Have you set goals for the new school year? Well, we’ve got the tools you’ll need to accomplish them. We’ve partnered with Common Sense Education to tell you about some of our favorite apps you can use to improve your teaching. Whether it’s helping you be more organized or setting up better learning scenarios for kids, these apps will keep your teaching fresh and interesting.
1. Backchannel Chat (iOS)
Grade level: 6–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: Increase student dialog and collaboration.
How to use it: If you’re not quite ready to turn your students loose on Twitter, Back Channel Chat is a good alternative. It’s like a teacher-moderated version of Twitter that can help you engage students in discussions that may transcend the virtual space.
What teachers say: With the discussion occurring online, the playing field becomes more level and thus more inclusive. Reluctant speakers—ELLs, special-ed students and those who might just be more introverted—can all become active participants. However, teacher moderation is key. Front-loading chat etiquette and expectations, as well as structuring discussions around specific objectives, will help you enhance the discussion and better support learning.
2. Twitter (Website, iOS, Android)
Grade level: PreK–12 for teachers, 9–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: Collaboration with other teachers. Collaboration between students. Expanded personal learning network (PLN).
How to use it: You can use Twitter to build your own knowledge base, or teachers of older students can use it for instruction. You can use hashtags and groups to follow and chat with teachers around the world for learning and professional development (PD). Older students can use Twitter for discussion and digging deeper.
What teachers say: There are so many ways to use Twitter in your classroom. A Spanish class could practice language skills by tweeting only in Spanish to one another; 140-character bursts would be perfect for the basics. The challenge of creating pithy statements can also enhance learning as your kids build communication, discussion and writing skills. You should also check out the incredible resources available on Twitter for PD. By following other educators and participating in education-focused chats, you can expand your network of colleagues and find resources to further your own classroom practice.
3. TED-Ed (Website)
Grade level: PreK–12 for teachers, 4–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: PD videos to improve your teaching and keep your kids more engaged.
How to use it: You can use TED-Ed’s videos and lessons to supplement almost any subject. If you want to try the flipped-classroom model but don’t have hours to craft your own instructional video, this is the answer. Plus, there are PD videos for teachers too. Need a refresher in your subject area or advice on better teaching? With almost 200,000 video lessons on the site, you’re sure to find something you can learn from.
What teachers say: Between the high-quality videos and the extensive lesson plans, TED-Ed is a great resource for students looking for inspiration, education and maybe even some fun! The videos and animations are highly engaging and as well-produced as some of the best content on television.
4. Formative (Website)
Grade level: 3–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: Use formative assessment to shape your instruction to student needs.
How to use it: Is one of your goals next year more formative assessment? This app can help. Your students submit responses to your multiple-choice or open-ended questions by drawing or typing. You can send immediate, detailed feedback. The dashboard offers great at-a-glance progress tracking for the whole class. Common Sense also has resources for you on how to implement formative assessment in your classroom. (The videos are super-helpful!)
What teachers say: Formative is a digital response tool for the flipped, BYOD or 1-to-1 classroom. After a detailed tutorial, you can upload or create assignments that let your students type, enter numbers, draw (with a mouse or their finger, depending on the device), upload an image or answer multiple-choice questions. You can create classes (manually or by filling out a template spreadsheet) and then distribute assignments to your students through classes (including Google Classroom) or via an access code.
5. Vyclone (iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
Grade level: 9–12 for teachers and students
Why you’ll be better: Kids already love making videos. Harness this interest to improve your curriculum.
How to use it: You can connect this video tool with activities you’re already doing in your class. You can ask students to work in groups to create videos that illustrate an understanding of the physics behind a Rube Goldberg machine, record plant identification on a nature walk, or develop characters and capture their stories.
What teachers say: This engaging tool, which allows my students to get creative while learning the essential elements of video recording, teaches skills that can easily be applied to other subject areas and activities, including storyboarding and historical reenactment and documentation.
6. FreshGrade (Website, iOS, Android)
Grade level: PreK–12 for teachers, 4–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: Keep better records. Make digital portfolios for your kids.
How to use it: We’re always looking for new and better ways to showcase student work. With this app, your students can curate their own e-portfolios using video, audio, image and text, creating powerful learning and reflection opportunities. If you teach younger students, you can create photo albums and portfolios for your kids. You can share work, pictures and other updates with parents to keep them in the loop.
What teachers say: Even if you are required to use another grading program, the FreshGrade dashboard and reporting tools can give you a more comprehensive view of student achievement. You can use FreshGrade to keep track of grades and document daily classroom activities. Using the mobile app to capture video, photos and audio of classroom work can make it easier to document your students’ learning.
7. Scoot & Doodle (Google+)
Grade level: 4–12 for students
Why you’ll be better: Tap into all learning styles with visual learning.
How to use it: Scoot & Doodle is a Google+ app that allows your students to draw and create in real time with up to 10 invited guests. Google+ provides the “hangout” (e.g., video chat, the friends list), and Scoot & Doodle provides the drawing board, personal portfolio space, a gallery and some creative prompts for inspiration.
What teachers say: Scoot & Doodle offers some thought-provoking challenges that can be prompts for your classroom collaborations, contests, assignments, etc. You can ask students to write and design collaborative stories, solve math problems, design science experiments and so on. For example, one challenge prompts students to design a time machine that can take them anywhere and describe/show how the machine works and where they would go and why. It requires a Google account to use it.
8. Bloomz (Website, iOS, Android)
Grade level: PreK–8 for teachers
Why you’ll be better: Make parent communication easier with this app.
How to use it: Bloomz provides you with a simple way to communicate with classroom parents. Parents can sign up to receive app, email or text notifications. You have access to a central website and can control a wide variety of factors, from how parents communicate (for example, with one another or only with you) to what type of information goes out to families.
What teachers say: Bloomz makes it easier for you to keep parents in the loop about what students are doing, how they’re performing, and how parents can be more involved. You can use Bloomz to facilitate organization of activities like conferences and volunteer programs. You can also send pictures and newsletters.
9. Turnitin (Website)
Grade level: 6–12 for students and teachers
Why you’ll be better: Easier to detect plagiarism, more efficient grading.
How to use it: Available through school-wide subscription, Turnitin is an online plagiarism detector as well as an electronic grading and feedback system for students’ writing assignments. As you create assignments, students submit files from a computer or a cloud-based service like Dropbox or Google Drive.
What teachers say: You can give more in-depth feedback with all the time you save by not shuffling papers. Your students are empowered to improve writing through peer feedback and teacher comments. Your classes can interact socially through discussion boards.
To read about some other fun apps you can use in your classroom, check out the other article in this series: 11 Cool Apps for Back to School.