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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 am excited about increasing the use of technology in my classroom. We have Promethean boards mounted and have access to iPads in my classroom. I know there is so much more I could be doing with them. This sounds like a great resource!

  2. My favorite tool for this year is Subtext – ipad and website for reading together, collaborating, communication – a book club for even a small article.

  3. Wow, I’d love to read this book. I do use RAZ-Kids and Reading A-Z, but am aware that I really need to learn more about ways to use the web in the classroom.

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