Teaching is an increasingly digital job. Every day, I see new online tools that claim to make teaching ‘easier than ever’ and will ‘give me the free time I deserve.’ Most of these are, just as I’ve stated, claims. I have, however, found a number of excellent teacher tools that have helped me be more effective and productive as a teacher.
1. GoAnimate – I have used this tool in two different ways; as an engage tool at the beginning of a new unit or topic and as a tool for students to present. In this tool, users create simple video’s using ‘comic book’ style characters. Once the character animations are set, you are able to add voice overs with your own voice or a computerized voice that is provided on the site. There are free and paid options available but I find the free option more than enough for classroom use.
2. PowToon – Along the same lines as GoAnimate, PowToon allows users to create quick and easy presentations that look amazing. PowToon utilizes a simple ‘stick-man’ style that comes across as clean and is very engaging. I have had one of my students create a PowToon and it helped to elevate his presentation from a simple PowerPoint to something stylized and beautiful.
3. PollEverywhere – An old University favourite, I have used PollEverywhere to help gauge students prior knowledge before starting a new topic. PollEverywhere allows you to ask multiple choice questions and get quick responses from your students from computers, smart phones, and other electronic devices that connect to the internet. I have also used it as a ‘no-pressure’ math pre-assessment that lets me quickly see what areas need more attention without singling out students who are struggling.
4. TodaysMeet – It is amazing what can happen when you allow students to communicate with each other over the internet. TodaysMeet allows you to create a close chatroom for your class. Students who never raise their hand or seem to have nothing to say during classroom discussions come alive online. The best part is that you can print a transcript of the chat session, giving you a lot of data for formative or summative assessments. I find this tool works the best when I ask a large group question and wait to see every students response. I then allow students to respond to what other students have written and a dialogue occurs.
5. Planboard – Planboard is a tool I use everyday. I have been trying to find an online Day Planner since my first moment in the classroom and have finally found one that work like it should and makes my job easier. The ability to add classes on a rotation, move lessons to the next day with one click and add standards make this online planner stand out. The ability to add and track standards take things to the next level. On top of all this, the support is available all the time and I have literally received an answer to a question seconds after asking it. This is one tool you definitely need to try out.
6. CCPensieve – A pensieve is an ongoing record of what a student is doing. The online version found at CCPensieve makes recording anecdotal records easier than ever. This tool is designed to be used with the Daily 5 instructional strategy in literacy, but is also easily used in all other subject areas. If you want to take your formative assessment to the next level, you need to check this one out. Just a warning that it does cost $24 – $39 per year but this tool is more than worth the cost.
7. KeepVid – Tired of having videos buffer halfway through showing them to your class? Worried about showing video and the potentially inappropriate ones sites suggest you watch afterwards? If yes, KeepVid is for you. This tool allows you to download videos from popular streaming sites allowing you to show video to class without worrying. I love being able to download my videos before a lesson and having full confidence that the video will play as intended.
There you have it; my list of must have Techie Teacher Tools. The tools listed here have made teaching easier for me and have made me a more effective educator. If you have any other sites you thinks are a ‘must’ for teachers, please add them in the comments below.