Abbey Heilmann's Cool Tools Review and Application Plan



Wordle is a free Web 2.0 tool that creates word bubbles using any combination of words. The largest words in the word bubble occur more frequently whereas the words that are smaller occur less frequently. This tool is an open source tool so no downloading is required; in addition, Wordle does not require the use of an email address, a username or a password. There is no limit to the amount of text that users enter. Once the words are entered, users can customize the font style, color and shape to their own preferences. Users then save their Wordle creations to a public gallery with a unique title. Users then receive a unique URL so that they can share their work; they can even embed the code onto a webpage! Wordle can be used in many different ways in the classroom. Students can use speeches, poetry, and even their own work to create their own word bubbles. Students can look forward to creating a visual representation after they complete writing assignments. Students can use their word bubbles to identify the words that they overuse and provide synonyms to replace the words. In addition, this tool is great for struggling readers and visual learners who, through using Wordle, can identify key words and ideas. is a free online bookmarking tool that allows users to access their bookmarks from anywhere. With, users are able to categorize various bookmarking groups based on different topics or uses. This online tool requires users to provide an e-mail address in order to create an account, but users are able to share their work with anyone. Teachers can use in their classrooms in various ways. For instance, teachers can provide bookmarked websites that students can use for an inquiry project. Using to guide students in online navigation will allow for more thoughtful inquiry and less aimless searching on the web. can also be used to help scaffold students in making critical evaluations of websites. By using, teachers can model choosing useful and appropriate websites for their students.


Penzu is a free, open-source journal that allows users to create paperless journal entries, including image uploads. Penzu requires an e-mail based sign-in, but this tool allows users to keep their journal entries private or to share any they wish. Teachers can use Penzu in their classrooms in order to engage their students in writing through various activities such as journal entries, warm-ups and free-writes. Students and teachers can upload images into their journals; however, these images don't become the main focus of the entry. Instead, the images can enrich or provide a topic for student writing. One drawback is that students have to have an e-mail address in order to create a Penzu account. In addition, students have to invite teachers to read their work. Otherwise, teachers cannot access student journal entries unless they have each student's username and password. However, Penzu is a remarkably easy way to get students excited about writing.

Primary Access

Primary Access is a free web-based application tool that allows users to create their own movies with primary documents. Primary Access is sponsored by the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and its intended audience is K-12 teachers and students. Using Primary Access, teachers are able to select images that students can use to create their own narrated or subtitled film so that students create a movie instead of passively watching a movie that’s been created for them. Teachers and students can also search for movies that have already been created. Because the movies are made using still images, students can use these primary sources to write a narrative using the knowledge that they have gained in previous lessons. And because teachers pre-select the images that students use, students won't have to spend days searching haphazardly for images on the web. Most importantly, Primary Access provides a platform for students to think critically about events throughout history.


Trailfire is an application tool that allows users to create and share inquiry trails. Like, Trailfire provides a way for teachers to guide students through an inquiry process so that students are not haphazardly clicking their way through the web. Trailfire, however, takes navigation a step further by providing easy sequencing so that students can navigate to the next site with an easy click. In addition, Trailfire provides teachers with pop-up text that can include key information or inquiry questions, and so, this application tool assists in the teaching of critical evaluation skills.


Fizz is a Web 2.0 application tool that teachers and students can use in order to create and share multimedia projects in a safe environment. Fizz is sponsored by the Friday Institute at North Carolina State University. Schools can purchase access to and training for Fizz from the Friday Institute. Schools that can't afford Fizz should check out Teacher Tube.


Lesson Plan for using Trailfire

-Grade level: 7th
-Subject: Social Studies
-North Carolina Standard Course of Study: 2.01
-Overview: Students will participate in an inquiry project using Trailfire. By the end of the class period, students will answer the following question: "How does desertification impact the lives of the people of the Sahel region?"

-Using Trailfire, students will navigate through various websites that investigate the impact of desertification on the people of the Sahel.
-After gathering information using an inquiry trail, students will be able to explain the impacts of desertification.
-After gathering information using an inquirty trail, students will be able to offer solutions to combat desertification.
-Students write a blog that explains the impacts of desertification and offers solutions to combat desertification.

-Students will define "desertification" in their own words.

-Students will participate in the Desertification Trailfire Inquiry Project. The teacher will pose key questions on each webpage using Trailfire. Students will answer these questions in order to demonstrate their understanding of the topic.

-The teacher and students will review the causes and impacts of desertification by browsing through student blogs. Students will also offer solutions to combat desertification.