When I looked at the various Web 2.0 tools, I was really drawn to the ones that involved writing and illustrating stories or reports. That was one of my favorite things to do in school so I love things that allow kids to enjoy it. I tried three different tools, and the one I ended up liking the most was Simple Booklet.
There are a ton of different ways a teacher could use Simple Booklet in the classroom. In the example below, I wrote a short narrative about my summer and used my own photographs. A teacher could do something similar if he or she works with students who could bring in photographs from home. Another option would be to take photos of a special event at school - a field trip for example - and then asks students to write about the day, providing them with photos to use.
As a specific example, let's say a teacher takes her class to the Buffalo Science Museum. The next day, she has students create a Simple Booklet that shares what their favorite parts of the museum were and some things they learned there. The teacher might bring in a disc or memory card of photos she took on the trip and ask students to use two or three of those photos. One of the neat things about Simple Booklet is that in addition to using your own photos, you can use images from the Internet so students could also find photos that elaborate on things they learned. A student who enjoyed a dinosaur display might find a picture of his favorite dinosaur. A student who loved the Egyptian exhibit might use a picture of a creepy mummy. There are a lot of different options.
When it comes to students with special needs, Simple Booklet allows for a lot of modification. Students who struggle with writing can be asked to write fewer sentences or to fill fewer pages. Maybe they find and write four interesting facts about the museum rather than six or maybe they fill a five page booklet rather than an eight page booklet. The teacher can set up the format of the booklet for each student and no student would know what the other students are required to do. A teacher could modify the photograph portion as well. A student who is overwhelmed with the assignment or has difficulty narrowing down Internet searches could be provided with two or three sites to pull pictures from. A student who is comfortable with technology might have the freedom to search wherever she likes. A teacher could even tilt the assignment toward the student's strength. For example, she could maybe allow visual people to do some writing but focus on pictures and illustrations. I think that because of how nice the final product looks, even students whose assignments are modified would feel proud of what they created.
Using Simple Booklet takes something that isn't inherently fun for most kids - writing a report - and makes it a more enjoyable process. I think it's also much more fun to share something like this than a traditional report. Simple Booklets can be shared on any computer so the class could look at them on a SMART board or even put them up on a class blog or wiki for others to see.
Simple Booklet is definitely a tool I'll keep in mind for when I'm in a classroom. I've already added it to my bookmarks so I can come back to it another day.
Here's my example of what a Simple Booklet looks like when completed. I wrote it as if I'd be sharing it with kids. Click on the arrow in the upper right corner to go to the next page: