It seems like each year, I'm inundated with more and more EdTech tools that supposedly improve my teaching and make it easier. The trouble is, most of them don't help at all. They might be new and shiny, but in reality, the time it takes to learn how to use them doesn't justify the benefits they bring. After all, what's the point in using a 'productivity' app if it takes longer than using a pen and paper?
With this in mind (and because I know you only have two minutes to spare), I've compiled a list of EdTech Tools that make a genuine difference. A lot of 'great' EdTech didn't make the cut, either because it didn't help me, or I haven't personally used it myself. If you have any specific recommendations for me, then please send me a message on Twitter @guruteaching and I'd be most grateful!
Here are my Top 5 EdTech Tools for 2018 that have made a real difference, based on personal experience:
Google Classroom is a platform that allows you to post digital resources online where students can access them. The main benefit to this is that students are encouraged to use this easy-access to develop as independent learners. With the reformed GCSE and A-Level and BTEC specifications requiring students to work even harder than ever, platforms like Google Classroom give students the opportunity to shine.
Students can interact with the resources too, posting replies to questions and uploading their own answers. Have you ever had the "my printer wouldn't work" excuse for late homework? You'll love this feature then! Some teachers just enjoy the simplicity and safety of being able to interact with the students in a controlled environment.
Finally, as a teacher, I'm able to upload and organise all of my resources quickly and in such a way that I could use them with next year's classes in the same way if I wanted to. This is going to save me so much time next year. And every year after that.
Flip Grid has been talked about a lot this year and for good reason. The premise is similar to many platforms, such as Google Classroom, where you post a resource that students can then interact with. However, this resource requires video responses from students as opposed to written ones. For some students, this is a total game-changer. Many students often feel far more comfortable speaking about their subject, without being subject to the scrutiny of spelling, punctuation and grammar feedback that turns up in their written work. Obviously, this isn't to minimise the importance of written responses. However, the beauty of Flip Grid is that speaking and listening skills are much easier to practice and improve. What's more, students can even post video responses to each others' videos. I love it.
Class Charts is a different EdTech resource to the two mentioned above. It's a tool I use for a number of reasons. Firstly, I can quickly and simply set homework on it and log who has or hasn't submitted it. The data this produces is then centralised so that the Senior Leadership Team can easily identify students and intervene quickly. Secondly, Class Charts enables me to quickly create and modify seating plans at the touch of a button. I can also reorganise students according to different criteria, such as behaviour, attainment, gender, SEND, etc. Thirdly, data about each student is accessible to the teacher via Class Charts. This includes information on SEND, health, progress and attainment, which is important for all students, but particularly crucial when planning for certain individuals with complex needs.
If you struggle with getting students to engage with articles online, the Insert Learning might just be right up your street. Using a Chrome Extension, Insert Learning adds tasks to online articles, that you can send to students via a link. Students then look for specific details in the text, such as who, what, where, when and highlight them in specific colours. After that, they combine their understanding of the article with their broader knowledge of the topic. This enables them to evaluate the source and make judgements on it. Insert Learning does a great job of providing sample questions. They work with the vast majority of sources, although you can edit the questions too if you wish. I love this simple way to help students engage with reading more widely and scrutinising their sources carefully.
Plickers is an excellent EdTech tool for quickly gauging what students have learnt. Simply add a question to a slide, then students hold up the pre-printed responses to those questions. The real gem here though, is that students can't easily copy their friends' responses, as the answer cards are QR codes rather than text-based. To choose their answer, the student just orientates the card a particular way. Then to gather the answers in the class, the teacher just holds up their iPad or smartphone and scans the images held up in front of them. Within seconds, the data appears on the app. The teacher then sees who honestly understood and who needs further support.
As I mentioned earlier, let me know if you think I've missed anything vital!
About the Author
Andy McHugh has been teaching since 2006 and writes about education, teaching strategies and assessment at www.teachingandlearningguru.com
You can find him on Twitter @guruteaching