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Tech Rundown #1 - Tools Worth Your Time

A good deal of my job entails helping teachers make use of technology tools that improve their own best practices while helping their students develop digital literacy. There are a myriad of tech tools out there and finding the time to search through them, learn how to use them, and then integrate them meaningfully into your classroom with your students is more than a little daunting. What classroom teacher has time for that?

As such, sharing both tools and integration tips is important. Here are some tools I’m currently using with the teachers I coach along with some suggestions for ways that you can use them in your own classroom starting next week;

StoryMaps – a tool that allows students to turn electronic maps into narrative stories. This simple-to-use tool comes with several formats, but the one I like the best is Cascade which allows you to create a scrolling, media rich tale about places around the globe. This can be used to explore the background of a country in a foreign language class, geographical features or a series of events in a social studies class, or the setting for a novel in language arts.

Calm.com – students come back from recess and lunch amped up and in most cases unprepared to transition into academic work. This website (which also has an iOS app) provides a series of free, calming land and soundscapes that can be used to refocus students or aide classroom mindfulness practices. The free version also has narrated exercises for self-awareness and management.

Biteable – touted as “the world’s simplest video maker” this web app allows students to create visually stunning videos with little effort. Students are free to choose a custom color scheme, music, text, and even moving backgrounds in whatever sequence they want. Biteable can be used to replace tired-old presentation tools like slide decks and posters but doesn’t take nearly the expertise level as something like iMovie so it’s a great time saver as well for short presentations or share outs during protocols like jigsaws or expert group activities.

Poster My Wall – graphic design has never been easier! This amazing and free tool allows students to create detailed posters without any graphic design experience. Teachers can sign up for it and share a code with their students giving them access without an account, and then they can choose from a huge library of templates which can be modified to any use. Create character sketches for literature, visual representations of elements for the periodic table in science, or create exercise guides for your out park course in PE class.

TeamShake – this 99 cent app generates teams or groups, but not just randomly. Teachers can input data on gender, skill level, and even pairs of students who don’t work well together as use them as provisions when “randomly” creating groups. This is a great tool for any teacher who is constantly setting up collaborative activates.

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