10 Tools Every Teacher Should Master This Summer

According to Common Sense Media, 95% of teachers agree that using technology increases student engagement and 92% of teachers want to add more technology to their classroom.

We at Getting Smart are still basking in an ISTE afterglow… we’d like to share 10 great tools that we were introduced to there and the reasons they are so worth taking the time to master this summer. These are the tools that will transform your classroom in the fall because you will notice the definite threads that run throughout all these applications… real-time, collaborate and creative! Those words together are sure to build a lot of excitement around exactly how educational technology is developing and transforming what school looks like!

1. LiveSlide – Ever have trouble getting students to pay attention and participate during class? Not anymore… This August, Atlas Learning will release LiveSlide, which allows teachers to create or download presentations and share with the entire class, via ANY device, be it desktop, laptop, tablet…even a smartphone. LiveSlide takes it to the next step by allowing the teacher or any student to annotate directly onto any slide while the rest of the class follows along on each of their own personal devices. LiveSlide also records it all so students can review the lesson any time and has a notes feature built right in, so that students can keep all their learning in one place. LiveSlide makes it simple to create, both on the teacher and student side and redefines what student participation looks like. Learn more and sign up for the release waiting list here.

2. Scoot and Doodle – It’s true- this name just sounds fun, because this Google application is fun! And, even better, it has incredible classroom potential! Google hangouts make it simple for students, teachers, families and friends to come together in a virtual space any time, any where. Add Scoot and Doodle to a Google hangout and you can now draw, create, decorate, annotate, illustrate, plan and problem-solve together on one shared canvas! Scoot and Doodle turns hangouts into a “powerful and playful place for learning and creativity with our real-time collaboration studios, where up to 10 students can work simultaneously and teachers can upload templates with their own educational content, such as math, science or storytelling.” The best way to master Scoot and Doodle this summer is to check out the gallery of great examples and then just play, play, play!

bilblionasium3. Biblionasium – Having time to read, as a teacher or student is one of the best parts of summer! But we want to carry that enthusiasm into the school year, even when things get a bit more hectic. Maybe you’re already using Shelfari or Goodreads for your own reading… well now here is the grades 4-12 version! Sign up as a student, parent or teacher and import your entire class. It is a completely safe site for kids, allowing them to maintain their own “shelves” and search for books inside the site, with lexile reading levels, reading resources and great book lists included. Parents and teachers can set reading challenges for the students who will then be able log their reading minutes and earn digital “rewards.” This seems like the perfect place to encourage and develop independent readers!

ujam4. Ujam “Make Your Music” – this free site was not necessarily created for education use but the potential for students is so exciting! First, it’s so fun, it’s instantly addicting. Anyone who logs in through a Google or Facebook account can instantly start creating their own music from scratch by simply recording their voice. The next step is mixing the voice recording with instruments or melodies, remixing with other ujam recorded songs and creating your own masterpieces. As we try to teach our students about copyright and fair use, this tool is a gift for teachers who truly want their students to get creative while making videos and presentations about their learning. Ujam adds one more layer to the creative process, letting any student who knows how to work a mouse now able to compose their own music.

 teachley5. Teachley – Is a trio of app designers focusing on creating apps that reflect the most current cognitive research. “Our first app, Addimal Adventure, teaches four important addition strategies through playful characters and a fun, engaging game. Students practice addition facts using a powerful visual model of each strategy. The speed round encourages memorization and provides hints when needed. “ Not only are they working on more apps, but also working on a white paper explaining the reasoning behind their app development. So exciting to see such great research being applied at the back end to ensure the time students spend on these apps is truly worthwhile and we here at Getting Smart can’t wait to see what else Teachley has up their sleeve!

6. Sanderling- Field Journal – (from An Estuary) has just started its Beta testing and we are so excited we are already signed up! Using the field journal, educators will be able to make reflective practice completely immersive. Teachers will no longer have to find time to stop, reflect, sit and write at a desk about what worked and what didn’t work in the classroom. Instead they will have their “journal” at their fingertips at all times… most importantly, when they are actually practicing! The power of mobile technology harnessed within Sanderling will let teachers record, enhance, strengthen and share their practice without having to stop or take time away from their already busy days. Why hasn’t someone thought of this earlier? Well, we’re not complaining- we are just so glad that brilliant educators at An Estuary are on it.

7. Graphite – Not as in what is inside pencils… but the new tech tool review site launching from Common Sense Media this summer. As the world of Edtech exponentially grows, we sometimes feel like we can barely hold on, let alone be up to date on the best tools available for our students. Well, Common Sense Media, long known as one of the best resources for parents concerned about finding the appropriate Media for their children and its curriculum on digital literacy and internet safety has now created Graphite, an incredible resource for teachers. Using Graphite, “teachers can search for digital tools by grade, subject, platform, price and other variables and then view comprehensive reviews and ratings for each one. In addition to including reviews from Common Sense Media’s own editorial team of former teachers, the site enables teachers to contribute their own evaluations with the technology. Each review page also includes the key standards supported by that particular ed tech tool.”

cyberwise8.  CyberWise –  No Grown Up Left Behind! Along the same lines of Graphite, we know we all strive to keep up as technology develops, but some adults feel they have fallen behind and just don’t know where to turn to catch up. Parents want their children to be safe, so sometimes that means basically banning technology at home because they just don’t know what’s good and what isn’t. As tech-savvy educators, we know that’s not the right answer but we are not always sure how to support parents and show them the powerful learning tools our students now have access to. Enter CyberWise… their cute owl icon is basically the 21st century version of Woodsy, the Owl… spreading a message of safety to all who want to learn. But instead of “hoot, hoot, don’t pollute” this owl is saying, “while kids seem right at home in this new digital world, many grownups feel left behind. CyberWise can help! We provide all the resources you need to embrace new media fearlessly.” Cyberwise is a valuable resource for any adult or child looking to expand their knowledge of web tools.

9.  Wevideo – A cloud based video creation tool that has come a very long way this past year! When it first hit the web, it seemed like an incredible concept but in reality was confusing to use and changed user interfaces so many times you weren’t sure you were still using the same tool. Well, after our demo at ISTE, we are pretty sure WeVideo has left it’s growing pains behind and has transformed into a tool any teacher would want. Similar to iMovie, WeVideo is a robust video editing tool but, unlike iMovie, it works on any browser and allows for collaboration. One of the coolest features, is that it allows teachers to create video “templates” and share them with their class of students. Imagine assigning a “video template” instead of a worksheet to check for student understanding! “WeVideo for Education allows educators to set up class video projects, making the relevant media available to each class. The educator can also group students, view and comment their work, and monitor the progress of each video project.”

10. Klikaklu – So this is not actually from ISTE, but was discovered very soon afterwards. The name may mean nothing at first, but think digital scavenger hunts or geocaching… then think “click a clue”.  Ok, now we get it. This brand new app from developers in our home state of Washington will leverage the power of mobile devices we now have in the classroom and help us get our students physically OUT of the classroom! We’ve seen scavenger hunts and we think geocaching is great for students but now with Klikaklu, the students can engage in their learning at a new level. Still using clues to lead your participants through a hunt, the students need to use the camera to take a picture of the target and only then will they know if they succeeded… very QR code – Augmented Reality like! The best part is the hunt only has to be made once, and then can be shared publicly, with goals and rewards built right in. Gamification was definitely all the rage at ISTE this year and with the huge amount schools have invested into buying mobile devices, this is the perfect app for teachers wanting to gamify and wanting to get their students out and exploring beyond the confines of the classroom walls!

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson

Alison Anderson is a Media Specialist at The Madeleine School.

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