One of the things that I love about teaching is the never-ending opportunity to try new things and to work towards finding better ways to help the students that we work with. For those of you that know me, you know that integrating technology with my practice in the classroom is something that I am excited about. I wanted to take a little bit of time tonight to talk about those online tools that I have tried in the last while. Some of the things that I will mention are definitely keepers. Othersare things that I have not tried much yet, but am excited about trying. Click the title for a link to the website for each.
My class gets a lot of use out of Google Apps. I kind of consider it our home base. It is my fallback for anything related to word processing, spreadsheets and presentations. I have used Google Forms a little bit and am excited by the possibility for easily creating surveys and collecting feedback from students, but it is not something I have a lot of experience yet. My fifth grade students were really quick to catch on to how to log on and use the apps and really need very little in the way of technical support from me to be independent. I find it so far relatively east to administer and, like pretty much everything on this list, it is free. (Yay for free!)
Google Classroom is another useful (and free) service from my friends at Google. It allows me to create a document and easily distribute a copy of that document to each student in my class. They can then work on the document on their own and submit it to me. I would use it even more if each of my students had access to a computer in the classroom all the time. Unfortunately this is not the case, but I use Google Classroom to distribute templates that I want my students to work on or frames for writing or note taking that I would like them to have access to.
I have talked about Freshgrade a little bit in previous posts, but it is another service that gets a lot of use in my classroom. It allows me to create an online portfolio and gradebook for each student that is instantly shared with their parents. I, or the students can upload files, pictures, comments or video. The site can create reports, and while I know some teachers have used this feature, I have not tried it yet. If there was one new tool I recommend someone learning more about, this would be it.
Nearpod is one that definitely falls into the category of things I have not tried yet, but I am excited to try. It allows you to create presentations that are cast to students when they open an app on a phone or a tablet. It allows students to follow along, but also incorporates interactive elements such as poll questions, videos or a cool feature where students can draw to provide feedback. It allows teachers to see student responses immediately and would be an awesome way for a teacher to get quick, formative feedback from students. I am looking forward to giving this a try once all of my students have an iPad in their hand at the same time.
Kidblog is a site that I have talked about before, but I will go through again. It is a site that allows you to provide all of your students with a blog, which then feeds into a class blog. I am able to moderate both the posts and the comments that students make to one another. I have set the blog so that only other members of our class can see it, but still we have almost 25000 hits over the last two years. I have seen an improvement in the writing of many of the students as they feel they have an audience.
I have always found it difficult to share web addresses that I want students to access. I find that either it takes them a long time for them to type it in or they make some kind of typo that takes away from their time on the site. Symbaloo is a way for someone to share bookmarks to websites that you want your students to see and it looks really easy. I haven’t tried it yet, but I think I will be looking into it soon.
Scratch is a visual programming language designed for kids by the good people at MIT. It is an easy way for kids to get into coding and the kids can make some pretty cool things. I have had students make their own versions of Pong and Pacman and have tried their hand at creating a side scroller kind of like Mario. The site has some excellent tutorials that you can see side by side with the area where you can do your coding. I think it really does help students to develop logical thinking, as they try to figure out how to get their program to do what they want it to do.
As I have written this post I have realized just how many web based tools that I have tried with my students over the last couple of years. I find it exciting. Let me know if there is anything out there that I really have to try that you are having success with. Also, if you want to try any of these tools and need some support, let me know and I will see if I can help you out.