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It’s that time again!!
As I do every January, I’m releasing an all-new update of my Teacher’s Guide to Tech. If you’re not familiar with the guide, here’s a quick video I made last year to give you an idea of what it is:
With every new release, I also put together a list of tools I think are worth checking out in the upcoming year. What does it take to make this list? Here’s what I’m looking for:
- Tools I just learned about in the past year or so. They may have been around a lot longer, but I’m just now hearing about them, so that makes me think a lot of others haven’t heard about them either.
- Tools that are doing something I haven’t seen before, something a little bit groundbreaking that will likely be copied by others down the line. This is the case with five of the six tools featured here.
- Tools I would like to see more students using. This is why I chose #5. I’m pretty sure there are other apps that do the same thing, but this one seems rock-solid in its category, and I think it would work beautifully in classrooms at all grade levels.
Beyond that, I look for tools that can be used in lots of different subject areas and those that appear to “have their act together”online: an easy-to-navigate website, an explainer video that makes sense, and a social media presence that tells me they’ve been around longer than five minutes and are therefore likely to stick around a while.
OK! Enough talk. Here they are…
Feedback is arguably one of the most effective tools for learning. The sooner students get it and the more specific it is, the better it works. Floop was built by teachers to make feedback faster and more specific.
Here’s how it works: Students send pictures of their work in progress to the teacher, along with questions they need help with. The teacher views the work, types in comments that are anchored to specific locations on the photos, then sends it back to students, starting a feedback loop that allows for iteration and improvement.
What makes this tool unique is the mechanism that allows students to point directly to places on their work that they need help with, then get assistance that can also target specific spots on the assignment. We’ve been able to do that with writing assignments through tools like the commenting feature in Google Docs, but it hasn’t been quite as available in other subject areas.
Although I’m not quite sure how teachers will manage work/life balance with this tool in play, it definitely offers more opportunities for specific, immediate feedback than anything I’ve seen before.
If you’re a fan of BreakoutEDU, you’ll probably love GooseChase as well. This app helps you facilitate scavenger hunts, where teams of students compete to find items you assign (in the physical world), then take photo evidence at each point and post it on the app. The app then keeps track of team points so you know which team won by the end. The video below provides a basic overview, but for a more detailed look at how the app works, watch this one.
This tool offers so many possibilities for fun, interactive, team-building activities: Not only would it be great for icebreakers at the beginning of the year, it would work beautifully for new student orientation and field trips as well. You could also plug just about any content into to keep it academically focused while still getting your kids moving and working together.
It actually took me a little while to understand this tool. Not that it was difficult (it’s actually really easy), but I’ve never seen anything like it, so I had to have it explained to me twice. Once I understood it, I got pretty excited about its potential as an educational tool.
So iorad is kind of like a screencasting tool: It allows you to create interactive online tutorials that demonstrate how to do things on a screen. Suppose you wanted to create a video showing students how to use a piece of technology. Using iorad, you could make something that feels like a screencast video, except the video stops every once in a while to ask the user to click on various parts of the screen to follow your prompts, and it won’t continue unless the user does that. This makes the end product a lot more interactive for the user; this will potentially make the learning stick better.
I would love to see what teachers and students could create with iorad. It would be excellent for flipped learning, for teaching classroom or tech procedures, or for student-made instructional videos.
Of all the tools listed here, this is the one I’ve heard the most buzz about this year, and it’s easy to see why: Parlay has done a beautiful job of pulling together a thoughtful suite of tools for conducting class discussions.
Start by choosing a discussion topic from their library: These contain readings and videos to give background information so that students come to the discussion well-prepared. Then students submit written responses to the prompt and respond to one another in writing. Finally, the class can conduct a live roundtable discussion, using Parlay to track and facilitate their participation. When the discussion is over, the teacher gets a report to see who participated and how.
For anyone who uses Harkness, Socratic Seminar, or any kind of whole-class discussion as part of their instruction, Parlay seems like it would supplement that work really nicely.
5. Stop Motion Studio
This tool enables users to create stop motion videos, made from a series of photos in which items are moved just a bit in each frame. The app includes tools to help you position objects, add titles, credits, and voice-over narration, a green screen tool that lets you change the background, and a library of music clips and sound effects.
I included this tool because of the potential it has for student work. We want to see our students writing for different purposes: To entertain, to tell stories, to make compelling arguments, and to inform. Many of these texts could just as easily be scripts for a short film, which would likely have more impact on an audience than a piece of writing. Putting together a short film seems like something that would really engage students, and a tool like Stop Motion Studio makes it possible for students to do that without ever leaving the classroom.
Creatability is the name for a collection of tools, referred to by Google as “experiments,” designed to make the arts more accessible to users with disabilities. The tools include a keyboard you can play with your face, body, mouse, or keys; a canvas you can draw on by moving your face; and a tool called Body Synth that allows you to make music just by moving your body.
This appears to be an ongoing project, so more experiments are likely to be on their way, but I thought it was worth directing people over there now to play around with what they already have up. While all of your students will likely enjoy working with these tools, it could be pretty incredible to see what students who may have been left out of the arts altogether could do with them.
This site houses a massive library of interactive, team-building games you can have students play. For each game, you get step-by-step instructions available on the site or as a PDF, a video tutorial that shows the game in action, and other ideas for implementation. Although this is not really a tech tool at all, it’s a site worth checking out for any teacher who wants more ideas for fun classroom activities.
Not long ago, I saw a video that looked just like two people texting back and forth. It was cool. It was funny. Then it was suspenseful. I wondered how it was made and found TextingStory, which is probably one of many apps that do this. Apart from just being a fun thing to play around with, I thought it would make a pretty interesting option for a writing assignment.
The Teacher’s Guide to Tech
This is now the SIXTH year I have put out the Teacher’s Guide to Tech, and I can say with full confidence that this one is the best so far. With over 350 tools in over 50 different categories, this is the resource you need to quickly make smart decisions about the technology you choose for your classroom.
Where to Get Your Copy
Single-User Licenses: If you just want a copy for yourself, you can get a copy at Teachers Pay Teachers or on Teachable.
Multi-User Licenses: To get the guide for your team, school, or even district, you can save a lot by getting multi-user licenses. I offer the deepest discounts for these on Teachable.