by Lynn Usrey
Every teacher wants to be able to make his or her classroom environment the optimum place for learning, interacting and engaging. Today, there is a wide assortment of free technology options available to enhance your instruction. The tools are changing… quickly. So making the best choices, based on the resources available in your school, or through your board, is critical. Here are some top sure-fire picks to ensure your goal has real purpose, not just an introduction of technology for the sake of looking tech-savvy. These are easy to use teaching tools–about as grab-and-go as it gets.
How about starting with lesson creation?
1. Officemix – This allows you to go further with your Powerpoint presentations to include questions, video, polls and more. Your presentations will be more engaging. With this add-on you will find everything easily to create and share interactive online lessons. Some users, educators, find that they can record their own videos without feeling like the person on stage in front of the class. The imperfection of their “performances” makes for entertaining, yet engaging, delivery to their students.
2. Nearpod – You can start from scratch at creating your own presentations, or use the already created presentation available with this product. You can keep your students on the same digital “page” which allows for more interaction. Whether you choose to download CCSS approved lessons or turn your own Powerpoint, Google slides or PDFs into interactive lessons, the multimedia content harnesses students’ attention. By keeping them focused teachers minimize offtask behaviours in their students.
Need something for instant polling?
3. Kahoot is a big hit with students because it’s fun, quick and feels like a game. For a deeper pedagogical impact, the learning style of Kahoot engages the mind, hand and heart for better-connected learning. Teachers and students can create their own Kahoots in minutes, or because of its online global community, choices can be made from its millions of public ones.
4. Socrative – If you are looking for great opportunities for quick testing through multiple choice, true or false or short answer strategies, this is a great tech tool. The popular “Space Race” allows your group to be split into two teams that compete head to head for the quickest answers.
5. Unplag – This well renowned plagiarism checker with percentage that helps teachers and students deal with plagiarism and its issues. Also Unplag is launching a survey to create a better teacher lead LMS (assignment management system, actually). Using educators’ needs as their driving force, the app will integrate lesson planning and building, assessment management and portfolio content, and better means of connecting with home learning.
Connecting with home learning?
6. Remind – With this application, parents can easily sign up for text alerts for any or all class and school related information. No phone numbers are involved. Reminders can be scheduled in advance and as customized as you like. You can save time by sending one-way announcements or by starting a chat.
7. Edmodo – create a more interactive online community around the school and within individual classrooms. Edmodo lets teachers create their own space to share with students and parents. It allows for discussion boards, polling, subject content, quizzes and “snapshot” which assess student’s competencies.
8. Seesaw – To make the managing of a student’s portfolio of work easier, and to keep the experiences consistent between home and school, this tool is exceptional. When introduced, the Seesaw app allows for a group of ipads integrating instantly which means teachers and parents do not have to deal with embedded codes and file from other products. It is a game changer for many teachers in primary classrooms.
9. Funbrain – There can never be enough said about the value of reinforcing skills and content with the playing of games. The curriculum guide at Funbrain provides the right enhancement to your lessons at every grade and across a wide range of subjects. Assign specific games or allow your students roaming to the heart’s content.
Current Events and Video Sourcing – There are great well-known resources at YouTube and CNN Student News, but have a look at:
10. Newsela – This tool provides a wide assortment of current events stories geared to the many reading levels and interests of students. Perfect for ESL or slower readers, as it provides an unlimited access to hundreds of levelled news articles and Common Core–aligned quizzes, with new articles every day.
11. Zaption – Using videos that are easily available on YouTube and Vimeo, here you will find content questions embedded for students to answer as they watch. The platform ranges from K to Grade 12 and allows for educators to customize and share the content and what they build with it.
12. Edshelf —A web-based portfolio to create your own app collections, and see what other teachers tools are using in their classroom.
The Less-Is-More Approach (And Tools 13-21)
Since technology is always changing, don’t hesitate to explore new tools and ideas. That said, using fewer tools more effectively isn’t a bad approach either–even if they’re less “grab-and-go” than the ones above. Those “core” apps–Skype, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest–have educator applications can do more than the personal uses you may be using them for now. Also, consider cloud-based storage services (Google Drive, OneDrive and Dropbox) to make access to shared content and data available on any device, from anywhere.
For later grade levels, there are tools such as Hippocampus and Vocareum with a emphasis on secondary education. Teachers know best what they want from digital instructional tools, what works and which ones support student collaboration and the best of interactive experiences. Learn from other educators who support 21st century skills such as communication and creativity and with your limited budget…make your classroom setting the most dynamic, and affordable, it can be!
Lynn Usrey, a newbie essayist, educator and content creator. Also she runs writing course in Orlando, Florida. Visit her LinkedIn page.