Netbooks • Web Tools

Gone are the days when it was necessary to install software on a computer's hard drive to do real work. Nowadays almost all tasks can be done from right inside of a web browser. Instead of installing an application, the software lives on the internet. Sites that act as applications are called web apps or web tools.

It doesn't matter what kind of computer you are using. In fact, web apps can work great on netbooks and Chromebooks. These inexpensive notebook computers do not have much hard drive space and intended to be used with web-based services. In fact, Chromebooks are basically only run Google's Chrome browser.

Web apps are great for students and teachers because they are usually free and do not require software to be installed.. Because Web apps and their data are stored online, students and teachers can access the apps and data from anywhere (this is called cloud computing). Teachers and students can access web apps on any school computer and also their computers at home. Some web apps even give access on mobile devices. There's another bonus: web apps tend to facilitate online sharing and collaboration.

Web apps tend to use the Flash or Java programming language. That means they often do not work on tablet computers and smartphones. Some web tools do work on mobile devices, but many do not. Sometimes a web app will have a companion iOS or Android app that can be installed from the App Store or Google Play Store.

There are some notable problems with using web apps in education. First, most web tools require a login. This likely means that a student needs to provide an email address and possibly provide personal information. Children under 13 cannot submit personal information under the United States Children's Online Privacy Protection Act websites must have parental consent before student use.  Schools may act as agents for parents in providing consent for the online collection of students’ personal information within the school context. Parents permission is typically given on when they sign off on the school's Acceptable User Policy.

Another problem is that web app require the internet. We all know that the internet isn't always reliable and doesn't work well at peak times in schools. Sometimes the website itself goes down and becomes unusable. Sadly, web apps have been known to shut down permanently, sometimes without much notice. If a website you've used stops working or starts charging money, do a search on websiteslike.org. You might just find a similar site.

New web apps are being developed all the time. You can find reviews and recommends for web apps in education at EdShelf.