I love tech. My classroom life is technology. We use it in so many parts of our day. Now, I’m extra thankful that we used technology so often in our classroom because it has made this transition to distance learning so much easier. Sure, there were still hurdles and troubleshooting support, but the kids already had so many tools to help them continue to be successful.
With all that being said, here are my top ten tech tools. These are in no particular order. Technically, these are written as my top ten tech tools for distance learning, but they’re all tools I use in the traditional classroom setting, too.
Note: My class is 1-1 with Chromebooks, but most of these apply to various devices
Symbaloo is A MUST, especially if you teach littles. It’s a website (or app) where you can house all of the links you want kids to be able to access on little buttons. Kids don’t have to type in urls anymore, all they have to do is click on the picture and it takes them to where you want them to go! Setting this as their homepage or as a bookmark makes every site you use just a few easy clicks away.
Note: I’m a Seesaw Certified Educator
I could talk about Seesaw ALL DAY LONG. It has transformed my classroom. We don’t go a day without using it. But what is Seesaw? Seesaw is a digital learning portfolio where students can upload their own work or complete activities that the teacher sends to them, and then all of the work is shared with families to see, like, and comment on. I’m able to schedule out all of my activities for students on Sunday so that kids receive all of their activities each morning, and this makes distance learning so much more manageable for me.
You can create your own activities (pictures, videos, links, worksheets, notes, and so much more) or browse through the activity library for things already made by other teachers. I’ve got tons of free activities shared to the Seesaw library (and more being added all the time) that you can access by searching for me in the Seesaw activity library.
A Learning Management System (LMS)
There are tons of Learning Management Systems (LMS) out there, whether it’s Blackboard, Google Classroom, Schoology, etc. My district is using Canvas, but whatever your district or school uses as their LMS, take this time to get some PD or other help on it. While I use Seesaw for a lot of my day, I’ve really beefed up my Canvas pages with resources so that they are there long term for students and families. While our K-2 classes use a lot of Seesaw, I know that from 3rd grade up our LMS of Canvas is used extensively, so getting my students familiar with some of its navigation is important.
If your district or school doesn’t have a required LMS, Google Classroom is a great start because it’s free and there are sooooo many Youtube tutorials out there.
I just talked about Canvas and now I’m talking about Canva— confusing, right? I know, bear with me. So, Canva is a graphic design platform that I use to create visuals for my students in hopes of making everything easier to access. Here’s some examples of my Canvas pages where I used Canva to make the graphics.
All the visuals make it easier for the kids (and me!) to navigate our resources and activities. It’s also great for invites, posters, social media posts, and more!
I think I maybe had to use EdPuzzle in college once, and then totally forgot about it until distance learning came along. EdPuzzle allows you to add questions students have to answer during Youtube videos, and you can use Youtube videos that already exist out there from pages like Mystery Science or you can use your own. Extra perk: it integrates into most LMS (like what I’m using, Canvas) and records students’ grades. Here’s an example of how I used EdPuzzle to make one of my digital math lessons a little more engaging.
Screencasting allows you to record your screen (and you can include your face). There are quite a few screencasting tools out there, and I’ll be honest that I don’t know the ins and outs of them all sooooo…. I don’t really have a prefered one. In the above EdPuzzle video I used Screencast-O-Matic, but there are other sites like Screencastify or Loom. Try them out, find out what works best for you.
Flipgrid is a site that allows students to record videos in response to topics. Kids LOVE pretending to be Youtubers (anyone else’s students always end their videos with Like and Subscribe?). Even more, now that we’re doing distance learning, kids want to see each other, and Flipgrid helps them stay connected with their peers.
Ideas for Flipgrid Topics
- Daily discussion topics as an attendance check in
- Show and tell
- Book talks
- Weather reports
- Number talks
- Talent shows
Google: Slides & Forms
Okay, I feel like it’s kind of a cop out to include anything from G-Suite because it’s all really amazing, but Google Slides & Forms make up so much of my teaching that I feel like I have to include them.
All of my lessons are in Google Slides. It allows for my partner teacher and I to collaborate on our lessons, makes planning easier, and then we teach the same lesson to our students. It allows me to include visuals, sentence starters, and timers for everything. For eLearning, I’m still using Slides to create my lessons. Of course, it’s a great tool for students to create and complete work as well. I’ve got some free graphic organizers you can use for reading in Google Slides, and you can get them here.
I feel like Google Forms is a little underrated. It makes creating distance learning assignments and quizzes so easy. My favorite feature in Google Forms is using response validation (there are great Youtube tutorials out there). This means that the students have to get the answer correct before they can move on to the next question. In the classroom this is great for Escape Rooms & Scoot activities, but for distance learning it holds my students more accountable for their learning. They can’t just submit nonsense, they have to actually complete the work.
There are so many great educational websites out there for students to use, but Epic Books tops the list for me because nothing can beat access to books. FREE BOOKS. Epic is always free for educators, but they’ve expanded home access to help kids during quarantine. If you haven’t used it, Epic is like a Netflix of kids’ books. There are options to listen to reading, audiobooks, read on your own, comprehension questions, dictionaries, and so much more.
Now, what are some of your favorite technology tools?