Community Voice: What edtech tools are you trying this year?

Each new school year brings a fresh start with the edtech tools you use in your classroom. Some teachers will be using old favorites, made better from the lessons they learned from using them the year before. Others will be dropping one tool in favor of an alternative that can better meet their needs.

We asked some teachers for their thoughts. What edtech tool will you be trying this year?

Steve Bambury teacherSteve Bambury, @steve_bambury, @JESSDigitalUAE:

“This September, I am moving into a new role as Head of Digital Learning and Innovation across the JESS schools in Dubai. As a part of this role, I am coordinating a host of new and exciting projects using a wide range of edtech tools. One of the projects I am looking forward to the most is our iBeacons pilot. We have worked with the amazing team from Aspire 2Be on this, and they have coordinated with leading iBeacon manufacturer Locly to help us bring this cutting edge tech into the JESS classrooms.

iBeacons are small, Bluetooth-enabled devices that can be used to push content to our iPads based on proximity. Aspire 2Be is designing a bespoke JESS app for us that will be used to access the content. It will actually work in two ways: Initially, our focus is teaching and learning, and the beacons will be used in a range of departments to deploy content to students. This could be a whole day’s worth of lesson resources, an extension task, or even an independent task that deploys only in one part of the classroom. Beyond this, we will eventually begin using the app and beacons to share content with parents and school visitors. Exciting times ahead!

Teacher Darren McQuaidDarren McQuaid, @darrenmcquaid1:

“As a social studies teacher, I often use videos as another form of learning to help my students grasp difficult concepts or provide more background information on a topic that we would discuss in class.

That’s why I’m excited to use EdPuzzle in my class again this year. I discovered EdPuzzle very late in the school year last year and used it only with a couple of classes to test it out deciding whether to roll it out to the rest of my classes. Needless to say, I was very pleased with EdPuzzle. It was easy to use (for both teachers and students), and the data I was able to collect on my students was invaluable. I’m going to be rolling it out to all my students this year and am looking forward to increasing the opportunities for my students to learn both outside and inside the classroom.”

Teacher Meaghan WalshMeaghan Walsh, M.Ed., Stargate High School social studies teacher:

“This year, I’ll be a second-year teacher of AP Human Geography. A large part of the class is centered around having students read, analyze, and discuss current events. Because of this, we read a lot of articles in class.

A tool I will be using enhance this is the website Actively Learn. This site allows teachers to search a database of articles or upload their own, and then assign the articles to students. As students work on the articles, the teacher gets immediate feedback as to their students’ progress. I can also create embedded questions in the articles once they are uploaded for students to respond to and see their answers in real time. I can then give instant feedback, correcting misconceptions, answering questions, and providing praise. There are ways to differentiate for students, reading aids, and other cool additions as well.

I began using this tool at the end of last year and found it incredibly helpful. The discussion students began online was continued in person when we reviewed the articles in class, and they gained a deeper understanding of the topics.”

Teacher Jeroen HeremansJeroen Heremans, @geekmyclass:

“As a teacher in a Belgian secondary school, I’m always looking out for new edtech tools. Last year, I played around with Plickers. This app provides answering sheets for students with a unique QR code. As the teacher, you need to install the app on your mobile device. Then you can make a database with multiple choice questions or true or false statements. When you show the questions on a projection, students answer, and you scan the class with your camera. The answers appear on the projection in real time.

My students LOVED this one. They love the interactive part of the app. Students all have an individual QR code on their answering sheet, so they can’t cheat. I used the app mostly at the end of a chapter in my history lessons. I also had my students write down questions for a Plickers-test. In the evening I would set up their questions so I could use them during the next lesson.

Another one that is on my list is Zaption, a tool to monitor data from videos you want to use. You can use it to check if students watched a complete video or only a part of it. You can then evaluate your video—for example, where it went wrong.

In the school where I teach, I’ve found some colleagues willing to work hard on a ‘Flip My Class’-ideology. We’re making clips for other colleagues to use and Zaption is a tool that caught my eye on the Edushock Learning Festival where I did a Classcraft keynote.”

Teacher Melanie ThompsonMelanie Thompson, @22MThompson:

“I am looking forward to doing more green-screen video with my students.  We now have a complete set-up, so we should be ready to roll and only limited by the students’ imagination.

I also have a set of Tiggly toys that work with iPads that I am excited to use with my youngest students. These are geared for students 2-5 and work on shapes, words, and math skills. You place the toys on the screen, and magnets within them interact with special apps from Tiggly. I know my kindergarten students will love them!

A final technology I look forward to using this year is really an old technology that I am using in a new way. I am opening a parent resource center in the library, and parents will be able to use a computer in the library for job searching, accessing community resources, or to find books in our library to check out and take home. I think this is an exciting new program for our district, and I can’t wait to see how it grows.”

Kevin CampanaKevin Campana, North Brunswick Township Public Schools:

“I plan to make the switch from Edmodo to Google Classroom this year. My school is a GAFE school. This switch comes after some thinking, but with Classcraft’s integration with Google and Google Classroom, as well as some of the recent updates to Google Classroom (especially the ability to poll and quiz), well, I decided to give it a go.

I make use of Google Docs and Slides, especially during writing and social studies, so I’ve decided to completely move to all Google!”

Share your thoughts: What edtech tools will you be using this year?

Photo credit: Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com

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