberal arts disciplines to explore the influences of web 2.0 technologies. He is the author of Web 2.0 Concepts and Applications.

Kimberly LaPrairie
Kimberly LaPrairie is the coordinator of the Master of Education in Instructional Technology program at Sam Houston State University (TX), and an assistant professor in curriculum and instruction. She uses numerous web 2.0 tools in her courses, most of which are completely online.

Alexandra Pickett
Alexandra Pickett is the associate director of the award-winning SUNY Learning Network, the asynchronous learning network for the State University of New York. She also teaches Introduction to Online Teaching in the online CDIT master's program at the University at Albany (NY).

1. Amplify
Application: Social blogging service
See an article, photo, blog, or video that piques your interest? Amplify lets you clip, share, and spark conversation about it. Amplify's web clipper quickly snips information, sucks it into your browser, and spits it out wherever you choose. To use Amplify as a one-stop shop for all your social media sharing, sync it with your social networks and blogs. Educators who place an emphasis on high-interest tools that are fun and simple are calling Amplify super-quick and more substantial than Twitter.

2. Audioboo
Application: Mobile/web platform for audio recording/uploading
Use the Audioboo website or the downloadable app to record, listen, or share five minutes of audio from your phone or computer. You can save recordings as podcasts or RSS feeds, too. Alexandra Pickett, associate director of the SUNY Learning Network, uses Audioboo to give oral feedback instead of written review, which she believes leads to increased learning and engagement. Being able to make audio comments is also a huge time-saver, she claims: "Boos make my feedback richer and more extensive, my teaching and social presence more meaningful."

3. Dropbox
Application: Web-based file hosting service
Download Dropbox and automatically sync your files with the cloud. Uploading from one computer updates your other devices, so working from multiple locations is effortless. Plus, files get unique URLs for easy sharing. Store 2 GB for free, and then use your .edu address to refer a friend for more.

"Cloud storage makes my files available anywhere, across multiple platforms," says Mark Frydenberg, technology educator at Bentley University (MA). He uses Dropbox to share large files and links to graded assignments without the usual clumsy e-mail exchanges.

4. Eventbrite
Application: Online event management and ticketing
Like many other campus organizers, Matt Brinton, interim assistant director of student activities at Metropolitan State College of Denver, uses Eventbrite to promote events of every size. Organizers establish registration pages listing event details, times, and ticket options. A ticket widget allows event organizers to sell tickets from their own website, with multiple payment options available. Public events go into the Eventbrite directory and on search engines. Brinton likes Eventbrite's extensive interactivity and analytical capabilities, which let organizers gain a better understanding of event attendees--a service not offered by Evite.

5. Factual
Application: Data as a service
Factual is an open data platform for web and mobile applications. It supplies live data on numerous topics mined from research submitted by users or provided by developers and partners. Data can be downloaded as a CSV file or manipulated online through a free server API. "Data as a service is one of the up-and-coming uses of the web," says Frydenberg, who recommends it for student projects because it's easy to access real-world data, make it your own, and embed mashups on a web page.

6. Glogster EDU
Application: Online collaborative learning platform
Glogster allows users to create interactive posters that demonstrate their understanding of specific topics. "Even the most resistant technology learners end up loving Glogster," says Kimberly LaPrairie, coordinator of the Master of Education in Instructional Technology program at Sam Houston State University (TX). "It takes them back to the poster presentation, but it's so much more interactive. Glogster motivates individuals to explore topics by allowing them to incorporate audio, video, links, text, and images." LaPrairie has presented entire programs using Glogster, including her department's student-intake review.

Application: Screen sharing
Enter in your browser, and you're on your way to sharing your screen with anyone with whom you share the access code. also allows you to transfer control to allow others to interact with applications running on your screen. A phone conference feature lets everyone looking at your screen dial in to a common call.

"Instead of canceling class during a snowstorm, I met my students virtually," recalls Frydenberg of one instance when he used the application. "They met me on, where I shared my screen, and we all called in to listen to the conversation. I called on students in the chat room who had questions, and asked individual students to complete different steps of a software demonstration."

8. JumpScan
Application: QR code generator
Use JumpScan to generate a personal Quick Response code that's linked to your digital world. Anyone with a smartphone can take a picture of the code to access your contact information, social media feeds, websites, and pictures. SUNY's Pickett puts her JumpScan QR code on her course preview page, allowing prospective students to access her name, picture, blog link, and personal information. "By scanning my JumpScan QR code, students get to know me before taking my course," she says.

9. PBworks
Application: Real-time collaborative editing system
PBworks is a hosted collaboration site where individuals set up 2-GB workspaces with a front-page wiki and safekeeping for assignments that can be edited by others. PBworks keeps track of each editor who contributes to the project; any changes can be reversed with one click. Instructors maintain administrative control and student accountability, while students customize their workspaces and add multimedia content with PBworks plugins. LaPrairie's students use PBworks to organize work, showcase web 2.0 projects, and construct web pages.

10. Quora
Application: Social Q-and-A
Twitter-like in its ability to update and query followers, follow others, and link to other social media, Quora (currently in beta) stands out for tracking not only people but also topics and questions. "People flock to your topic, not necessarily to you," Pickett explains. To tap into the collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it, simply sign up for a free account. Once you're set up, find people you know or like, vote up or down responses, and collaboratively refine answers.

11. Voki
Application: Creator of speaking avatars
With Voki, you can create an avatar that can speak up to one minute of a recorded or typed message. The avatar can then be embedded in blogs, e-mails, social networks, and more. "My Voki avatar helps students get to know and trust me, which in turn creates community and enhances collaboration in my online course," explains Pickett.

In LaPrairie's online classroom management course, Voki helps her get to know students. "They don't have to show their real faces, but they can still be heard," says LaPrairie, who also finds Voki effective in delivering project critiques.

12. Zamzar
Application: Utility software
With so many files zinging around campus, it's unlikely that users will have every program needed to open them all. Web-based Zamzar improves access to information and assists collaboration by converting data, image, video, and music files up to 100 MB in size from one format to another. Type in a URL or upload a file, and Zamzar e-mails back with the URL of the converted file for download. "Sometimes you just need to convert a document to PDF, a video to MP4, a song to MP3, or an image to PNG," says Frydenberg. "Zamzar makes it easy."

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