A former editor and current writer for The New Yorker helped create Figment so that authors would have a place to share their work with readers around the world. Teachers may want to think of the site as the Facebook for aspiring readers and writers. By creating a free Figment profile, students can post original short stories, poems, and novels for their classmates to read and review. When you enjoy a piece of writing, you “heart” it—similar to “like” statuses and pictures on Facebook. Also as on Facebook, users can follow their favorite writers (or fellow students) to get updates when they post new pieces.
In addition to posting their own work, students can read excerpts from new books or interviews with authors, enter writing contests, and start discussions. Students have access to thousands of stories written by both emerging and established writers. With 25 genres as specific and offbeat as “dystopian” and “cyberpunk,” there’s something for everyone.
A few other noteworthy features: Each story posting displays the approximate number of minutes it takes to read—potentially helping kids budget their time but hopefully not causing them to avoid reading longer stories. Also, with a special code, teachers have the ability to look at drafts of students’ work before they are published. And for students on-the-go, there’s already a mobile version at m.figment.com, and the developers are in the process of creating a smartphone app.
To prevent extreme criticism and cyberbullying from plaguing the forums and reviews, Figment does not allow anonymous commenting.
Like Figment, Showbeyond is a story-sharing community. What makes Showbeyond different is that it’s oriented around multimedia slideshow narratives. Students can create stories by uploading sequenced images, typing in text, and recording their own audio tracks.
Users can create a profile,“fan” their favorite multimedia authors, and comment on others’ work. They can also customize who is able to view their story. Current slideshows on the site cover topics from travel experiences to biographies. Registration is free.
Tikatok is an award-winning website designed to let children write, illustrate, and publish their own stories. It also assists students in the writing process. As students collect their thoughts, the site diplays writing hints at the bottom of each page of the book to guide them, while teaching them the elements of every story—such as conflict, climax, and resolution. Students can also use the “StorySparks” feature, which provides templates for the topic, characters, and plot.
In addition to crafting a story, kids can also design their books. They select the font, layout, and image for every page. Students with a flair for art can upload their own drawings.
Once the book is complete, teachers can order professional-quality hard cover, paperback, or digital copies at a discounted educator price. Registration is free for teachers.
National Library of Virtual Manipulatives
This practical website for today’s math teachers provides a library of computer-based manipulatives, or visual objects that help students understand relationships and applications. The site, developed by Utah State University and tested in classrooms, contains tutorials and activities for K-12 teachers of geometry, algebra, measurement, data analysis, probability, and numbers and operations. Each activity comes with instructions and tips for teachers on what objectives are being applied and how best to use the activity as an educational tool. A paid subscription is required to use the library on a regular basis, but a free trial is available.
In addition, the National Science Foundation has funded an extension of the site, called eNLVM, that offers interactive features for students and teachers. It includes online lesson plans, activities, and assessments, all of which are oriented around state and national math standards. With eNLVM, teachers can modify lesson plans to suit their classrooms’ needs, publish a new lesson plan, and collaborate with other teachers.
It can be difficult to see the connections between algebra and geometry, but this inventive software program makes it easy. Students use a mouse to draw constructions—using lines, vectors, points, and segments—while the corresponding coordinates and equations appear next to the shape-in-progress.
Alternatively, students can directly enter the coordinates and equations, and a corresponding figure will be displayed on the drawing board. A sample problem asks, “How large should a mirror beto show your whole self?,” and illustrates how an algebraic formula is derived from a drawing of a female figure looking in a mirror.
GeoGebra can be tailored to various grade levels and uses free, open-source software. The site has won numerous awards in both Europe and the United States, most recently receiving the 2010 National Technology Leadership Award.
Teachers can learn to use GeoGebra in detail by watching video tutorials, participating in online forums, or using the site’s support pages.
A version of this article appeared in the April 04, 2011 edition of Teacher PD Sourcebook as Websites to Know