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Teaching Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized   |   Feb 6, 2014

Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching (book review)

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching (book review)

By Angela Watson


With the astounding array of educational programs and apps on the market, it can be super intimidating to pick which ones you’ll try out in the classroom. Most teachers don’t need another list of 50 great tools: they need a few detailed recommendations from a trusted expert (i.e. someone with classroom experience) on tools that are open-ended and flexible enough to use in many different ways, and specific, practical ideas for how to use those tools again and again with students.

Steve Dembo and Adam Bellow are two of the most qualified people I can think of to write a book with those kind of recommendations. They’re both experienced educators who are extremely knowledgable about not only the latest tools, but which ones are most valuable from a pedagogical perspective. I know from their work I’ve seen online as well as their conference session last year at ISTE that the tools they recommend promote higher-level thinking, creativity, and collaboration.

In Untangling the Web, Steve and Adam have focused on 20 free or freemium tools (meaning free with optional upgrades) which can be used by almost any teacher at any grade level. The resources are organized by type: Curation Tools (like Symbaloo and eduClipper), Artistic Tools (like iPiccy and Sumo Paint), Presentation Tools (Prezi and Poll Everywhere), Social Networking Tools (TodaysMeet and Kidblog), and a few others that don’t fit neatly into any category (like Capzles and Delivr.)

Although the book explains the basics of each tool and even includes labeled screenshots so you can see each one in action, the real value of Untangling the Web is in the specific examples of how each tool has been successfully used in real classrooms. Some are ideas that Steve and Adam have personally used, and others are submitted by fellow educators on Twitter. The suggestions from other teachers are a fantastic addition to the book, because you get a true feel for how many different ways a tool can be used. A kindergarten teacher might share how he uses a tool for math instruction, and a high school teacher might explain how she uses the same tool for social studies instruction. Each submitter’s Twitter handle is included so you can follow him or her online and learn more, if you’re interested.

Another aspect of this book that really sets it apart is the appeal to teachers with a wide spectrum of tech proficiency. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of incorporating more tech and just want to find one simple tool to try out with your students this quarter, you’ll find that the explanations in Untangling the Web are plenty to help you get started. And if you consider yourself proficient with tech, I guarantee you’ll find not only new tools (about 30% of the ones featured were new to me) but innovative ideas for using the stuff you’re already familiar with.

There’s even an online Untangling the Web Community where you can exchange ideas with other teachers. Parts of the site appears to be under construction at the moment, but there are some active forums and it looks like there will be video tutorials in the future.

Corwin Press has graciously offered to give away an eBook or paperback copy of Untangling the Web to one reader of The Cornerstone. Use the Rafflecopter entry form below to take part in the contest, which will end next Thursday, February 13th, at midnight EST. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. I would love to win this book…Steve Dembo showed us this book at the St. Louis DENapalooza where he held a workshop the new Web 2.0 tools inside. I am so anxious to get a copy of this book to share with my teachers…I had never heard of any of the websites he demonstrated, but I want to share all of them with my staff. Winning this would help our whole school become more technology literate…

    Class Dojo would really help our 4th and 5th grade students this year…classroom management is a challenge with these groups.

  2. I like to use Animoto with my primary students. It takes some work to introduce, but they have so much fun creating informational videos.

  3. Thanks for this post, Angela. I always wonder for how long these kinds of books can stay current? Your review, however, gives me the impression that it’s not so much about particular apps or websites but about how to use them in the classroom effectively. As a result, this learning can probably be applied to other kinds of technology.

    1. Hey Elisa! We struggled with that ourselves. Which is why we deliberately chose sites that A) We had very strong confidence that they’d be around for several more years (indeed, one of the sites has been around since 2005!), and B) Sites that we didn’t feel were in danger of becoming RADICALLY different immediately after.

      We’re about half a year since publication, and while there’s been a couple of updates, the info in the book is still accurate and relevant. It was something we were very conscientious of, and I think all that deliberation paid off!

      Good luck in the drawing 🙂

      1. Hi Steve,
        Thanks for your comment.
        I’m glad to hear that. I know technology is in constant change and there are so many tools out there, it makes it hard for teachers to decide which ones will work best for their particular students. This book sounds like it would be a great resource as we delve into our strategic planning this year.

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