by Fred Decker
Technology may act as a power tool to reinforce a user's intelligence and creativity in different areas. That's especially true in education, where tech-savvy teachers can call on a range of innovative apps to help them – and the kids in their classes – be more productive. Many work across multiple platforms, from the newest tablets to the oldest computers, so even schools with sharp budget constraints can gear up for great.
The aptly named Explain Everything enables teachers to quickly create interactive, animated, annotated tutorials and presentations in a range of document formats. You can draw or add text on anything, even import videos, to make them more interesting or call attention to points of interest. You can incorporate voice notes, music, drawings or live Web pages whenever or wherever you see fit. With a bit of imagination, Explain Everything can help bring any subject matter to vivid, kid-friendly life. You can use it as a feedback and evaluation tool too. If you want to know how well your class absorbed a lesson, challenge them to explain key points back to you and the class in an Explain Everything presentation.
A martial arts dojo is only partly about imparting skills. Much of the instruction revolves, instead, around discipline and appropriate behaviors. The same holds true for a regular classroom, where juggling instruction and behavior management can sometimes take far too much of a teacher's time. Classroom Dojo is designed to change all that. The cross-platform app makes praise or correction as easy as a Facebook “like”, and you as the teacher can choose which behaviors you wish to comment on. The audible feedback provides immediate accountability inside the classroom – kids get a tone to tell them when they're doing well or badly – and teachers can choose to keep parents in the loop as well.
No more hand-outs, crammed into backpacks and lost. No more assignments dropped in puddles. No more "notes home" carefully concealed from parents. Welcome to the new world of classroom communication, with Remind. Formerly known as Remind101, it's a simple tool for three-way communication among teachers, students and parents. After the class is set up, you can message students by text or email without revealing your personal phone number or email address. You can use the system to issue homework assignments, classwide reminders or notes to specific parents. Students can ask questions or request help, and parents can do the same.
Regular, consistent testing is one of the most useful ways to gauge how well your students are absorbing their lessons, but creating and grading quizzes can be a massive time sink. That's why Socrative is so useful. Greek philosopher Socrates was famed for his skillful use of questions as a teaching tool, and Socrative is built on the same principle. It shows you the results in real time as your students answer questions in their interactive learning materials. Results are viewable question by question, student by student, or for the class as a whole. That helps you identify areas where individual students or larger groups are struggling, so you can adjust your lesson plan accordingly.
At the end of the day, education is all about organizing and presenting information effectively. Lots of apps are good at the presenting part of that equation, but the organizational side has relatively fewer tools. One of the most interesting and useful is Trello, a general-purpose project management tool rather than an explicitly educational program. Its interface resembles a mashup of traditional to-do lists and social site Pinterest, using a combination of boards and cards to organize work flow. Anything you plan to use in the classroom, from newspaper stories to test questions to YouTube videos, can become a card. Trello is intended as a collaborative tool, so you can easily brainstorm with other teachers or with your students to create new, engaging lessons.
References & Resources
About the Author
With a background in technology, business and personal finance, and B2B sales, Fred Decker has over eight years of experience writing on a broad range of business topics. He’s been featured in top publications including the Houston Chronicle.