I am only sort of kidding. Technology has changed the environments and practices of schools drastically and we really could talk about it all day. When appropriately used, the impact on student learning is powerful. Due to the rapid expansion of the technological landscape, it can be difficult to know what technologies to use, how to use them and for what reasons. Being an effective implementer of technology in the classroom requires vigilant evaluation. Things that work, we need to keep. Often, tools that work get replaced with even better tools. Additionally, tech tools serve a multitude of different purposes, so it is difficult to rank them, so I categorized them instead. For all of my favorites, student engagement is essential. If students don't connect or feel motivated to use the tool, I move on.
Tools for assessment: Assessment matters. A lot. Knowing where students are, enables teachers to move them forward. While there are many tools for assessment, my favorites are:
- nearpod - allows teachers to deliver a lesson directly to the students' device. The lesson can include content an interactive features (quizzes, polls, open ended questions, etc) that are engaging for students and give the teacher immediate feedback on student understanding. My students accuse me of having a nearpod addition. Also, free!
- Pear Deck - a new to me, yet similar to nearpod approach to lessons and assessment. Allowing for content delivery and embedded assessments, Pear Deck allow the teacher to add a quick question mid-lesson. Sadly, not free.
- NWEA - MAP - While not a favorite of my students, this web-based assessment system allows teachers to see exactly what skills are mastered, what skills need practice and what skills are long term goals. When implemented in a school/district-wide basis students can track their growth over the course of their academic career and teachers can tailor lessons based on outcomes. The nerdy teacher in my gets a little high on all the data!
Tools for student organization and collaboration: Both are important "21st Century skills" and there are a myriad of tools available. My favorites are:
- Google - sharing, collaboration, calendars - all in one place. Need I say more? Even better with Chromebooks!
- Google Classroom - brand new and really cool. This allows teachers to set up classes and post assignments or discussion questions. Students can interact with teachers and peers by posting as well. Easy to access and read home page shows students exactly what assignments are due for which classes and can even turn in work digitally. Just. So. Awesome!
Tools for projects: Students must produce. Having them show what they know using technology is engaging, rewarding and just plain fun. Some of my favorites are:
- TouchCast - an easy to use video making tool that allows users to add music, sound effects, titles and more. Students can create videos for projects OR teachers and create lessons for flipped classrooms. I used it make a quick video for the cheater blog the other day and it took all of 5 minutes. See it here. Add an additional 2 minutes to upload to YouTube and you can share it with anyone! Free!
- ShowMe and Explain Everything - John Madden style white boards with voice recording features to make and share tutorials. Fun and free!
Tools to help students connect (and quite possibly my number 1 pick):
- Twitter - Last spring, my class read a book and had class discussions on Twitter. We were fortunate enough to get the author, David Lubar, to join our discussions on a few occasions. Connecting directly with the author not only gave students a deeper insight into the novel, but it also improved the quality of their own discussion and questions. We continued the practice of tweeting as we read over the summer. Students were motivated to read, learn and share. It was amazing!
As I said, I could go on all day about different tools that support student learning. In six months time, there will be even more to discuss and share. But the above tools have proven their usefulness and efficacy. They have helped me to be a better teacher and helped my classroom to be a more engaging and connected "place." Now if only there was a tech tool that made coffee and delivered it directly to me....