With the start back to school in January, it can be the perfect time to try new ideas and bring in some different digital tools into the classroom. Each year I like to explore different digital tools in my classroom to see what kind of an impact they will make on students and learning. There are some digital tools that I continue to use every year because they offer more than just one purpose and continue to add new features or they have integrated with other tools that we are using in our classroom.
With so many options out there, finding the ones that will benefit our students can take some time, however there are enough which are easy to get started with and that offer ready-made lessons or activities, which is a plus for busy educators.
5 Edtech tools to try out this year
When I look to use technology in my classroom, I always start with the purpose behind it. What do I think it will help me to do better as a teacher? How can it help students to learn in more personalized or authentic ways?
Read more: 9 Characteristics of authentic learning
Here are five tools that offer a lot of possibilities for students to create, to explore, to develop digital citizenship skills, and which promote social-emotional learning (SEL) skills as well. Each of these can be used at any grade level with any content area and provide educators with resources to get started right away.
Buncee is a tool that we have used for several years and my students find that it offers exactly what they need when it comes to choosing what to create for their classes. It can be used for creating multimedia, interactive presentations and gives students more authentic ways to learn and to express themselves. Teachers can explore templates and lesson ideas in the Ideas Lab for additional options to get started quickly in the classroom.
Flipgrid is a great option to have students share ideas, record videos, and connect with classrooms and experts from around the world. It has been referred to as a social learning platform and in our experience, helped us to connect globally for our PBL. Students can even experience augmented reality by using the Fligrid AR and record a video that can pop up into the real space using a QR code.
Read more: 6 Awesome AR apps for the classroom
Nearpod has been a game-changer for my students over the past few years. Students have used it to create a multimedia, interactive presentation for their PBL and present to their classmates while also engaging their peers in the activities. Nearpod enables teachers to create engaging lessons which can include virtual trips and 3D objects and offers thousands of lessons on important topics like coding, digital citizenship, social-emotional learning, social media use, English learner lessons, and many other related to grade level or content area.
Wakelet is a tool that I started using more just last year year, especially with my students as a way to curate their projects and share resources for class. Initially I used it only for curating blogs and other resources that I wanted to quickly find. However, there are many ways to use it, teachers are sharing ideas often through the #WakeletWave hashtag on Twitter. Some options include creating digital portfolios for students, a scavenger hunt, an asynchronous or blended lesson, and many other possibilities. videos, and other resources that I wanted to have access to quickly, to being a powerful tool for student learning.
CoSpaces EDU is a good option for educators wanting to try virtual reality with students. It is one that we have used for a few years and that my students really enjoy because of the options for designing their own VR space. Students can even work in teams on one project, which is great for building their future skills of collaboration, problem solving, critical thinking and also promoting SEL skills. Students can simply create a space or push themselves to learn to code using block coding or more advanced coding language. It is fun to see what the students create but even better to see how they work together and even teach each other during the learning process.
The nice thing about these digital tools is that they all offer resources to help educators get started and most importantly, give students a lot of different and meaningful ways to show and share their learning.
As an educator, I always start by asking myself why I want to try some different digital tools in my classroom or focus on things that I need to work on in my instructional practice. I will then look to see if there are any tools out there whether tech or no-tech, that can help me to reach these goals.
There are many more ways to use these five tools, and sometimes the best way to learn is to ask the students for their ideas too!
Rachelle Dene Poth is a Foreign Language and STEAM Teacher at Riverview Junior/Senior High in Oakmont, PA. She is also an Attorney, Edtech Consultant and the Author of In Other Words: Quotes that Push Our Thinking, The Future is Now, and Unconventional Ways to Thrive in EDU. Follow her on Twitter at @Rdene915