7 Ways Teachers Can Use Online Tools to Keep Students Interested

This post is from our series on Virtual students and how school has become more and more online.  See our other posts from the Virtual Student series here.

Can schools keep up with their net-generation, text-savvy students? A lecture and a white board pale in comparison to online videos, cell phone games, interactive virtual worlds and 3-d animation. Already, schools have been incorporating more high-tech technology such as smart boards and projectors in the classroom. My old high school uses ipods to test and record listening comprehension. This is great–and really expensive.

I plan on writing a few blog posts on this topic, but I first wanted to review a few free resources teachers (and parents) can use in the classroom or for homework to keep kids interested in learning. Most of all, by employing new technology you will be speaking in this generation’s language, appeal to what already interests them and therefore make school really relevant to their lives.

Here are some easy and free ways to get teachers more informed about what we are doing online, and how they can adapt to it!teachers-teens-classroom.jpg

1) Teacher Communities

The very first free teacher resource I am going ot mention is something that you cannot directly use in the classroom, but is something that will be a continuing source of inspiration for new tools. New websites, blogs, applictions, software and trends are developed everyday that you can ue to capture student’s attention, but there is no way you can teach and keep track of all the new updates at the same time. This is why it is important to join other teachers online and share ideas, support each other and communicate. I am huge fan (as you all know) of collaboration. So, the first tip is to join some of these communities and just start browsing and talking:

Teacher Lingo.com is a great website for teachers to write helpful articles for each other.

Teacher Vision.com I like this website because it is all about saving time for teachers and providing free resources.

A social network for teachers is NextGen Teachers.com.

2) Blog’s

A blog is: (Wikipedia)

“A website where entries are commonly displayed in reverse chronological order. Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries.”

Of course, you can use blogs to communicate with other teachers, but blogs can be a great way to allow kids to express their personal ideas on what you are learning. The classroom only offers limited opportunities for students to talk about their opinions on classroom topics like the revolutionary war, cellular respiration or To Kill A Mockingbird. For those who are shy, or need more time to articulate their ideas. Building a class blog is a great way to let kids informally (not as formal as a paper, not as terrifying as expressing an idea in class) think and discuss something academic in a personal way (from their home computer).

Building a blog is shockingly easy and simple to moderate. Blogger is a great free website for blog building, I use WordPress. We love when teachers have a flexible assignment such as “post one blog post a week discussing one topic from the week and your perspective.” It just gets us thinking and participating, then to take an hour on a friday to read some of the posts and have little discussion groups.

3) Wiki’s

A wiki is a software that allows web users to create a website together and edit each other’s pages. Check out wetpaint.com which allows (and gives great examples) of how you can use wiki’s for class topics and group presentations. You are doing your students a service by teaching them these softwares. This is the future of business and learning, so the more they can learn how to use it, the better.

One of my readers Kate Olson has an awesome blog called Reflection 2.0, on teachers online and has been experimenting with wiki’s in the classroom, if you are a teacher, you MUST check her out. (She will be surprised that she is in this blog post, but she was one of the motivators behind me writing it).
4) Video Sharing Sites

Even if you are the most interesting person in the world, people are going to start to tune you out if they see you 5 days a week 6 hours per day. Give yourself and your students a break and let them watch some funny videos teaching some of the concepts you are going over. When we were able to watch a video in-class, even if it was about herpes, there was sheer jubilation! Teachertube is a great resource for educational videos.

5) Social Networking

Of course use social networks to meet other teachers, but you can also develop your own social network for your students, have them create profiles that are all academic where they can list their favorite subject, favorite classroom activity and ideas for your next project. Check out Classroom 2.0, which has a plethora of resources for teachers on this topic. Make your own free social network:



6) Modern Day Pen Pals

I have mentioned the movie 2millionminutes before about how kids in India spend their time versus kids in the US. This generation of kids are so connected and virtual that they are used to being able to play Chess with a kid in Uzbekistan. I had a penpal in third grade in Mexico and took three weeks to get the letter to him, but I loved hearing what he was learning in school. Use the power of the Internet and start a virtual pen pal project. This will give your students new perspective on everything from what they are learning to the amazing opportunities they are given here.

Try World Pen Pals.com or ePals.com.

7) Cool Online Applications (Cool Sites for Teachers)

Lastly, there are just a bunch of cool sites online teachers can use in demonstrations, for projects or even in the background. I remember I thought it was so cool in science class when we had to do a timed lab, the teacher pulled up the coolest timer with people instead of just using the regular clock (I looked I cannot find it!). This seems small, but we thought our teacher was really cool and shook things up a bit.

Google Sites is a really cool online application and actually has a classroom as one of its examples.

Have Morse Code translated onto your computer.

Love HowStuffWorks.com, search anything you are teaching in class and it will have some cool explanation/funny video.

Twitter is starting a new site for teachers.  Twitter is VERY popular with teens right now it allows users to follow each other and post smal; 140 character snippets of what they are doing.  You can follow me on twitter: vvanpetten.

I hope this article was helpful, next I am going to address the issue of technology encroaching upon class time, texting, online games and iming during school, please add any and all suggestions.

Dream big, work hard and you will get there,


PS- Please do forward this around to the teachers in your life, I am going to be writing more posts on this topic and love connecting with teachers, they do amazing things for kids today!

7 Ways Teachers Can Use Online Tools to Keep Students Interested

18 thoughts on “7 Ways Teachers Can Use Online Tools to Keep Students Interested”

  1. Great Resource! Thanks for sharing! I am trying to get my institution onboard with Learning 2.0. I have a few following me…but just a few. Our IT department is holding us hostage!

  2. There are so many cool online tools available today. Wanted to call you attention to the Flat Classroom project, which uses many of these very effectively to enable students to collaborate on a global level.

    Visit http://flatclassroomproject.wikispaces.com/

    Here also are some examples of how virtual classroom technology engages even the youngest students as well as thos with special needs. Visit http://www.elluminate.com/sales/casestudies/nycdistrict75.jsp and http://www.elluminate.com/sales/casestudies/ebus.jsp

    – Beth, Elluminate Goddess of Communication

  3. hi beth

    I remember reading about the Flat classroom project in thomas friedman’s book! I like your site and will start to recommend it to teachers who often contact me. Thanks for sharing!


  4. Great tips!! Our school uses ePals and has been able to build relationships with students from around the world. It has become a very valuable learning tool for us!!

  5. oh thanks!

    I have not heard of that directory, I will be sure to look into it and maybe find some other blogs that I find interesting! Thanks for the suggestion and I am so glad it has been helpful

  6. I enjoyed reading your post. Thanks to Beth for mentioning Julie’s and my Flat Classroom project — we’re currently doing another project the Horizon Project – we welcome experts and press as advisors to join in and be judges and advisors to the students. We’d love to have you join our Ning — let me know if you’d like to be involved –we have 6 countries and 235 students involved – Don Tapscott, author of wikinomics is delivering the keynote. We’d love to have your expertise involved in this. I believe you have my e-mail — I’dl ove to talk more if you’re interested.

  7. Thanks for the great tips. Certainly enjoy reading though your post. The world has changed isn’t it, books no longer catches the attention of kids anymore. They learn better through fun apps and creative games with educational elements sneakily injected into it

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