Compilation of Useful Tools on the Web

I recently ran across the resources at College@Home from two separate feeds I follow regularly, iLibrarian and Free Resources from the Net for (Special) Education. The compilation of useful tools on the web at College@Home is exceptional. Although, the site is intended for college age students, the resources can be extremely helpful to K-12 students and teachers.

In 57 Google Tools You’ve Never Heard Of Christina Laun identifies and describes tools ranging from Must Haves (Google Reader, Docs, Notebook, etc.), Maps/Travel, Web Browsing/Development, Search Tools (yes we all know how to do a traditional Google Search, but checkout some of the unknown search tools), and misc tools. I have to admit I thought I was an avid Google user using Google Search functions (traditional, blog search, and scholar), Google Reader, GTalk, and Google Docs, but I found a number of new tools I’ll add to my daily toolkit. One that was timely was Browser Sync, which allows you to sync your Firefox browser with another computer via the internet. I am in the process of changing computers and this worked great to transfer my passwords, tabs, bookmarks, and history.

Last week, Paul Hamilton from Free Resources from the Net for (Special) Education shared another resource from College@Home on the 100 Helpful Web Tools for Every Kind of Learner by Christina Laun. My background in special education and avid interest in UDL caused me to get fairly excited at this extensive list of resources to meet the needs of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. The screenshot below demonstrates just a few of the 100 resources that Christina lists and describes. This resource will be a much used addition to my links.

Just a few other blog posts from College@Home worth checking out:


VisuWords Online Graphical Dictionary

VisuWords is a free online graphical dictionary that is an excellent resource for language development and language support. You can type any word into the searchbox or click on Random to view random words defined. The site then searches for related words and then produces a user-friendly diagram. Each node in the diagram is clickable to view a definition of that word or double click on the node to expand the search for that particular term. In the example below I clicked on Random and VisuWords displayed the diagram for “Replicate”. You can see how words and their connections are color coded.

This is where the tool is a really great language instructional resource. VisuWords identifies nouns,

verbs, adjectives, and adverbs by color coding the nodes. In addition, it identifies how the word is related by color coding the link from node to node. VisuWords calls these connections synsets.

A synset is essentially a single concept that is represented by a number of terms or synonyms. Synonyms are words with different spellings that convey the same idea.

Students can utilize VisuWords like a thesaurus or can learn more about derivatives, participles, instances of, and more about a particular word. To fill your browser with the diagram just click on “Fill Browser with Scalable VisuWords”. While you cannot save or export diagrams you create, VisuWords is still a great resource for interactive language development and is ideal for classrooms with interactive whiteboards. Kids have never bene as excited about using a dictionary and studying language!

Math Dictionary for Kids

Recently I came across the Math Dictionary for Kids by following my network. This excellent interactive dictionary allows students to define over 600 math words in an interactive and flash based system. When students identify a word they can view the definition, along with an example of the concept that the student can interact with. In the example below, negative numbers are defined and students can slide the green bar along a number line to watch how numbers change from negative to positive by passing zero. The interactivity of the site allows it to be a great tool for interactive whiteboards.

Reading Resources Updated

I have finished the update to my reading resources list in preparation for a full day workshop next week. It is amazing the number of new tools available to differentiate reading instruction. This was the first time I’ve updated the list with my toolbag of web 2.0 resources including; blogs, Google Reader, del.ici.ous, Classroom 2.0, and twitter. The combination of these tools really allowed me to identify the most recent resources available to teachers on the web and learn how teachers are already using them. The resources are organized primarily around the 5 types of text adaptations (Edyburn, 2003); bypass reading, decrease reading, support reading, organize reading, and guide reading. Checkout the presentation below or view all the content at

Updating Reading Resources

I am currently in the process of updating my materials related to reading resources for accommodating students with reading deficits for several upcoming summer workshops. You will now notice a new tab at the top of the blog that links to this list of resources which range from;

  • literacy development
  • audio books
  • digital text
  • accessibility tools
  • content-specific resources

Many of these tools I located by following educational technology enthusiast, such as, Free Resources from the Net for (Special) Education, TechLearning, Jane Knight, and Kevin Jarrett. As I preview the tools and identify ways in which they could be utilized to differentiate instruction for struggling readers I always return to Dave Edyburn‘s 2003 article on the Taxonomy of Text Modifications (click here to download). This is a great reference when considering students needs and the function of their difficulty (see table below). For example, a lack of fluency would warrant a number of considerations from audio books, text-to-speech tools, to conversion software depending on the function of that difficulty. Once, I identified the the reading problem and the function of that problem I can turn to my list of resources to identify tools to address the students deficit. As I explore new tools I try identify which strategy it most closely associates with, so that I can easily apply it to student needs in the future.

A taxonomy of text modification strategies. Closing the Gap, (21)6

If you have similar tools that you use for reading instruction please post in the comment section. I greatly appreciate additions to the list.

Google’s Team Edition Apps

Google has released Google Team Edition Apps which offer great tools for schools to offer collaborative applications for students in a safe, controlled environment. The great feature of Team Edition compared to Education Edition is that email is not required or available, so you don’t have to worry about providing students access to email. Check out Google’s 2 minute video below on the features of Team Edition.

I watched a great Ustream presentation by Kevin Jarrett and Kathy Field, both from Northfield Community School, discuss a classroom project utilizing Google Team Edition (Click here to view video). They share how they set up Google for their classroom, introduced it to students, and an evaluation of how the project went. Kevin and Kathy both offer great tips on how to use these tools in the classroom and discuss how they monitor student use.

CAST Releases UDL Guidelines

The Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) recently released a new set of the Universal Design for Learning Guidelines. The guidelines serve to guide teachers as they evaluate existing curriculum, media, and materials for UDL principles. CAST defines UDL as..

a framework for designing curricula that enable all individuals to gain knowledge, skills, and enthusiasm for learning. UDL provides rich supports for learning and reduces barriers to the curriculum while maintaining high achievement standards for all.

Revised UDL Guidelines

In addition, CAST has released a few new UDL tools and resources.

  • UDL editions () offers leveled supports and a texthelp toolbar in digital books to support students in reading comprehension. This is a great resource for students, as well as, an excellent example of the application of the UDL principles.
  • UDL Self-Check is another new resource that allows teachers to evaluate their curriculum online for UDL principles. Visit the UDL Self-Check at