I think any of us who have even a passing interest in using web tools to enhance learning or make the business of teaching easier has done it: you check out a site, you like the general idea, but it’s problematic. Maybe it’s buggy and the navigation is difficult. Maybe it didn’t play well with your operating system or browser. Maybe it just didn’t work the way you wanted.
I have, for reasons I cannot fully explain, assumed that a site that I didn’t like would stay that way forever. Recently, though, I have stumbled upon many sites that I shrugged off, perhaps years ago, to find they are different. In some cases they are fundamentally better.
Here are a few sites that deserve another look, especially if you haven’t checked them out in a while:
Animoto– What used to be a cool one-trick pony has emerged as something positively beautiful in design and execution. Educator accounts are still available, and the products teachers and students can make are simply impressive! The best: choose a motion template design, and see images embedded seamlessly into a professional grade montage.
Google Sites– When I tried Google Sites a few years ago, I was frustrated by the overall design, the complicated controls, and the very non-Google interface. Buy was I surprised to see a new Google Sites interface that mirrors Google Drive and Gmail controls, and can be easily navigated by a beginner in no time. I had students design fake news sites, and most groups had it more or less mastered in one class period. Nevertheless, it produced quality, easy to navigate web sites.
Prezi– If you looked at this tool a few years back and found it a bulky bandwidth hog that was tough to actually do what it was capable of doing, I think you’d agree that it is much cleaner looking, easier to create with, and since you are probably working with a lot more bandwidth now than you were in 2009, it shouldn’t bog you down any more than any other web tool.
YouTube– Yes, I know, you may use YouTube all the time. However, I think it may be time to start from scratch and really get to know YouTube as an educator. The easy to manage social collection and sharing of educational videos on channels you create may make it a lot more than just a search bar and a pile of videos.
Twitter– If you tried Twitter in the early days, you may have been instantly turned off by the petty selfishness and silliness of it all. After all, who cares what celebrities are having fro lunch? Truth is, all that stuff is still there if you want it. However, in addition to that corner of the Twitterverse, many legitimate professional networks have staked their claim to a portion of Twitter, and the education network is among the largest (estimated at 20K and counting). Truly, Twitter has become the largest connection point for educators. Try doing a Twitter search on #commoncore or #projectbasedlearning, or simply #teaching, and behold the resources and dialogue that is unique to this platform. See this post for more info: http://aboutteaching.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/getting-started-with-twitter-my-top-5-tips-for-teachers/
The best part about web tools it that good ones continue to evolve as time goes on. If you have a suggestion to add to this list, please post a comment and a short explanation why it deserves a second look.