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6 cool educational technology tools for teachers

We’ve all been to professional development events that focus on educational technology — vendors are always touting the next big thing to help students learn. But which educational technology tools should you work with, and why?

Whatever technology you settle on, it needs to benefit both you and your students. These advantages might include saving time, increasing student engagement, improving parent-teacher communication, or introducing content-sharing features to the classroom.

Let’s take a look at some awesome educational technology tools to prepare your classroom for the digital future of education.

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But first, a word about the usefulness of technology

Before you adopt any new educational tools, you should consider whether they’ll actually benefit your classroom. Don’t just jump at the first chance to use a new app because you heard it’s good — use it because it makes sense for your students and the subject you teach.

If you’re thinking about using a tool in your class, do your research! Here’s a short checklist to run through:

  • Find out if your school district offers licenses for any software you need.
  • Ask your colleagues if they have any experience (positive or negative) with these tools.
  • Determine your technology needs as they relate to the type of content you teach.
  • Read reviews or articles that others have written about the tools you’re considering.
  • Analyze the accessibility of your chosen technology in terms of student learning preferences.
  • Be cautious of any data collected and consider how this will affect student privacy.
  • Involve your students in the decision-making process where it makes sense.

With that out of the way, let’s jump right in! The tools below have proved to be useful to many educators and have the potential to improve the educational experience for your students.

6 awesome educational technology tools

1. Classcraft’s Quests

Personalized learning is an important part of engaging students in the classroom. Classcraft ‘s Quests allow you as an instructor to develop multimedia-rich learning experiences that easily integrate with your existing lesson plans.

More importantly, Quests enable students to accumulate points as they work on the material you’ve prepared for them, which gives them extra motivation to continue learning. With Quests, learning pathways can also take on different difficulty levels to scale with your students’ individual learning aptitudes and the subject matter you’re teaching.

Looking for some inspiration? You can explore the rich Quest library to find existing creations by other educators.

Features

  • Personalized learning. Quests allow each individual student to work toward learning objectives that best match their needs and abilities.
  • Informative. With Classcraft, you’ll be able to scale learning in your classroom and gather assessments that give you a better understanding of how each student is performing and where they’re at.
  • Engaging. Students love video games because they’re fun and engaging, drive natural curiosity, and provide motivation to level up or unlock a new challenge. Quests foster the same level of engagement and excitement for students through a colorful and educational RPG world.

2. Flipgrid

Flipgrid screenshot
Photo: Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a video sharing tool. While it works great for distance learning students, it can also be used to increase student engagement in the traditional brick-and-mortar class. With Flipgrid, teachers or students are able to pose a question or prompt in video format, and then others in the class can create a response to the prompt (again through video).

The videos are then made accessible and can be easily viewed by others in the class. Flipgrid allows for reactions in the form of likes and emoticons, as well as comments on the videos. The creator of the Flipgrid can also change the privacy settings and set a time limit on the videos.

Features

  • Accessible. Flipgrid goes above and beyond in meeting accessibility requirements by offering closed captioning, language selection, downloadable transcripts, and keyboard navigation.
  • Engaging. The video platform creates an alternative to the standard classroom discussion board. With apps like Snapchat and Instagram, students now thrive on video and short multimedia experiences. Tools like Flipgrid are naturally engaging, appropriate, and educational.
  • Educational. Oral presentations are an important part of many classes, and even beyond school. With Flipgrid, students get to practice articulating their thoughts in verbal format and can rehearse as many times as needed.

3. LRNG’s digital badges

LRNG.org badging path example
Photo credit: LRNG.org

Digital badges speak to the growing emphasis on developing practical skills in the classroom and measuring student success with more than just a course grade, report card, or transcript. Badges have been used to motivate people in video games and groups such as the Boy Scouts, and they’re an excellent addition to any classroom.

Ready to start motivating your students and preparing them for lifelong success? Learn more about how digital badging can be used effectively in the classroom.

Features

  • Verifiable. Digital badges reflect effort — students have to submit high-quality work in order to earn them. All of the parts of the badges are available for viewing at a later point in time. This means other instructors (and potentially future employers) could easily review a student’s accomplishments.
  • Accessible. The technical open badging standard means that students can earn badges from many different organizations and share them all in one central learning record.
  • Innovative. Digital badges introduce students to online learning in a very structured yet simplified environment that allows students to more easily navigate the objectives presented by a traditional learning management system.

4. Voicethread

Voicethread screenshot
Photo credit: Voicethread

Getting all students to participate in the class is challenging. Some students are overeager to raise their hands, while others are quite reticent and don’t like to participate at all. Voicethread increases classroom engagement by allowing everyone to contribute to a presentation, image, or other media.

Students can also create their own Voicethreads and narrate a presentation or project. This app creates a collaborative sharing environment and provides an equitable platform that everyone can participate in.

Features

  • Varied. There are multiple ways to share and comment on Voicethread media. This allows students to participate however they prefer — they can type a response, use audio, or record a video.
  • Well-established. There’s a robust library of existing Voicethreads that can be used in your classroom as-is or adapted to fit different learning contexts and subject matters.
  • Informative. With built-in analytics, Voicethreads lets you measure student engagement and figure out what works best for your students. Audio? Video? Text? You’ll have to find out for yourself!

5. Explore Learning

Explore learning Gizmos on a Chromebook
Photo credit: Explore Learning

Science and math are challenging concepts for students. As educators, we know that students are also at different levels in their current abilities. Explore Learning has over 400 excellent interactive simulations and virtual labs (called Gizmos) for math and science to complement your in-class curriculum.

These activities scale well with different grade levels and textbooks, and they’re mapped to the Next Generation Science Standards and individual state standards to ensure that students are meeting your class’s learning objectives.

Explore Learning even has supplementary lesson plans and an assessment after each activity. There are also teacher guides and student worksheets accompanying each Gizmo.

Features

  • Diverse and accessible. Explore Learning has hundreds of simulations, making virtual labs and activities accessible regardless of the physical lab resources available at your school.
  • Varied and fun. These simulations are exceptional with regard to custom instruction. All students can work on the content that’s appropriate for their developmental level and relevant to the material they’re learning.

6. Osmo and Little Bits

Makerspaces and coding are important for fostering creativity, curiosity, and collaboration. Many times, it can be overwhelming to think about teaching these essential digital-era skills, especially if you didn’t learn to code in school. But with tools like Osmo and Little Bits, you can introduce coding and programming concepts with ease. These platforms foster inquiry-based learning through iterative design in a low-risk environment.

Osmo focuses on developing social intelligence and creative thinking. Osmo does require the use of an iPod or an iPad. Little Bits provides endless combinations of inputs and outputs while fostering ill-structured problem-solving environments.

Features

  • Future-proof. Coding is an essential skill for students to acquire in today’s world. These platforms introduce coding in a way that is accessible and adaptable to the skill level of each student.
  • Educational. Coding is akin to learning a new language, so it’s a great way to practice problem-solving skills at any age.
  • Engaging. Osmo and Little Bits push students to actively engage with and understand the potential of technology, which is playing an increasingly important role in their lives. And the more students understand technology, the better prepared they’ll be for the future.

The potential of educational technology

Educational technology tools hold great potential to improve the classroom environment. But simply adding them to your classroom isn’t enough — consider the context, your students’ needs, and your reasons for wanting to use a particular technology.

Of course, technology’s not a silver bullet and will never replace the role of a teacher — but when used properly, it can certainly supplement traditional instruction and become a valuable part of the learning experience.

Photo credit: Laurie Sullivan / Flickr.com

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