Saturday, September 13, 2014

Frosting Without The Cake

This post is part of the 30-Day Blog Challenge from TeachThought. To learn more about the challenge go to

DAY 13: Name the top edtech tools you use on a consistent basis in the classroom, and rank them in terms of their perceived (by you) effectiveness.

Writing about technology tools in the classroom is not my favorite topic for a blog post. After all, without strong pedagogy, the tools are simply frosting without the cake. And I really don't like frosting on its own; it's way too sweet. But since I have benefitted from reading so many other writers' posts about edtech tools in the past, it's time I give back and contribute to the conversation.

Here is a list of every tech tool my students or I used in the first four weeks of the school year, as well as how often it was used:
  • Schoology (nearly every day)
  • Google Forms (4 days)
  • TED video (1 day)
  • Remind (12 days)
  • YouTube (5 days)
  • Google Docs app, Pages app, and/or Notability app (4 days)
  • Camera app for video (3 days)
  • Padlet (3 days)
  • Weebly (1 day)
  • Nearpod (1 day)
  • Zaption (2 days)
  • Answer Garden (1 day)
  • (every day)
Despite the LMS-bashing that seems to be circulating on my Twitter feed right now, I have to say I love Schoology and I'm not ashamed to admit it! Yes, it's amazing to have everything the student needs for class in one place, but what I love even more is not how it facilitates sharing between me and my students, but how Schoology allows students to share with each other more easily. The discussion feature is flexible enough to be used for sharing all sorts of ideas between students. For example, I recently challenged my Anatomy students to share one question they still had about the kidney in a Schoology discussion, and then search for and post a resource that answered the question so that we could develop a class repository of information about the topic. In Biology, students were able to share lab results with their classmates by uploading videos to Schoology. Students discussed their results in a video and then uploaded the product to a Schoology media album so their classmates could use the results for a final conclusion write-up.

The other high-use tool on this list is If you don't already have an online lesson-planning tool you love, you definitely need to consider this one. For the very reasonable price of $12 per year, you get a nicely-organized planbook with lots of bells and whistles. Here are some of the features about it I love:

- I used to have Post-It notes all over my paper planbook because of all the adjusting to lessons I did every week. With an online planbook, changes are easier to record and less messy.
- It has an iPad app that has all the same features as the desktop version.
- You can link photos and websites into your plans. So if I have a lab set-up I want to make sure to remember for next year, I just snap a photo of it and upload it to that specific day and lesson in Planbook.
- If you are a teacher who shares a week's worth of lessons with students so they can plan ahead, it has an option to create a link for students to view your planbook. But I can still write notes to myself in the planbook that the students can't see.

I expect Weebly use to become more common in my classes as the year progresses. The students just started their Weebly accounts on Friday, but they will be using them on a weekly basis from now on. Weebly will be the platform for their e-portfolios. Because I'm diving into standards-based grading this year, I really wanted to have a way for students to evaluate their own work and only submit their best work to me to be graded. The Weebly accounts are personal websites that will be used by students to share their work. I was able to create my classes after initiating my own account, and then set up each of my students in a class with a username and password. Weebly has been very thoughtful in their planning for teacher oversight of the student websites.  I don't have to allow the websites to be public right away, but I still have access to view all of them.

All of the other tools are used sporadically throughout the week. If you have any questions about how I use these other tools on my list, please let me know!

Photo by Maddie Keating, "One Hundred Eighty Four," from Flickr, licensed via Creative Commons.

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