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Tech Tools

August 6, 2015

What’s in Your Toolbox?

It’s officially August, which means it’s time to dust off your technology toolbox and think ahead to the coming year!toolbox-tech

Research suggests that properly used technology can enhance student learning by creating opportunities for increased engagement and collaboration, allowing for more creativity and differentiated pacing, and expanding the learning environment beyond the four walls of your classroom. But how do you know what tool is right for you?

Having the right tool for the job is essential in every field, no more so than in education. With so many new products and updates coming out every day, however, knowing what tools are available can be a full time job, making it nearly impossible once the school year starts. That makes summer the perfect time to get ahead! Whether you’re an app authority, or a technology tyro, your toolbox can always use some new inspiration.

Enter the BetterLesson Master Teachers. These talented educators from across the country pepper their lessons with some of the best, most high-leverage technology available. All their lessons and the accompanying resources are available for free on the BetterLesson site! The lessons linked below highlight tried-and-true tools that can enhance great lessons to make them truly spectacular.


Suggestions for formative assessment:

Socrative: This web-based student response platform allows students to submit answers to your quizzes on any web-enabled device. Multiple choice questions are graded instantly and you can track student progress in real time through the teacher dashboard.

In this lesson, SiriNam Khalsa uses Socrative to conduct an open-book quiz in this 9th grade ELA lesson.

Kahoot!:  Kahoot! takes rigorous, game-based formative assessment to a new level of student engagement and excitement.

Mariana Garcia Serrato uses Kahoot! to conduct a review game in her 7th grade science class.

Watch Daniel Guerrero reflect on why he uses Kahoot! with his 5th grade math students.

Poll Everywhere: This web-based response system is great for anonymous polling or feedback, for when you don’t need a student name tied to an answer. Present responses in a graph, as text, or even a snazzy word cloud.

Devon O’Brien uses Poll Everywhere to hook her 8th grade ELA students into the lesson.

Suggestions for teacher workflow and classroom management: Not only a plagiarism checker, Turnitin offers a simplified way to collect, grade, and give feedback on student work.

In this lesson, 11th grade ELA teacher, Cassy McCoy Carey uses Turnitin as a teaching tool to help her students learn about proper citation and even grammar. Extend your class beyond the confines of the school day with this social networking platform. You and your students can share ideas and work through problems in a safe and secure online space.

See how Christa Lemily gets her 8th grade math students talking about math at home.

Gooru: This online platform allows you to create collections of multimedia resources (video, audio, websites, documents quizzes, etc) for your students to access in or out of class.

Watch Johanna Paraiso discuss the benefits of a Gooru collection.

ClassDojo: This powerful classroom management tool is quick to set up and enables teachers to reinforce and encourage positive behavior in the classroom, and communicate with families.

See how Jennifer Martinez uses ClassDojo with her 3rd grade ELA class.

Classcraft: An educational role-playing game, Classcraft aims to supplement classroom learning by encouraging teamwork and increasing student motivation. This is a great option for older students.

Read Jessica Anderson’s explanation of this classroom management strategy.


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Technology is wonderful in the hands of a skilled teacher, but its real game-changing potential comes when placed in the hands of students. As a teacher, you don’t have to be an expert, you just have to create the opportunity. A well-designed, rigorous assignment, like those below will provide the impetus for your students to truly amaze you.

Jessica Anderson’s use of Flipboard in her Genius Hour is an excellent example of students taking their learning into their own hands and creating something truly impressive.

Suggestions for student writing:

Google Docs: Google has transformed the way the teachers and students collaborate on writing, allowing for more in-depth feedback, faster turnaround, and genuine editing.

In this lesson, 4th grade math teacher, Mary Ellen Kanthack shows how Google Docs can be used to help students write about math.

Watch Johanna Paraiso’s students use the collaborative power of Google Docs to take notes in a 12th grade ELA class.

Blogger: Blogging is a great way to get student writing out of the classroom and into the real world, helping them to see more purpose in their writing and write for a different audience.

Blogger is a preferred platform for several Master Teachers, including 12th grade ELA teacher, Richard Jones who outlines his process for setting up blogs in this lesson.

Suggestions for student presentations:

Prezi: Prezi is a web-based presentation tool that upends the notion of a PowerPoint-like, linear progression through slides. Instead, slides are organized visually on a canvas, allowing students to zoom and pan to emphasize their ideas.

In this lesson, Andrea Praught shows that with deliberate scaffolding, it is possible to have even 2nd grade students create Prezis!

Haiku Deck: This free app uses artificial intelligence to instantly transform your students’ ideas into a visually appealing presentation, making it an especially great option for short-term projects.

In this lesson, 4th grade science teacher, Mary Ellen Kanthack has her students make Haiku Decks from the photos they take on their museum field trip.

Google Slides: Like Google Docs, Google Slides can be shared by several students, allowing them to collaborate simultaneously on the same presentation. Text, shapes, images, and videos are all easy to add and edit, making Google Slides a favorite of Master Teachers.

Nicole Prejna has her 3rd grade ELA students use Google Slides to create and present digital biographies.

Suggestions for student video creation:

GoAnimate: This easy to use, web-based animation platform lets students create videos complete with voiceovers, music, and moving characters.

Monica Brown has her 4th grade ELA students use GoAnimate to create videos about dress code.

Microsoft Movie Maker: This windows-based program (or iMovie, the Mac alternative), is powerful, yet easy to use. Students can edit together photos and videos shot with a cell phone, and set them to voiceovers or music to create rich video.

Deborah Gaff’s 7th grade science students make claymation style, stop motion videos showing the many stages of mitosis.

Suggestions for content practice:

Khan Academy: Khan Academy provides an online platform to give math students the opportunity to practice and master skills. Students receive instant feedback, and can ask for help when they need it. All student data is compiled into a single teacher dashboard, making it easy for you to monitor individual student progress.

Rhonda Leichliter uses Khan Academy to help scaffold her Algebra I lesson on systems of equations, while Shaun Errichiello uses it to differentiate learning opportunities for his 8th grade math students.

NoRedInk: This web-based platform is the ELA answer to Khan. Students gain rigorous practice with grammar by correcting sentences to work toward mastery of a particular rule.

Cassy McCoy Carey uses NoRedInk to enhance her Amazing Grammar Race lesson.


As with anything, it is important to diversify your repertoire of technology tools so that you always have the right tool for the job.

If you are interested in moving to a blended teaching model, BetterLesson can help! We offer an entire program – from concept design, to implementation, and ongoing support –  through our TeachCycle process.

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