102 FREE (OR FREE-TO-TRY) ONLINE COLLABORATIVE LEARNING TOOLS FOR TEACHERS AND EDUCATORS

online-learning-toolsLast Updated: February 17, 2016

Today’s student generation is mobile, online and Internet-savvy. They are all computer gurus, and they often engage better with their electronics than they do with paper and pencil.

As the saying goes, when you can’t beat ’em, join ’em: charge into the information age as a 21st century teacher. Use online tools and resources to power your lesson-planning and engage your students. And do it for free, with these 101 online tools for collaborative learning – all free to use, or at least free to try.

 

Table of Contents

 

Tools for K-5 Teachers

Young learners benefit most from collaborative games and fun, animated educational tools.

1. WhyVille: WhyVille is a free, online community where every kid is a valued citizen. Your students can play geography, science and art games with each other, or with other kids from around the world. They can even earn money (“clams”) and start their own businesses!

2. Animoto: This incredible tool allows you to create short video clips and vibrant slideshows that will wow your students. Add music, text and other extras for full-featured presentations. The Animoto Lite version is completely free, and teachers can apply for a free Animoto Plus account.

3. AudioBoo: A free account lets you make recordings up to 3 minutes each, which you can then share on your class’s wiki, blog or other media – or even as a simple link. Just imagine all the fun applications: scavenger hunts, guess-the-sound games, classroom songs and so much more!

4. Storybird: Billed as a new literacy tool for the new generation, this collaborative storytelling site is definitely something your students will love. Work together to create artful stories to share, print and read. Your students can even play their stories like games, or send their works of art to friends and family, as books or greeting cards.

5. SecretBuilders: SecretBuilders is an imaginative world of kid-friendly, online multiplayer gaming. Games are educational and interactive, not to mention age-appropriate. The best part: the site goes far beyond the usual word searches and jigsaw puzzles to teach students about history, literary figures, historical people, and the world around them. You can even enroll your entire class through the Teacher’s Console.

6. Arcademics: What do you get when you mix awesome arcade games with academics? Arcademics, an online gaming site where students can collaborate on multiplayer games to test their math, language, social studies and other skills.

7. Free Rice: If you’re in the market for educational gaming with a conscience, look no further than Free Rice. Challenge your students to collaborate on answering questions about geography, humanities, vocabulary, grammar, math, foreign language, literature and other subjects. Every correct answer earns 10 grains of rice dedicated to starving families in developing nations, including Bangladesh, Cambodia, Bhutan, Uganda, and Nepal.

8. Mind42: Kids are never too young for mind maps, at least when mind maps can include photos and other images! Mind42 is a great, web-based mind-mapping tool that gets even the K-5 set engaged in idea creation. Best of all, you can open up your maps to group editing and even share your maps with parents, tutors and other classes.

9. Wizehive: This comprehensive application has a lot of functionality: build forms, manage tasks, update your activity feed and create workflow sheets. Wizehive is a great pick for sharing upcoming projects, classroom modules, events and other class activities with parents.

10. Skype in the Classroom: This tool is great for any age group, but we particularly love Skype’s application for very young learners. With Skype in the Classroom, you can take virtual field trips to anywhere in the world, and connect with sister classrooms across oceans and continents. It’s like a 21st century version of class penpals.

11. Wikispaces Classroom: Young children have brilliant minds, and what better way to light the creative spark than to get your class involved in social storytelling? Wikispaces helps you create an online home for your class’s writings, to share with parents and other students.

12. Twiddla: Take your dry erase board online with Twiddla, a virtual whiteboard app. Billed as a meeting playground with a trial sandbox, this tool seems built for the littlest learning set. And it is: draw, write, and do everything you’d do on a real whiteboard, but online, where you can also add media resources, like audio and video.

13. Padlet: Whether your class is building a poster board dedicated to ancient Egypt or outlining the scientific method, Padlet takes you from blank wall to beautiful display. K-5 students will love that they worked together to create the masterpiece, especially if their homework involves collecting more goodies for their virtual display wall.

14. FunBrain: Circling back to educational games, FunBrain serves up a smorgasbord of classroom-friendly games for the K-8 crowd. Challenge your students to the Reading Arcade, play board games where math is the solution, and more.

15. Raz-Kids: This award-winning website lets elementary learners read anytime, anywhere – and allows teachers to monitor students’ progress, so you can keep class discussions relevant and timely.

16. SpellingCity: Build vocabulary, play games, and take fun language arts quizzes at SpellingCity. You can log on as a group, or let students play individually or in teams.

17. Starfall: For classrooms that practice phonics-based learning, Starfall has a suite or games, plays, magic tricks and more. Starfall aligns with Common Core Standards.

18. Wowzers: This cloud-based online math tool makes fun out of arithmetic, multiplication and division. You can personalize learning plans, challenge your students based on their abilities, run necessary assessments, and involve your class in individual and group games.

 

Tools for Middle School Teachers

Middle school-aged kids need collaborative learning tools that are streamlined and easy to use, with a little bit of cutting-edge thrown in for good measure.

19. Fakebook: Middle-schoolers may not be old enough to use the real thing (Facebook), but that makes Fakebook even cooler. Charge your students with creating Fakebook profiles for historical figures, authors, and other persons of note.

20. Flickr: Sixth through eighth-graders will love using your Flickr class account to share photos of classroom events, projects and other notables. The possibilities don’t end there: you can create sets (albums) for how-to guides, cull Creative Commons images to illustrate current places of study, and spark creative thinking by telling stories through imagery.

21. FlickrPoet: Speaking of stories and imagery, FlickrPoet is a great tool to show your students that poetry is more than words on a page. Prose and verse take flight with FlickrPoet, which puts images to your students’ poems. Have kids work together to create several photo versions – each reload pulls new images – and discuss which best brings their words to life.

22. Folding Story: For language arts and culture classes, nothing beats group storytelling. This innovative, free site lets your students collaborate on stories you assign, or even jump on board those that are currently “folding” (being told). Be sure to filter for age-appropriate content.

23. Storify: If you class vibes on storytelling, take stories real and global. Storify culls media from around the web to tell full-featured reports of current events and news. Helpful security settings ensure you pull only age-appropriate content for your class.

24. PBworks: Formerly PBwiki, this online collaborative tool opens up a world of group projects. Build websites together; give your students access to online materials, book lists, and resource links; and share information between students and teachers. The basic edition is free for classroom use.

25. Creaza: Classroom assignments have never been so fun as they are with Creaza. Your students can collaborate to create multimedia presentations that incorporate audio, video and even original cartoons! Creaza can also be leveraged for mind mapping, slideshows, and other educational uses.

26. Popplet: Done well, mind mapping is an incredible tool that turns ideas into tangible, visual plans of action. Popplet, which is available via the web and as an iPad app, helps your students think creatively and learn visually, creating mind maps they can access anytime, anywhere.

27. Google Earth: If you’re teaching geography or earth science or geological processes or social studies or world cultures or, well, almost anything, Google Earth can make your lessons more interactive, more real and very 3-D. Think of it as an insta-passport to anywhere in the world.

28. WordPress.com: A class blog has huge potential: you can collaborate on storytelling, teach your kids about the implications of social media & online information, or simply chronicle classroom projects and activities. WordPress allows each student to write as an individual contributor, so the possibilities are endless.

29. Search Team: When students are just learning how to conduct web research, collaborating with friends and peer groups can be a great help. Search Team does that, allowing small teams to collaborate to find the best, most applicable search results to any question you pose.

30. Bounce: Here’s another tool for young web researchers. Bounce lets students share their thoughts on any webpage, and then “bounce” that back and forth with other students, group members, and teachers.

31. Dweeber: The name may be a little, well, dweeby, but Dweeber is a great place for middle school kids to meet for online study sessions. A free account lets students connect with friends from school, so they can collaborate on group projects and homework. Sketching, note sharing and other features make this tool versatile.

32. Wridea: Brainstorming is an important part of the creative process. Wridea allows students to collaborate to organize and streamline their ideas, in order to create better, more cohesive group projects.

33. ScribLink: More than just a scribble pad, ScribLink is an online whiteboard that you can share in real-time. Now, students can access the day’s notes from anywhere, anytime: while you’re teaching, when they’re reviewing their homework, and even when they’re studying for an upcoming test.

34. Sync.in: When your students are working on collaborative documents, Sync.in lets them edit, type and revise in real-time. They call it document conferencing.

35. Lino: Go old school with new school technologies: Lino lets your students create sticky notes, pin photos, and share ideas and discussions on a virtual canvas that requires nothing more than an Internet connection and web browser.

36. Marqueed: Learning can be as simple as a better discussion. Marqueed lets you do just that, about images. Simply upload a photo or graphic – say, a National Geographic shot or new infographic – and let your class annotate and discuss everything from the lighting to the facts they ferret out.

37. Podcast Garden: Podcasting can be an incredible tool for teaching your students about the power of the Internet. Even better, they’ll become experts on whatever topic you choose, like Everything You Need to Know You Learned in 7th Grade or The English Grammar You Forgot.

38. HeyMath!: For every kid who has ever struggled with math, HeyMath! offers an easy, totally fun answer. And the collaborative part? Students can ask friends and teachers for help on any question – or offer their help to solve others’ problems.

39. Collaborize Classroom: This collaborative platform complements your in-class lessons with assignments, activities and online discussions that encourage 100% participation.

40. Cool Math: Cool Math is more than just math: it’s science, reading and geography, too! All games are designed for classroom use, and include fun activities like collaborative algebra and adventurous WebQuests.

 

Tools for High School Teachers

High school students are tech-savvy, mobile consumers – and often, just a tad know-it-all-can’t-impress-me. These collaborative tools will grab their attention and get them learning and working together online, with nary an eyeroll in sight.

41. Canva: Canva provides teachers and students with an excellent and free way to create beautiful slides, flyers, posters, infographics, and photo collages. Begin by selecting a template and then drag and drop designs, clip art, photos, and text boxes to create your graphic. Once complete, you can download your images as PNG or PDF files.

42. VoiceThread: This collaborative tool allows students and teachers to create multimedia slideshows complete with video, images, documents and voiceovers. When working in a group, each contributor can leave comments via text, voice, audio file or video. Your students can share files amongst each other or send them to you; they can even export to mp3 or video, to embed on your class wiki or other site. VoiceThread offers a free upgrade to their K-12 educators account for, well, K-12 educators.

43. WeVideo: If the 21st century classroom needs an online, collaborative video-creation tool, WeVideo fits the bill. Get your students involved in active learning and get their creative juices flowing with group filmmaking and video storytelling.

44. Scrible: Some collaborative tools are flashy and complex; others are simple. Scrible definitely sits on the simple side of the scale, but that doesn’t make it any less ingenious: this straightforward tool (in beta at the time of publish) lets your students collaboratively share resources, take notes, and markup the web for their next research project.

45. A.nnotate: Here’s another collaborative annotation tool, this one with a little extra oomph: in addition to enabling your student groups to collaboratively take notes on web pages and online images, A.nnotate also lets them annotate any PDF or Microsoft Word document they use in their research.

46. Crocodoc: If you’d prefer an annotation tool that’s just a wee bit flashy, Crocodoc is a great choice. (High schoolers will be hard-pressed not to like Crocodoc’s new “box view.”) Students can collaborate to annotate – comment, underline, highlight or strikeout text – PDFs and Word Documents, and you can easily comment on final papers and projects, no red pen required.

47. Evernote: It’s likely that many of your students already use Evernote; it’s one of the most popular, cross-platform tools available for mobile and desktop devices. (It syncs information across all platforms.) Collaboration through Evernote means saving important webpages, working on group notes and docs, and collecting research in one place.

48. Sketch: If you’ve ever wished you could really markup an outline, paper, or project, Sketch is what you’re looking for. Available from the makers of Evernote, this cool tool lets you digitally draw arrows, checkmarks, question marks and other annotations (including text notes) onto shared docs.

49. Prezi: Gone are the days when PowerPoint was your only choice for presentations. If you want to wow – and truly engage – your students, Prezi helps you create dynamic, beautifully designed presentations that integrate images, words, graphs and more. You can collaborate with other teachers to create presentations, and your students (groups up to 10) can use Prezi as a shared whiteboard.

50. WordPress.org: WordPress.com’s big brother, WordPress.org is an incredibly versatile tool for collaborative blogging and website-building. Creating a class blog, sharing group storytelling, and other projects have endless possibilities with the vast array of free WordPress themes (templates) and plugins available.

51. Google Drive: Once known as Google Docs, Google Drive offers a comprehensive suite of collaborative, online tools: word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, forms or drawing files.

52. Dropbox: Dropbox is an awesome resource for sharing files with your students. Sign up for a free account and get 2+ GB of space to share documents, PDFs, videos, and images with students’ own Dropbox accounts.

53. Scoot & Doodle: Innovative and well designed, this online tool can be your go-to for collaborative projects. Not only can you work with your students – and your students with other students – on projects, but you can even get remote experts, tutors, parents, other teachers and peers involved in the process. Even better, Scoot & Doodle integrates with Google Hangouts to let up to 10 team members work simultaneously.

54. Blackboard Collaborate: You’ve likely heard of Blackboard, but if not, this online tool allows for collaborative lesson planning and creates a virtual classroom where your students will flourish. Blackboard Collaborate makes it easy to create web conferences, conduct real-time classes, add voice authoring to your lessons, and instant message with your students.

55. Simple Surface: Whiteboards are a great tool for sharing ideas, outlining projects and more. Simple Surface allows students to share thoughts, plan and organize their ideas, and publish to Pinterest, Facebook or PDF. They can even take their plans public.

56. Wunderlist: This mobile and web-based to-do list is great for on-the-go students. It allows for personal to-dos and is also collaborative, letting students share to-do lists and edit (add/check off) items on shared lists, all in the name of productivity.

57. ThinkBinder: This online meeting hub is designed to create a web-based, group study group. There’s also whiteboard capabilities, where students can sketch and share thoughts, thus making group study sessions easier and more productive.

58. Scribblar: If you need to connect with students remotely, Scribblar offers an easy solution. This online whiteboard tool allows for information sharing, and adds real-time audio, file upload for documents, text chat and other features.

59. Google Hangouts: Google Hangouts are an easy way to get students to collaborate out of the classroom. You can share photos and files, and even video chat, if necessary. All for free, with your Google account.

60. ThinkFree: Cloud office tools are nothing new, but ThinkFree’s comprehensive productivity suite is simple, useful and great for collaborative projects. The web interface is helpful, but your students will also love the mobile support, which means they can view and edit docs on their desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.

61. 99 Chats: If you need to connect with an entire classroom (or four), you can create a chat room for up to 99 participants, completely free and online. Discuss a project, maintain contact with a sister school, take international penpals to the next level – the possibilities are many.

62. CiteULike: When it comes to serious research papers, CiteULike lets students discover scholarly articles, share them with their peers, and receive automated recommendations for new, reliable sources.

63. Edmodo: Edmodo is a blend of social networking site and classroom collaborative tool. Add calendars, make assignments, receive assignments, and communicate with your class online, in real time – and in a social setting your students already know and love.

64. BigMarker: Sometimes all your students need is a change of pace. Enter BigMarker, an online conference tool and webinar platform. You can host your own webinar, or sign your class up for some outside tutelage, on topics like economic justice, parlaying failure into success, and statistical analysis with Excel.

65. Speek: Sometimes student groups just need to have a real conversation, not a group email or text chat. Conference calls are the solution, and Speek is a free, web-based platform to quickly and simply organize a group call.

66. Co-Op: For long-term projects or group research papers, students need a central place to meet, converse and plan. Co-Op does the trick, making it easy to track conversations, review the daily or weekly agenda, and keep the group on-target to meet goals.

67. PodBean: Podcasting – audio blogging, in a sense – is a great way to turn learners into educators. Help your class launch its own podcast on whatever topic they desire, and watch their creativity and quest for knowledge take flight. There are myriad ideas for educational podcasting, like Weird but True History or Yes, You Will Use Calculus in Real Life!

68. DoSomething.org: Teach your students about social conscience with DoSomething.org, where every week begins with a new challenge to save the planet, feed the poor, or stop bullying. Join more than 2.5 million teens around the world, in changing the world together.

69. iCivics: For U.S. students, iCivics delves into the details of American democracy and encourages your class to get hands-on. Argue real cases before the Supreme Court, have a student run for president, and participate in other activities of true patriotism.

70. My BackPack™: Communicate directly with parents and students through My BackPack™. Give parents real-time updates – and hold your students accountable – with daily or weekly details on attendance, schedules, homework completion, and grades.

71. Poll Everywhere: Where does testing meet texting? At Poll Everywhere, where you can engage your class anywhere, anytime. Send trivia questions during field trips, challenge your students on possible test questions, or simply seek their opinions, all via text message, on upcoming projects and activities.

72. Dipity: History and social studies has never looked so pretty as with Dipity, an online timeline tool. Students can create interactive timelines to trace persons of interest, political and civil movements, and other themes throughout history, adding photos, video and text as they go.

 

Tools for Tutors

In today’s world, tutors need an entire toolbox of teaching methods: ways to teach their tutees not only textbook facts, but how to use new technologies, create A-worthy projects, and dominate the 21st century classroom.

73. Quizlet: Quizlet’s study sets work like flashcards, helping students memorize or reinforce information on any subject under the sun (and beyond, for the astronomers out there). Quizlet lets you create your own, customized study sets for free; you can also use the more than 20 million sets already on the site.

74. Wordle: If you’re tutoring students in language arts, English, poetry or a foreign language, Wordle makes vocab fun. Create visually appealing word clouds in an array of designs and colors, for printing, memory recognition and other uses. (In fact, here’s a great post on 125 ways to use Wordle in the classroom.)

75. Planboard: Here’s a tool you can use with other teachers and other tutors. Planboard allows you to collaborate on lesson planning, or simply access a teacher’s lesson plan to view current study subjects and what to focus on with your students.

76. Jing: Jing is an awesome, online tool for taking screenshots and recording screencasts (videos of your computer screen). Add images, voiceovers and other multimedia support to take tutees on a step-by-step tutorial of how to do anything, from complicated math problems to using a new computer program.

77. ChannelME: Though targeted to customer service reps, ChannelME is a great tool for tutors, too. Now you can browse the web with your students, in real time, from a remote destination. So if they need a bit of homework help, or just don’t understand something online, you can hop on your computer and tutor them in the moment, right when they need you.

78. Hackpad: This simple tool is a great way to collaborate with tutees on various documents and projects. Bonus: it’s billed as hyper collaborative, because you can share any of your “pads” (documents) with anything from one other user, like your tutee, to an entire educational team, including teachers and parents.

79. Titan Pad: If Hackpad doesn’t suit your needs, try Titan Pad. This handy, online app lets you work on a document at the same time as your students. You can even get parents and teachers in on the act. Text is color-coded to the user, so you’ll never wonder who typed what.

80. Chatzy: If you need instant messaging capabilities but don’t want to add students to your personal messenger account, Chatzy is a good solution. This web-based tool lets you chat with anyone, anytime, no signup or software involved. You just need your name and your student’s email, and you’re ready to chat.

81. Vyew: Hop onto Vyew for real-time, online collaboration through video chat, document sharing, and annotation. You can upload many file types to share images, docs and other resources with your tutees.

82. Stinto: If you’re tutoring several students from the same school, group chats can come in handy. Stinto lets you create free, online group chats where you can text-chat, share images, and collaborate. Unlike other messaging programs, there’s no software and no registration required.

83. WizIQ: This online platform connects you with your tutees from anywhere – you can even tutor completely remotely. Engage your students through live chat, shared whiteboards, file uploads and more.

84. Toodledo: Sometimes, keeping students on task is half the battle. With Toodledo, you can set due dates, outline tasks, and set time estimates for every item. Your tutees have at-a-glance access to what they need to do and when, and you see when they complete each item.

85. Vidquik: You can’t beat online, free video conferencing when you need a quick face-to-face with a tutee, or just have to show something in person, even when can’t actually be there in person.

 

Tools for Special Education Teachers

Special education teachers have one of the best jobs in the biz: you teach and mentor students with a diverse range of abilities, focused interests and specialized challenges. You need diverse tools to match.

86. Glogster: Chances are, your students would benefit from a multimedia approach to learning: instead of reading words on a page, they’d prefer to see, hear and watch their lessons. Glogster is a social education site that lets you collaborate with others, including your students, to create mashups of photos, video, sounds, songs and other media to create engaging learning materials.

87. TED-Ed: Yes, the incredible TED Talks have an education channel. TED-Ed lets you build special-interest lessons around TED Talks, TED-Ed originals (and they’re awesome), and even YouTube videos. Or, you can view lessons other teachers have created and use them in your own classroom.

88. AbilityHub: This is not so much a collaborative tool as a collaborative website dedicated to sharing assistive technologies with the world. Discover speech recognition tools for kids who have trouble expressing their ideas in writing, or where to find a keyboard with large-print keys to help children with vision problems. Have a question or a solution? Collaborate with others to make Ability Hub an even better resource.

89. CAST UDL Exchange: This online, free resource allows special ed teachers to create, mix-and-match and share institutional resources, to create collaborative lessons and resources.

90. Mindomo: Mind-mapping is a great way to get your students thinking visually. Chat with your students about ideas, tell stories, or draft special projects. Mindomo will help your class formulate and organize ideas in a way that everyone can understand.

91. Do2Learn: This colorful, interactive site was created just for kids with special needs. You’ll love all of Do2Learn’s resources, including their tips and tools for social skills and behavior management, but we particularly love the song & games section, which will help your students collaborate while they have a blast.

92. BrainPop: BrainPop is another site with interactive games you can play in the classroom. This site can be especially helpful when teaching children with learning disabilities, as the featured games help break down complex concepts into distilled, easy-to-digest (and fun-to-play) games.

93. Neat Chat: Online chat has never been so easy: just create a nickname and sign on to collaborate with other special ed teachers. Share ideas, talk about challenges, and discuss solutions to everyday classroom situations. No software required.

94. Zoho: Zoho is similar to Google Drive, creating an online space to share documents, spreadsheets, presentations and files with your students and parents. Zoho also enables task management, so you can alert parents when certain goals have been achieved or projects completed. You can even open your files to collaboration, so students and parents can add to group documents.

95. MemberHub: MemberHub is an incredible tool for creating an online educational community, and it works particularly well for special education. Create an accurate, up-to-date student/parent directory, send parents and students email reminders of upcoming activities and projects, maintain your school calendar, and share photos safely, among other features.

96. ePals: Connecting with other children from around the world, especially those from different cultures, can teach children about their planet, their culture and themselves. ePals lets you connect with other special ed classrooms, helping students understand that despite all the obvious differences, we all have very much in common.

97. Edublogs: Blogging and class sites are an excellent way to build community within your classroom, keep parents updated on current happenings, and engage your students in the online world. Edublogs was created specifically for educational purposes, and guides you step-by-step through the process of creating a classroom blog.

98. Remember the Milk: To-do lists, especially when they’re online and accessible from anywhere with an Internet connection, can be a really helpful learning and productivity tool. You can sync Remember the Milk with your classroom’s Google calendar, get alerts sent via SMS or email, and share tasks with your students and their parents. Collaborative task management means no more miscommunications, forgotten forms or missed appointments.

99. CoSketch: Whiteboards, like chalkboards before them, are a time-tested classroom tool. Take your whiteboarding to the next level with CoSketch, which not only lets you take your lessons online, but lets your students get in on the fun. So whether you have visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners, everyone will have a chance to see, hear and participate in the day’s lesson.

100. YouTube: Video is an incredible learning tool, especially for visual and auditory learners. YouTube even has a dedicated education channel, full of interesting videos that cater to special education students’ individual interests. Want to chat about the world’s roundest object or the science of parallel universes? You’ll find that here.

101. FlockDraw: Most online whiteboards are just that: whiteboards. FlockDraw, while billed as a whiteboard, is more of a collaborative drawing tool. For children who learn best through creativity and art, FlockDraw is a free solution to help them create masterpieces, together or individually.

102. Mural.ly: Here’s another tool that’s sure to satisfy your creatives: Mural.ly, an online whiteboard where you can drag-and-drop links, documents and media-rich files.

 

Further Reading from the Docurated Blog:

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