A preliminary look at new tools: Weekly writing 10

For this week’s writing I spent some time looking at Edudemic’s Best Free Education Web Tools Of 2013 and Steven’s (2013) Teachers’ Favored Web 2.0 Tools and I felt that the majority of the top tools focused on active learning through student project creation, rather than passive teacher presentation. While there were tools dedicated to helping teachers manage and organize educational materials, most tools that were teacher centric included ways for teachers to improve interaction with and engagement of their students. Tools such as GlogsterEDU, KidBlog and Thinglink are all tools that can be used by both teachers and students to present and share learning in a fun and easy to use way. These tools appear to be highly engaging and could help students build positive eportfolios.    Other tools that featured active learning were Storybird, an tool that allows students to create and share books and Scratch, a tool from MIT that allows students to create animations, video games and other products. Scratch also has the added bonus of teaching coding, which is of great interest to many of my students. All of these tools can be used in both individual and group projects and would lend themselves to the community of inquiry idea. I believe these tools have a lot of potential, particularly at the secondary level.

Part of the challenges in teaching at the K-12 level (and in an alternative high school as I do), is the issue of motivation and behavior tracking. Steven’s (2013) list of tools included quite a few classroom management and behavior tracking tools, that I was unfamiliar with. ClassDojo is a free behavior tracking tool that allows teachers to assign points to student avatars for the desired behaviors in a game-type program. As student’s earn points they can redeem points for incentives. Another motivation tool, that has possibilities in the badge earning tools. Students can earn badges through Khan Academy and Open Badges. Here students can track their learning and earn badges for new skills of concepts. I know that my students are highly motivated by online “badges’ and this would be a way to increase engagement.

One tool that I was very excited about was called Nearpod. This tool is a way for teachers to present new material to students while embedding interactive activities into the material. This tool requires all students to have access to a mobile device or laptop, but allows for engaged synchronous learning.  The program allows you to insert polls, quizzes, drawings and other types of formative assessment into your presentation and prompts all students to participate. It then generates feedback for the instructor and instantly gives you an assessment of student understanding. I can envision using this in my face to face classroom, with all students in a circle interacting together, but it can also be used to actively engage distance learners in synchronous discussions.

I am excited to further explore many of these tools, as I think they could improve the overall quality of my course and the work produced by my students. It is important, of course, to lay a solid foundation of content to maximize the use of these tools, but they have the potential to greatly improve engagement and motivation overall.

Work’s Cited

Lepi, K. (2013). The Best Free Education Web Tools Of 2013 | Edudemic. Retrieved from https://www.edudemic.com/best-free-education-tools-2013/

Stevens, K. (2013). Teachers’ Favored Web 2.0 Tools. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/n/2013-08-21-teachers-favored-web-2-0-tools



41 thoughts on “A preliminary look at new tools: Weekly writing 10

  1. Owen

    Nice work. I agree that badges present some interesting opportunities. Usually, I’ve found that badging systems are designed rather poorly for education. The best example I know of is Khan Academy, as you mention. Their system is deep and broad and presents multiple award paths and tracks many interesting and rewardable aspects of student behavior. Well done.

    Possibly one of the best badging systems I’ve run across outside of education circles (and not related to games – game companies like Blizzard and Valve have some excellent badging systems) is the beer drinking app “Untapped”. If anyone occasionally partakes, and is interested in badging systems, I recommend giving it a spin. The app is free and possesses a very robust badging system that can be informative as to what a well designed badging system can achieve.


  2. Alda

    I’m interested in hearing more about your experience with Nearpod. If I read your comment about polls and instant feedback correctly, it sounds like it could potentially be used in place of classroom “clickers” or response pads? I like that it is available on both iPhone and Android.

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