Ed Tech

5 great digital tools to kick-start your school year

End of school year toolbelt

Want to supercharge your classes with a few new tools? Create great educational experiences with these five options. (Flickr: Blue Diamond Photography)

One advantage of going to lots of summer ed-tech conferences is learning about great tools to integrate in my classroom.

When all of your students are connected to the same kinds of devices, it’s much easier to know whether a tool will work for everyone.

But what if they’re in a BYOD (bring your own device) environment and everyone is working off a different piece of tech?

Go web-based, says Leslie Fisher, keynote speaker extraordinaire who spoke in Indiana several times this summer. (I’m borrowing three of her suggestions for this post.)

If you stay “device agnostic,” she told us, and run them out of a web browser, there’s a better chance that everyone will get to work without focusing too much time on troubleshooting.

tweet thisMore time on task. Less time on tech. Because ideally, the tech should be transparent.

At least the first four of these digital tools should be “device agnostic” and workable on about any web-enabled device. The last one is in beta and may or may work, but it’s worth sharing.

Here are five great digital tools (all free!), pulled from my tons of professional learning this summer. I’m only passing along the best!

Formative lets teachers us a variety of question types, including a drawing-based "show your work" question.

Formative lets teachers us a variety of question types, including a drawing-based “show your work” question.

Formative

If you’ve used Socrative, Formative is very similar … but it has a very cool twist worth checking out.

The cool twist — DRAW YOUR ANSWER.

Leslie Fisher (mentioned above) asked a whole auditorium full of teachers to draw what they had for breakfast one day. It was engaging just seeing what others in the room drew and how they drew it. It was of course hilarious to see what some of them had (or didn’t have) (or claimed to have). I can see immediate connections for reading comprehension and math … among others.

Ask questions in game-show format with Kahoot!. Here, it's being used with participants at the ISTE conference. (Image via Kahoot!)

Ask questions in game-show format with Kahoot!. Here, it’s being used with participants at the ISTE conference. (Image via Kahoot!)

Kahoot!

This one’s getting popular quickly, but it’s on the list for those who haven’t seen it yet. Kahoot! turns your classroom into a color-rich, music-infused game show. Set your questions up through Kahoot! and invite students to join the game on their devices. Then, as questions are asked, their devices turn into game show clickers where they click or tap the correct answer.

Fastest correct answers earn the most points. A leaderboard shows up next with the five highest-scoring Kahooters. Teachers set the game up at getkahoot.com and students play at kahoot.it.

In Leslie Fisher’s keynote — where hundreds were playing the same Kahoot! game — and in workshops I led this summer, Kahoot! games were the most lively part of the whole day. It’s such a fun way to review and do basic assessment. A word of caution: these “guess as fast as you can” activities dont’t work well with creative thought and reasoning. (I learned about research on this in Dan Pink’s TED Talk on motivation.) I’m planning on using very basic questions with Kahoot! and saving my deeper-thinking questions for other activities.

hemingway app

Hemingway App analyzes your writing for readability.

Hemingway App

Anyone who writes wants their work to be read — and understood. Hemingway App highlights the trouble spots in your writing so you can revise and be easily understood. Copy and paste your writing into the editor at HemingwayApp.com and see what it flags.

It analyzes the grade level that could understand your writing and counts paragraphs, sentences, words and characters. Using colored highlighting, it points out hard-to-read sentences, sentences with adverbs, complicated sentences and passive-voice sentences. Make a change on the page and watch the highlight disappear. It’s easy to use and can be utilized on practically any device!

Students can gather relevant articles and webpages and comment on them using Scoop.it. See this page at bit.ly/smsnycsodaban.

Students can gather relevant articles and webpages and comment on them using Scoop.it. See this page at bit.ly/smsnycsodaban.

Scoop.it

This isn’t a new tool, but I’ve seen a new implementation in the classroom that I love. Scoop.it lets you find pages on the web and gather a collection of them, adding a summary of your thoughts/opinions about them for others to see. It’s a great curation tool and is almost like a mini-blog about what you write.

Bill Ferriter, a teacher in North Carolina and well read education blogger, helped some of his students extend their learning by curating a Scoop.it page. Bill’s students created a project on the New York City soda ban, where selling of large sodas was outlawed. The students used their page to bring awareness to the ban. Bill allowed them a finite number of sources to highlight in their Scoop.it page, so they had to be choosy.

Find Bill’s resources on this project here, and see his students’ work here. The notes I took in his conference session are here.

appear.in lets users participate in a video call quickly and easily. Share your screen to show others exactly what they need to do.

appear.in lets users participate in a video call quickly and easily. Share your screen to show others exactly what they need to do.

appear.in

If you’ve ever tried to explain to someone what button to click or where to go when you can’t see their computer, appear.in may be the solution you’ve been looking for. It’s a simple way to invite someone to a video call and show them your screen.

You can invite someone to an appear.in call in one click. Once there, click the “start screenshare” button to share your screen. This can be very useful for showing students or colleagues what steps they need to take on their own devices.

What websites, apps or other digital tools have you learned about recently? Share them by leaving a comment below!

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