Tech that makes teaching and learning easier

After more than a year of at least partially virtual instruction for many, some teachers are reverting to low-tech tools upon their return to full in-person instruction. Here are a few EdTech tools that are worth keeping around, even after virtual learning. Bonus: The basic option on each is free for teachers to try.

Best for making communication seamless: Remind

Remind is a well-established messaging tool that allows teachers and school administrators to be able to effectively communicate with their students’ caregivers without exchanging phone numbers. Remind maintains a log of all messages, which can never be edited or deleted. With translation into over 70 languages offered, parents and educators can communicate on important school-related topics, even if they do not have a shared language. Remind can be used to reinforce what is shared on the learning management system by enabling teachers to connect safely and easily with students and parents about important due dates, upcoming assessments, field trips, and more. Remind even integrates with commonly used applications including Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, SignUp Genius, and Quizlet. Remind is ideal for teachers, coaches, and club sponsors who frequently want to communicate with parents and students in a safe way. 

Best for making direct Instruction interactive: Nearpod

With Nearpod, teachers can turn tried-and-true slideshow-based lessons into interactive activities with ease. This online student engagement platform offers many opportunities for student interaction and feedback. Throughout the lesson, which can be either teacher-directed or self-directed, teachers are able to get frequent engagement and immediate feedback by having students draw on a map or diagram, respond to a poll question, post to a collaboration board, take a multiple-choice quiz, or complete a Time to Climb challenge. Nearpod even offers virtual reality lessons, which makes virtual field trips a possibility when COVID-19 restrictions don’t allow for in-person leave-to-learn activities. Nearpod’s interactive features make deeper learning during direct instruction fun and engaging for students,  and is certainly worth a look. 

Best for gamifying vocabulary review: Gimkit Live

Gimkit Live is an extremely intuitive platform that is perfect for reviewing concepts in the secondary classroom. Similar to popular classroom games such as Kahoot! and Quizlet, but with some unique features that neither possess, Gimkit offers fast-paced gameplay which is sure to engage even the most reluctant of students. Gimkit is a platform that offers a lot of versatility in gameplay for minimal prep time. Teachers can search for sets or import them from other flashcard platforms or from a spreadsheet;students can even assist in creating game questions using the KitCollab feature. Once a kit is found, imported, or created, teachers can engage their students in multiple interactive review games that are editable for content, time, and many other parameters. There is also an assignment feature that allows teachers to assign homework. Teachers select a due date, and students work through the kit at their own pace. Gimkit is a must-use platform for courses that regularly engage students in vocabulary study. 

Best for making video content interactive: Edpuzzle

Edpuzzle is an interactive tool that enables teachers to crop, customize, and remix online video content to make it more interactive and student-centered. Rather than the teacher playing a clip, clicking pause, and attempting to engage students in a dialogue about what they saw, Edpuzzle gives students the power to engage in the lesson at their own pace. Teachers can even prevent skipping within the video to make sure that their students don’t miss valuable content. Students are able to replay the video in order to respond to questions, click links inserted by their teacher, and review comments left by their teacher. When creating a video lesson on Edpuzzle, teachers can choose from videos on commonly used sites such as YouTube, National Geographic, Ted Talk, and Khan Academy, or even upload their own. From there, teachers are able to embed questions to check their students’ understanding, edit clips out to show only the most important parts of the video, and even record a voiceover to explain concepts in their own words. Upon creation of a video lesson, assigning is an easy, one-click process. Using the analytics feature, teachers can check in on their students’ progress. Edpuzzle is ideal for courses that feature video content because it forces students to become an active viewer and engage in the content. 

Best for showcasing students’ thinking: Padlet

Padlet is a simple, but powerful tool in increasing participation, maintaining a feeling of classroom community, and visibly sharing students’ thinking. This interactive, multimedia bulletin board allows students to upload any type of media, see each others’ posts in real-time, and comment on each other’s work. This process helps to establish a class culture in which students create meaningful work that is meant to be seen, which can help increase student buy-in and engagement in the classroom. Padlet is great for group projects as well, allowing each group member to contribute their research and thinking on a particular subject to the group’s shared wall. Padlet is a must-try for teachers looking to get students out of their shells and to help them practice sharing ideas. 

Best for asynchronous communication with a social-media feel: Flipgrid

Flipgrid is a social media-style Edech tool that allows teachers to pose questions to their students and receive student-created video responses to them. Due to its similarities to social media, this tool is comprehensible to students, and feels like a fun way to engage in course content. The app offers multiple means of expression, making it perfect for many different types of assignments. Flipgrid can work well in a variety of types of instruction and courses, but it is a must-use for engaging students in asynchronous learning and remote instruction.

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