10 Edtech Tools Teachers Can Use Tomorrow (Literally)
When recommending digital tools to teachers in my district, I often lean towards those which can be integrated almost immediately. Educators want to focus on pedagogy and student learning, very few wish to spend time teaching the technology. My colleagues appreciate apps and web 2.0 tools that are intuitive, increase their productivity, promote student creativity and enhance communication. Confidence levels rise and more risks are taken with technology when a teacher can, after a brief coaching session, integrate a tool independently and notices an immediate impact in the classroom. Beyond increasing a teacher’s comfort level with technology, perhaps the most important reason for integrating simple, effective digital tools in the classroom is that student learning experiences become more relevant and engaging. While not always the case, increased student engagement in classroom activities through leveraging technology has the potential to lead to deeper understanding and higher levels of achievement. The most rewarding part of my job is to show a teacher a new piece of technology, discover she successfully integrated the tool the very next day, and plans to adopt it as part of her digital toolkit. This happens frequently in Burlington and prompted me to share my top 10 picks for edtech tools that teachers can use tomorrow.
If you’re a Google Apps for Education school or district, Classroom is a no brainer. Burlington teachers were introduced to Classroom last August. Since then, it’s been adopted by many of our teachers and we continue to advocate for Classroom as a foundational tool. Classroom’s clean, simple interface and tight Google Drive integration allows teachers to create an organized, efficient digital workflow. Distributing and collecting assignments, posting announcements, and having online discussions with students is a breeze. Furthermore, the recent addition of co-teachers has made Classroom even better. Google Classroom is the ideal choice for GAFE using educators looking for a quick and easy way to create a paperless environment.
2. Google Calendar
Until Google integrates Classroom with Calendar (send feedback and request this feature!) the Calendar app, introduced back in March for both iPad and iPhone, is a must add for busy teachers and students. We have a rotating bell schedule in Burlington which means every day is different and classes start at different times. As a Mobile Learning Coach I simply could not survive without Calendar. I use it daily on my iPhone to schedule appointments with students and teachers. Similiar to Classroom, Calendar offers an intuitive design and lots of great features, including the ability to add notifications and an easy to read schedule view. Calendar is my top pick for teaching students the organizational and time management skills they need for academic and personal success.
I’ve been in love with Remind since it first launched but the recent addition of teacher initiated individual student chats have propelled this digital communication tool into a league of its own. Creating classes, adding students and parents, and sending messages takes minutes. The privacy (no personal phone numbers are required) and message scheduling features are top-notch as is the ability to embed a Remind feed into a Google Site. For a high school teacher, Remind is an essential digital tool, since most teens have cell phones with texting capabilities. I recommend Remind over emailing students nine times out of ten (do students check email anyway?) and teachers who are using it have reported higher incidents of students remembering homework assignments, upcoming tests, etc. It’s a communication tool I wish my daughter’s second grade teacher was using! For me personally, I post announcements or assignments in Classroom and follow-up with a Remind message saying, “Check Classroom for your assignment.” Yes I’m using two different tools, but the process take seconds and can be performed from a phone. Did I mention you can also send audio messages and attach images? So, if you haven’t already, install Remind immediately and encourage your teachers to do the same.
4. Haiku Deck
Most disciplines require students to deliver oral presentations. I’ve heard many teachers express frustration when students present slides filled with nothing but text. Until Google adds the ability to insert images into Slides, it’s Haiku Deck, available for iPad and on the web, to the rescue. Not only does it take minutes to learn, students have access to Haiku Deck’s huge library of Creative Commons licensed images, allowing them to create a visually stunning presentation, while practicing responsible digital citizenship through abiding by copyright law. Students (and teachers for that matter) can find inspiration for creating their own presentation through viewing other decks in the public gallery. Need a Haiku hack? I often encourage students to search for images in Haiku Deck, locate and cite the source, take a screenshot of the image and use it in other presentation, digital storytelling or screencasting applications. Because Haiku Deck limits the amount of text on each slide, it’s the ideal presentation app for teachers tired of looking at walls of text.
There are many possibilities for Padlet in the classroom or as a tool at professional development sessions. It can serve as an online discussion board or to display student work. Teachers control the layout of the posts; either freeform, stream, or grid, and determine if the wall is public, private, or password protected. They can customize the wallpaper, create a unique URL and share the wall via social media or a QR code. My favorite feature of Padlet is that students can post the products they create in other applications, whether it be an Adobe Voice, PowToon, Haiku Deck, iMovie, or Google Presentation. Virtually anything with a link can be added to a Padlet wall. The next time you have a teacher whose students have created WOW (worthy of the world) projects, encourage her to build a Padlet wall to showcase that work not only with her evaluator, but with an authentic, global audience.
Hard to believe it, but there are still teachers out there who have yet to discover Animoto. I’m a huge fan of this simple, yet powerful digital storytelling tool for iPad and the web. In fact, I use Animoto so often that I sprang the $29 to purchase the educator account. I use Animoto to promote Burlington events and to share updates as a member of the #digcit moderation team. Teachers can create Animotos to explain their curriculum and share the video via their website or blog or at an open house. Students of any grade level and content area could use Animoto as a simpler, free alternative to iMovie. The app allows students to select a theme, music, images or videos, add captions and/or two lines of text and within minutes a slick video is created. The finished product can be shared via social media, uploaded to YouTube, or embedded in a student’s e-portfolio. A great introduction to Animoto, with a built-in lesson in digital citizenship, is to have students create an About Me or Year in Review Animoto. If Animoto is old news to you and your teachers, check out Flilpagram. Like Animoto, Flipagram has a short learning curve and produces a high quality, professional finished product.
Smore is a web-based, digital flyer creation tool that offers users social media integration as well as analytics, which as a former business management and marketing teacher I absolutely love. Creators, ideally students, can determine the effectiveness of their flyer by analyzing the total number of views and traffic sources. Talk about real world application! Active users of Smore can earn badges (I’ve earned 10) including the “BlueBirdBadge” for getting 100 aggregate views from Twitter. I’ve been using Smore since the fall of 2013 as my go-to tech tool whenever I need to spread the word about an upcoming event in Burlington. The most popular flyer I created (over 8,600 views, which still surprises me) was to introduce the new “lounge” at our library. A Smore is super simple to build. Creators combine text, headings and subheadings, images, links, videos, and maps into an eye-catching digital flyer. I’m such a fan of Smore that I paid $59 to upgrade to an educator account. The next time a teacher says she wants her students to create an advertisement of some sort, or you’re working with a teacher who needs a flier to promote a club or organization, I would definitely steer them towards Smore.
I won’t use the words game-changer, as that would be a bad pun, but Kahoot has certainly transformed the review process for many teachers in Burlington. We (my Help Desk students and I) discovered Kahoot last year and realized its potential instantly. Teachers throughout the district, elementary through the high school level, have been gamifying their review process with Kahoot ever since. The best part of integrating Kahoot in the classroom is that teachers have needed zero support from me. In fact, Kahoot is so user-friendly that many teachers in Burlington have had their students create review games which is an excellent review of mastery objectives in and of itself. In terms of student engagement, Kahoot helps create an exciting and fun classroom environment where a spirit of healthy competition is evident. Recently, BHS students engaged in a Kahoot match with a class from Arlington, an ultra-creative way to eliminate the walls of a classroom and engage your students with other learners.
9. Adobe Slate
Last year Adobe Voice would have made this list, but this year it’s the newly released Adobe Slate. Slate is incredibly intuitive and the interface strongly resembles Voice. Users simply select a theme and begin building content. While Slate is limited to text, images, and links, users can still think creatively to produce a stylish, visual presentation. It’s also a smart way to integrate the Common Core ELA Writing standards across grade levels. I tinkered with Slate and created an overview of the BHS Help Desk program. Student created Slates are additional items to link in an e-portfolio.
Voxer is on my list for a few reasons. First, it takes minutes to create a free account, find other users, and start a chat, either text or audio. The second reason Voxer makes my top 10 list is the ability to share the messages. A Vox can be shared through multiple platforms including Classroom, Twitter, Gmail, Google+, Dropbox, and LinkedIn. Of all possible content areas, foreign language courses naturally lend themselves to Voxer, which is why I recommended it to my colleague Renee Dacey, Burlington’s World Language Department Chair. As always, Renee was receptive to my suggestion and excited to learn a new tool. Within minutes, her account was created, she connected with other users and we discussed ways her students could use Voxer. It didn’t surprise me to receive a Tweet from Renee the day after our meeting with a photo of her students using Voxer on their iPads and iPhones in the classroom. You can listen to how Renee used Voxer here. I’m excited about the possibilities Voxer has for integration in the classroom and the impact it could have on student learning. It isn’t limited to early adopters of technology, nor is it exclusive to foreign language. In fact, Renee suggested it would be a powerful way to document and share with parents how their children progress in their speaking and reading skills, especially at the elementary level. If you haven’t already, definitely add Voxer to your must try edtech tools.
You’ll notice there are no screencasts or walk-through tutorials for any of these tools because that’s unnecessary. The above mentioned practical edtech tools allow teachers to quickly and seamlessly integrate technology in the classroom, maintain their focus on student learning goals, and could be used in a variety of content areas and grade levels tomorrow!