19 Free and Helpful Ed Tech Tools You Should Try this Year
Technology. A lot of teachers have a love/hate relationship with it. At its best, it can grab our students’ attention, help them learn, and make our job easier. At its worst, it can be costly and a distraction from learning…sometimes we can’t even get it to work at all.
Since the pandemic shut down schools across the country over two years ago, there has been a boom in the creation of educational technology products, as many schools embraced some form of asynchronous learning. In fact, according to EdSurge, in 2019-2020 $1.3 billion dollars was invested in the US edtech industry.
But as I said at the start, not all of the new products coming out of this tech boom are created equal. When it comes to an edtech product, teachers need it to
- Make an impact on student learning and engagement
- Be flexible and easy to use
- Be cost-effective
With these three criteria in mind, I have been on the hunt for some of the best edtech available right now. I’ve asked colleagues, listened to podcasts, and read numerous articles in my search. I did not focus on larger tech products, such as big learning management systems, since those types of products are often purchased at the school or district-level. I also ruled out products that were only available on one platform (Apple iOS for example), since that doesn’t allow the flexibility many teachers need. I instead focused as much as possible on highly rated and recommended, free products that teachers could use no matter their grade level or subject area specialty.
As you start the new school year, I hope there is a tool on this list that can help make your teacher workday easier or make learning fun in your classroom, since this is what the best technology should do for us.
For teachers who want to plan online, not using pen and paper….
Check out Planboard. This free digital planner allows teachers to create a daily or weekly lesson planner for different types of schedules. You can import video and other resources into a lesson and then export the lesson right to Google Classroom.
For teachers who want to more easily provide and track feedback…
Floop allows the student to upload an assignment (even just an image of a worksheet) and then allows the teacher to add feedback onto the assignment and send it back to them. It also has features for students to peer and self-assess and tracks everything for the teacher so they have real-time data about how students are doing.
Mote is a Google Chrome extension that allows teachers to leave audio comments in a Google Doc, Slides or Sheet. I have been using Mote to provide feedback on student writing for the past year and have seen how well it works for many of my students. They are much more likely to understand and take action on my comments when they can hear my voice.
For teachers who want to spice up review…
If you are getting bored with Kahoot!, then it’s time for you to check out Gimkit (for secondary) or Blooket (for elementary). As it says on Gimkit’s site, these products really do take review to the next level. There are multiple game options and different modes for each game, such as whole class or small group or individual. The Floor is Lava! Humans vs. Zombies! There is a lot of fun to be had in Gimkit, just be warned that some of the games can take longer than expected and can be a real challenge. Blooket provides lots of different, cute animal “Blooks” for kids to unlock as they learn.
For teachers who want to up their slideshow game…
I have been using SlidesCarnival for years for Google Slides and PowerPoint templates, but I recently learned about SlidesGo. It has many more educational templates, and I especially love the choice board, online notebook, vocabulary workshop, and weekly checklist templates.
For teachers who want to leave the classroom, without leaving the classroom…
In the wake of the pandemic, taking a field trip is harder to coordinate than ever before, especially with bus driver shortages in many states. Luckily, Google Arts & Culture is constantly expanding its free virtual tours. Take your students to the Colosseum in Rome or to the deep sea! VR headsets are not needed, and there are even lesson plans already created for many of the virtual field trips.
For teachers who want students to create digital portfolios…
As more districts across the country are embracing standards-based and mastery-based grading systems, there is a need for students to create portfolios of their work to document their learning. This can obviously be done the old-fashioned way with paper and a binder, but there are also some simple, free tools that allow students to build portfolios digitally. Bulb is an app that is specifically designed for digital portfolios. Students and adults alike can create collections and pages to highlight different projects or experiences. Things like videos, images, etc. can easily be added to these pages and then the parts of or the whole portfolio can be shared.
Wakelet is a Pinterest-like app that allows users to create collections of all different digital items (images, YouTube videos, Flipgrids, etc). I use it in my classroom for more than just portfolios; it is a great research tool and can be used to create class playlists, to curate exemplars, or to share resources to build background knowledge.
For teachers who want to make their workday more efficient in general…
There are lots of great Google extensions out there that can make doing all sorts of things easier throughout the day. There are the tried and true Screencastify for screencasting and Read&Write for text-to-speech or speech-to-text, but there also are a few new extensions that have quickly become favorites, and now I and my colleagues seriously can’t live without them!
Dualless allows me to quickly split my screen, since I don’t have the luxury of multiple monitors. I especially love this for entering grades. QR Code Generator allows me to turn any URL into a QR code so my students or parents don’t end up at the wrong website (great on a syllabus). Smallpdf allows me to edit pdf’s without expensive Adobe Acrobat. Finally, MyBib allows me and my students to quickly cite any website we use with the click of a mouse, because in our digital age, academic honesty is more important than ever!
Other Helpful Edtech Resources Worth Mentioning
Cult of Pedagogy Ed Tech Tools Guide – this guide is published every year to help schools and teachers find great edtech products.