In a class with technology, links are like digital currency.
If you have the right ones to the right places, you can quickly open up doors to great learning opportunities.
The key is having them at the right time and being able to deliver them to students.
Sometimes, teachers ask me, “That’s a great activity, and I’d love to do it, but how do my students access it?”
Or they ask, “How do students turn that in to me after they’re done with it?”
Here are 10 ways to make those link transactions much easier:
(Note: In this post, I’ll use the term URL a lot. The URL, sometimes called the web address or the link, is what you type into your browser to get to a site. i.e. This site’s URL is DitchThatTextbook.com. Fun fact: URL stands for “uniform resource locator”, or how your computer finds resources on the web.)
1. TodaysMeet — TodaysMeet is intended to be a backchannel chat, but there’s much more you can do with it. In my classes, I’ve always created the same TodaysMeet room (and corresponding URL) for the entire year. My students bookmark it and can be there in one click. If I need them to visit a site quickly, I’ll just add the link to our TodaysMeet room and they can access it quickly. (Check out these 20 ways to use TodaysMeet in your classroom.)
2. URL shortener — These sites let you shorten your URLs so they’re easier to share on social media — or easier to type. There are a ton: bit.ly, goo.gl, is.gd, and more. The one I’ve had the most success using in the school setting is TinyURL (tinyurl.com); I’ve found it’s least likely to be blocked by Internet filters. You can go to tinyurl.com and enter a long URL, and TinyURL will make it short enough for students to type. You can even customize it. For example, tinyurl.com/dttbook is one I set up for my book.
3. Google Tone/Chirp — URLs can be distributed by sound! Google Tone is an extension to the Google Chrome web browser. It broadcasts URLs by emitting a sound that other Chrome web browsers can understand. They translate that tone to a URL and direct users to that site. This is great for sending a whole class of students to one site quickly. If you’re using iPads, the Chirp app does the same thing.
4. Learning management system — Many schools and school districts offer these, such as Edmodo, Canvas, Schoology and more. (Google Classroom isn’t a full-fledged learning management system, but it fits the conversation here.) If your students meet, collaborate and turn in assignments in a learning management system already, it’s an easy place to direct them to other sites. (Looking for Google Classroom how-to’s, tips and tricks? Check out my Classroom posts.)
5. Padlet — This is a bit more visual and spatial option for delivering URLs. Padlet is like a digital cork board. Anyone who accesses the Padlet wall you create can add virtual sticky notes to it with text, images or URLs (unless you change the privacy settings). Create a Padlet wall and add URLs to it, or your students can add URLs themselves. (There’s a lot more you can do with Padlet, too.)
6. Email — This is so “old school,” but it works so easily sometimes. For schools that have given students their own email accounts (and access to them at school), sending links via a whole-class email list is pretty easy … especially when you’re comfortable with email already and it’s not something new to learn.
7. Remind — For BYOD schools (bring your own device), texting a URL to students might be easiest. Remind is a service that lets teachers send text messages to students and parents safely without divulging their personal contact information. If students are using their phones and tablets for school work anyway, signing them up for a Remind class and texting them through Remind might be an easy option. That text message with the link would stay on their phones for them to access later if they wish. (The sky’s the limit for communicating with Remind. Here are some more ideas.)
8. Class website — If students will need a link multiple times, this is a good way to put it in a more permanent place. If you have a class website (provided through your school district or through a website builder like Weebly or Google Sites), just add the link to the URL on your website. (Want to jump start your class website with great content? Here are some ideas.)
9. OneTab — Do you have a tab addiction? When you surf the web, do you constantly have a ton of tabs open? OneTab can help, and it can help distribute a list of URLs to students. Open the URLs you want students to get in different tabs. With OneTab installed as an extension in Google Chrome, just click the OneTab button in the top right part of your Chrome browser. It will combine them all into one tab with links to each one. It also creates a shareable link that you can distribute to your students so they’ll have all of those URLs in one place.
10. QR codes — This one’s getting pretty “old school”, too, but it’s worth mentioning. (Plus, I like to make my posts an even multiple of 10 when possible!) QR codes are most effective in schools with iPads (or other types of tablets) or BYOD (bring your own device). Use a QR code generator (like QR Stuff) to deliver links to students. Print them and put them on the walls for common sites (i.e. class website, announcements/lunch, etc.). Display them on a projector screen … students’ devices can scan them from there, too. Or put QR codes on homework assignments or other papers students get to make web access quick and easy. (Want to create a QR code scavenger hunt? Here’s how!)
[reminder]How do you direct students to certain sites — or make it easier for them to deliver content to you? [/reminder]
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