Tech. Depending on what makes you tick, it either adds depth and pizzazz to your classroom or drives you crazy. It seems like there’s a new program, app, or Chrome extension for the classroom popping up every day.
Some of them can help you do things you never thought possible in the classroom, some of them will waste your time as you plod through electronic steps just to do what you were already doing on paper. So how do you know which ones to explore?
If only someone could just figure them all out for you and give you a cheat sheet of the best of the best.
Oh wait, someone did.
Every year, Jennifer Gonzalez of Cult of Pedagogy evaluates hundreds of teacher tech programs, apps, and websites to find the most helpful. Then she creates a hyperlinked guide to them all, explaining each one, adding a screenshot, and showing how and why to use them.
I love it. Every year I discover tools I’ve never heard of, and find out how to use tools I did know about in new ways. I like how Jenn sprinkles in links to helpful videos and articles to complement the tools, and how she defines the tech terms I sometimes struggle with. I like how it’s more like exploring a website than reading an ebook.
This year I used one of the tools featured in the guide, Screencastify, to create a little unboxing video of the guide for you. Because it’s unlike any other resource I’ve ever seen, and I feel like you have to see it to understand it.
If you’re already itching to get this guide for yourself, you can find it here. Otherwise, hang on a minute while I share five great tools for ELA teachers that I found inside.
To quote Junie B. Jones, my son’s all-time favorite literary character, “wowie wow wow!” My Shakespeare has the full text of six Shakespeare plays, complete with help for difficult vocabulary, pop-ups to explain things like references, word choices, and literary devices, and embedded video and audio clips students can click for a fuller experience of the play. How can I just be discovering this NOW?
Screencastify allows you to record your screen and your voice at the same time. That means you can scroll through a student’s paper while chatting to them about what you notice.
You could also run through a short powerpoint about how to write a good thesis, teaching the lesson as you go, and then pop it into a hyperdoc for students to view if/when they need to in the writing process.
Or you could give a background lecture for students to watch at home, freeing you up for more hands-on activities at school.
Maybe you could teach kids how to launch a blog, build an infographic, or explore the Purdue MLA online citation guide in a handy little video.
Screencastify lets educators use a free plan to record up to five minutes at a time, or offers a significant discount (down to $29 a year) for the full use of the extension (allowing you to record for any length of time and download your videos for use outside Google Drive).
I bought the full plan this winter and have found it really easy to use. You just click the extension, decide whether you want to record your full screen or just within one application, and then begin recording. I like to export my recordings to edit in iMovie, but you can also edit right within the Screencastify program.
Kaizena is another tool worth exploring if you’re feeling overwhelmed by papers and commenting.
Of course, there’s an investment up front in learning to record your voice and insert your voice comments into student papers, but after that you’ve got a pretty amazing tool at your disposal.
You can also use Kaizena to add lessons to students’ papers. The lessons can either be your own recordings, websites you’d like students to visit to help them with a certain issue, or Youtube videos. As you build up your library of lessons, you’ll soon be able to tailor a truly helpful set of feedback for each student in a short period of time.
In the world of TikTok and Snapchat, students know how to create short videos! You can use that to your advantage with Flipgrid, inviting students to create short video responses to prompts you create and then viewing and commenting on each other’s work.
Students can create introduction videos at the start of the term, respond to texts, participate in discussions, present research, practice performances, and more. Flipgrid has even added a virtual whiteboard students can use while recording, if they need to add that visual element as they speak.
Podcasting is a rapidly-growing platform, and it presents students with many opportunities. You could do a major podcasting project, in which students create a show based on research, interviews, or their own passions. Or you could start small, having students practice recording small audio clips in response to prompts or even practicing for presentations by recording and listening to their own voices. The anchor platform makes it easy for students to record and produce podcasts, and they don’t charge for it. Not bad.
These tools are the tip of the iceberg. There is so much available now to help bring new possibilities to your classroom through tech. If you’d like to explore all that’s out there, I suggest you check out Jennifer Gonzalez’s work.
Disclaimer: I am an affiliate for The Teacher’s Guide to Tech 2020 because I think it’s one of the best tools available for teachers. That means if you decide to buy it after discovering it here, I receive a small commission for sharing the guide with you. If it turns out this guide is something you need, you’ll be supporting the work I do on this blog at the same time you pick up the resource you want – win, win.