Updated: Mar 29
Imagine opening an email and squealing with delight! This was me when I received an email from Zoe from The Social Institute a few months ago. If you aren't familiar with The Social Institute (TSI), I hope that you will take a moment and check out their website: https://thesocialinstitute.com/. The Social Institute is a gamified platform that encourages a positive approach when working with students to navigate the online world (in particular, social media and technology) in safe, responsible, and meaningful ways. They are all about a positive approach to engaging students to use social media and technology for good, instead of just using fear tactics. This aligns so much with my DigCit philosophy! In her email, Zoe asked me if I would be willing to come on a national webinar with Laura Tierney, the founder of TSI, and talk about how EdTech can help revolutionize learning for students. Needless to say, I was thrilled!
Throughout the webinar, Laura asked me a series of thoughtful and thought-provoking questions. I love how we covered everything from Student Data Privacy (Ask Before you App!) to improving and increasing accessibility for our unique and diverse learners through EdTech. I was thrilled to discuss many ways that we can reimagine our current use of EdTech through the #TryOneNewThingChallenge that Karalee and I have launched for our book (Bring History and Civics to Life).
One of the final questions was about my favorite EdTech tools to use in the classroom. This was SUCH a hard question! When I provide professional development sessions for districts, this question usually gets a lot of laughs due to the fact that I say every app/tool is my fave. I do mean this, but mostly in that the app/tool is my favorite for a particular learning goal or outcome. There is no such thing as a perfect EdTech tool. It is always the teacher and how they use EdTech for student learning outcomes that will be the driving force as to how students are able to use it to access meaningful learning. However, I chose four EdTech tools to highlight in our TSI webinar and here they are for you now. Drumroll, please!! *Please note-I am not paid or endorsed by any of these companies, I just truly believe in their products. There are many more (check out the resources from SpringCUE 2023: 7 EdTech Tools to Bring Learning to Life)! And, as always, check with your IT department before using a new app/tool with students.
#1: Nearpod! I think of Nearpod as a learning ecosphere with interactive presentations, gamification of learning, formative and summative checks for understanding and assessments, and more! Presentations for learning can be teacher directed or self-paced for student access and personalization of learning. I can take any Google Slide Presentation and use the Google Add-On to "Nearpodize" the slides to add in interactivities such as collaboration boards, videos, drag-and-drop templates, and the list goes on and on! New updates have improved the Teacher Dashboard that allows for real-time interactions and reviews of student learning to check for understanding. I am often asked if I prefer Nearpod to Peardeck and to be fair, I can't speak to Peardeck as well. I know that they are similar products, but with the collaborations that Nearpod has with Common Sense Education, Freckle, PBS Kids, and more (there is even a collab with OER OpenStacks for Higher Ed!), I have to say that Nearpod is extremely robust with ready-made, trusted content that teachers can modify and implement with students right away. I use Nearpod all the time with learners of all ages, in Professional Development and Conference presentations, too!
#2 Quizizz! I think of Quizizz as the ultimate in gamification for assessments-both formative and summative. The magic truly comes from the robust data on student learning that is collected for the teacher-IN REAL TIME! I can see detailed data through the Live Dashboard for the class as they are engaging in the quiz, as well as individually for students. Plus, there are thousands of quizzes to use, alter, modify...as well as write or import your own. It is truly teacher-help-teacher as the quizzes are crowd-sourced (if someone is willing to share) and copies can be made and updated to meet curricular needs to check for student understanding. Quizizz can be assigned as homework, open for retakes, group assignments, and more. My students love the music, the redemption questions, and everything that helps bring anxiety over taking assessments down.
#3 Flip! The saying goes "If you can think it, you can flip it!" Flip is a short-form video platform that truly changed my teaching! Once I was able to reimagine how my students could access and demonstrate their learning, Flip (formerly Flipgrid) became the EdTech tool for me! I was able to hear from all of my students, even the shy ones! There are so many amazing lessons that are created and shared on Flip's Discovery Library, that I highly recommend that you check it out! The lessons are searchable by age, subject, grade, and more. Flip also has content partners such as Wonderopolis, The Met, Minecraft, Made by Dyslexia, Langston League, Anti-Defamation League, and more.
#4 Mentimeter! I use Mentimeter weekly with my university students. We use it for SEL check-ins (yes, adults need them too!), collaboration boards, wordclouds, checking for understanding, polls, spinner wheel, and more. I truly love how easy it is to create student engagement and interactivity. Plus, with QR codes, links, and codes, Mentimeter makes it easy and accessible for anyone to join a session. There are also ready-made templates for educators in all different content areas. I use the free version and I have found that it is more than robust enough to engage any audience (even professional development with teachers!)
I want to send a HUGE and heartfelt thank you to Laura, Zoe, and the team at The Social Institute for asking me to be a guest and share my passion for student learning through EdTech. You can find the full webinar here: (https://thesocialinstitute.com/webinar/revolutionizing-the-classroom-harnessing-the-power-of-ed-tech-to-help-students-thrive/) and be sure to check out The Social Institute!
Until next time,
*Image credits: All images/logos used are proprietary to the companies that I am highlighting in this article. The GIF is courtesy of GIPHY. The image of Laura Tierney and Laurel was taken during the course of the TSI webinar.