I am frequently told by educators that one reason they do not integrate more technology into their classroom is because they cannot afford it; "there is no money." And just as frequently I respond with, "but what if you could do that for free?"
Many of the tools used by educators to enhance teaching and provide interactive experiences over the years have been purchased software products. Class productivity tools such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and database programs are ubiquitous within our schools and they can cost a lot of money to upgrade and maintain. In contrast, programs such as web browsers are equally ubiquitous, yet they cost nothing to install or upgrade.
So why is it that educators and IT professionals tend to shy away from the so called "free" tools widely available on the Internet, and often referred to as Web-based or Web 2.0 products? In my opinion, it is because they are not aware of them. Many programs currently available such as MindMeister.com, Google Docs, Weebly.com, PickNik.com, Screencast.com, to name but a few, are not well know in education.
As a university professor teaching introductory technology integration courses, I would do whatever I could to introduce future teachers to these web-based tools. I believe teachers need opportunities to learn about and try out new technologies. These opportunities are available to those seeking advanced degrees at local colleges and universities, and often to forward thinking districts who provide ample professional development opportunities.
The demand placed upon teachers today to adopt and integrate technology to enhance instruction and learning opportunities is great. These same teachers are also expected to provide rich and engaging classroom experiences and to increase student achievement through State and local assessments. This does not leave much time for teachers to sit down and explore new technologies. How many Web 2.0 tools are there? Far too many to cover here in this modest blog entry, but there are places on the Web a teacher can go to see and learn about web-based tools and Web 2.0 technologies appropriate to education. Here educators can find applications to meet their needs for teaching: social networking; social bookmarking; web page building; image storing, editing and sharing; file sharing; writing; spreadsheets; financial management; polling and voting; drawing; music; video; calendars; rss aggregators; presentations; multimedia hosting; virtual learning environments; graphing/charts; teaching/meeting online; video conferencing; microblogging (tweet); blogging; project management; to do lists; assessment; notetaking and event planning.
Go2Web20.net - One of the largest compilations of Web 2.0 applications. You can search using "education" or simply float through the many apps to see what might be used in your classroom.
TheDigitalClassroom.com - Search by keyword or tags for teaching strategies and web-based tools.
Spend a couple of hours this weekend surfing through the possibilities - you will not regret it.