*This list of eight tech tools for teachers supports those exploring distance teaching. It provides a variety of tech solutions without the overwhelm.*
…And just like that, school is back in session. In my school, students can choose between one of four options for how they’d like to attend school. Since one of those options is to attend school virtually, a lot of teachers are considering themselves virtual teachers who get to supplement with direct instruction some times with some students. Whew, it’s a bit mind-boggling!
2. EdPuzzle. Our school purchased the Pro version of EdPuzzle for teachers this year, but the basic version seems pretty similar, except for a user maximum of 20 videos. I am loving this tech tool! I upload my videos from Screencastify to EdPuzzle, where I can add multiple-choice questions, open responses, or a note. The video stops where I’ve added questions or notes, and the students have to answer or acknowledge before they can continue watching. Even better, after importing my Google Classroom, I can view which students have watched the video and how well they did on the questions. This is great for accountability and identifying learning gaps.
CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT TOOLS
3. Class Dojo. I know many people consider Class Dojo an elementary tool but I have used it with secondary students in the past. While Class Dojo allows teachers to give positive and negative reinforcement for behavior, I tend to focus on positive reinforcement for my students. I use a reward system in my class (with rewards like Tardy Pass or Bathroom Emergency or Get Out of Cell Phone Prison) so I use Class Dojo to keep track of those points.
CLASSROOM DISCUSSION TOOLS
4. Parlay Ideas. Parlay Ideas is a discussion tool that allows students to clearly identify when they would like to speak up in a whole-class discussion. They simply “Tab In” to a discussion on their computers by identifying whether they want to add a new idea, challenge a peer, build on an idea, or ask a question. Students are intended to be the facilitators of the discussion and they can easily see which of their peers would like to speak and they can even vote to hear from particular peers (keeping in mind that the teacher should encourage classes to vote for someone who hasn’t spoken up before, not simply vote for their friends).
I like Parlay for the opportunities it creates for discussion when my students have to be seated in rows, facing forward. Unfortunately, the free version offers very few discussion roundtables, so I’m limited on my use with this program.
5. FlipGrid. FlipGrid is an easy and engaging tool where students can record short video clips of themselves. I’ve used it in the past to have students respond to an assignment or a project. One thing I really like about it for this upcoming year is its ability to truly hold students accountable – you can’t copy someone else’s face for your assignment! 🙂 Students can also respond to one another’s ideas on FlipGrid.
6. Pear Deck. My hope for the year is to be able to do some small group teaching, since my students will be in my classroom on a rotating schedule. Of course, my students have to remain in rows, facing forward, so I cannot gather them all around me for my small group instruction. This is where I am hoping Pear Deck will come in to play. Instead of projecting my Google Slides for the entire class, and thus potentially distracting the part of the class that is completing independent work, Pear Deck will allow me to share my Google Slides on my students’ screens so I can walk them through our instruction more privately.
7. Boom Learning. If you love task cards for engaging practice in your classroom, then you will love this tool. Boom Cards™ are a wonderful alternative to task cards because they are digital and can be played on any device that has internet. While they began as a popular tool for elementary teachers, they have quickly gained favor from the secondary teacher community. They are perfect for any age and any learner. Check out this video by Tiny Teaching Shack for an intro to how Boom Cards work.
Reasons Students Love Boom Cards:
- any device with internet
- instant feedback
- not timed, self-paced
- easy to make up if absent
- great for distance learning
Reasons Teachers Love Boom Cards:
- can keep track of student progress from a distance
- no prep
- students receive instant feedback
- easy to differentiate
- perfect for fast finishers, absent students, or station activities
- free options
8. Google Classroom. I know many of you are already using Google Classroom, so instead of telling you all about it, I’ve just added some tips that I’ve discovered over the years:
- Differentiation: Did you know that you can assign work to specific students? The assignment page will prompt you about who the assignment is “For” and you can click the arrow to select/unselect specific students. I use this all the time for differentiation, so I can easily tell all students to go to the same assignment but their instructions are slightly modified to fit their needs.
- Scheduling: With so much of our teaching online now, I think scheduling assignments on Google Classroom is more important than ever. If you don’t want something to post right away, click the arrow near the “Assign” button and select “Schedule.” You can choose exactly when you would like the assignment to post.
- Organization: The best organization tip I ever got for Google Classroom was to number my assignments. That way, instead of saying, “Please open Pythagorean Theorem Word Problems Practice,” you can simply say, “Everybody go to #7!” I even match up grades in the grade book with the assignment numbers, so students can easily find missing assignments on Google Classroom.
Would you like to read about more tools and strategies to make your school year smoother? Here is a list of eight ways to introduce brain breaks in your classroom.