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10 EdTech Apps that Could Change How You Teach - EdTechist
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Welcome back to another post from the edtechist!

In this post we’re going to look at 10 EdTech apps that teachers use, that could benefit you in your day to day teaching.

There are EdTech apps for teaching and learning, parent-teacher communication apps, lesson planning software, home-tutoring websites, revision blogs, SEN education information, professional development qualifications and more.

There are many companies now creating products for education and all are vying for our attention. It can be difficult to keep up – especially when paired with the time that it takes to plan, mark and fulfil the pastoral duties that teachers have to do, never mind finding time in the day to teach!

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #1: ClassTools.net

 

image showing homepage of ClassTools website

As a specialist in web design, the older look, design and cluttered feel of the site rankles a little, but ClassTools.net more than compensates for this, given the sheer amount of free tools that can be found on this site. There are some really interesting tools on the page that I would really like to use when I can find the time and proper use for them: SMS Generator for ‘fake’ conversations; Medieval Meme/Storyboard generator; Fakebook; and the Image Annotator are all good tools to help make learning a little more interactive.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #2: Wakelet

 

image showing homepage of Wakelet website

Wakelet as an EdTech app is one that I am enjoying getting to know. It’s too much of a simplification to compare it to Pinterest, but if you’ve never heard of it before, that comparison isn’t a bad starting point. The important thing is, that comparison is quickly left behind.

When you login in, the first screen immediately leaves Pinterest behind. There is no sign of the overwhelming screen of collated ‘For You’ information (which isn’t too intuitive – most of it contains recently vieed material, but that doesn’t mean I always want to see it). It gives you a choice of what you want to do:

 

  • Save links from the web;
  • Create collections
  • Organise & collaborate
  • Share with anyone

Wakelet are definitely setting out their position to be a more thoughtful pin-board app, planning, design and emphasis has been put into how we want to organise our digital life and put items into collections, which may be soemthing we share with other teachers, or with our classes. The website actively markets lists; research; portfolios; bookmarks; collaboration; CVs & Resumes – all categories we could find ourselves using in some shape or form.

One of the nicer things about Wakelet is that it’s free to use.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #3: Matific

 

image showing homepage of Matific website

Here’s one for the maths teachers. There is a lot to love about this site as it has been clearly thought out to appeal to teachers.

The site is multi-lingual. An automatic positive for teachers who have pupils who do not have English as their first language. This means pupils can learn in a different language to you – and still learn as you intend, but even more importantly, it allows you to communicate progress and performance with parents. Matific have shown to improve results by 34%; raise engagement by 89% and increase subject interest by 31%.

They do this by a phenomenal blend of pedagogical design to deliver the highest level of mathematical teaching, implementing five principles to create an engaging learning enviornment:

 

  • Conceptual understanding
  • Critical thinking
  • Meaningful context
  • Personalised learning
  • Intrinsic engagement

The site goes into detail to expand and explain how they put these into practice (which I love!).

From an EdTech perspective, Matific use gamified learning but take care to note that they always ensure that the “engaging user experience does not overshadow the pedagogy.”

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #4: Book Creator

 

image showing homepage of Book Creator website

This is an edtech app that I am using for my classes!

Teaching Digital Technology (and for Computing as a subject area in general) I have always been frustrated by the idea of textbooks because the information can change and update before the book is even printed. eBooks changes that, but I also wanted an easy to use (but not too generic) template to create meaningful learning content for pupils.

This helps me to solve the problem of internet source blindness. By this I mean, pupils doing research online and not knowing how to assess whether the source is reputable or reliable. This might be more important at A-Level / Level 3 stage as we lead into Higher Education, it becomes increasingly important. I once had a student submit ‘Stack Overflow’ as a reference to an academic asessment at university level. Stack Overflow is a Q&A type site that IT users ask questions on to get specific answers and is useful, but not as a source to quote in a report for university assessment.

Creating these books can help resolve this issue, by modelling good practice to students in the construction and provision of these books.

Of course – I’m only thinking about one outcome of how we can use this platform. If you create booklets to work through a unit of work, then this can help you create the work in a more ‘visually appealing’ manner. Because they’re online, the books can be much more interactive – embedding video and audio content

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #5: Explain Everything

Explain Everything is one of those apps that I’ve heard the phrase, but only now really getting to grips with what it is and what it can do.

And it can do quite a lot.

The great strength of a lot of these apps is their flexibility to be used across the curriculum. Explain Everything would be equally capable of showing how chemicals mix to create a new element or the stages of a volcano erupting. As this video will be able to show much better than I can describe:

 

https://youtu.be/9NdtlVakUEk

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #6: Education City

 

Education City is a leading online teaching, learning and assessment resource. It started in 1999 and going from strength to strength, now has subscribers in over 70 countries worldwide.

It’s ideal for children aged between 3-12 years old and children with SEN of all ages. EducationCity has engaging and interactive educational resources that cover English, Mathematics, Science, Computing, French, Spanish and English as a second language. It offfers a wide range of content types, lends itself to group and whole-class instruction as well as delivering personalised learning.

As it is a web app, it can be used anytime and anywhere on any internet-connected device, including interactive whiteboards, and also includes many time-saving features for the teacher. As a curriculum-based resource, EducationCity is mapped to UK curricula.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #7: Living Tree

 

Living Tree is a combination of a number of apps that schools will use to communicate with parents. And that is primarily why I’ve chosen it. In my daughter’s primary school, we get our homework (and submit) by Google Classroom. The early years of the school (including Nursery) use SeeSaw. We make payments by SchoolMoney (which I quite like as an app) and then get newsletters by text message. For my elder daughter, we use Google Classroom for homeworks, SIMS for attendance and ParentMail for communication and payments.

But wouldn’t it be great for parents and teachers, if we could use one system for all of this?

That is exactly what Living Tree looks to solve. It was created to improve parental engagement in school life.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #8: Twinkl

 

image showing homepage of EdTech app Twinkl

Confession: Twinkl is a site I’ve never really used myself. That is simply because I teach Digital Technology and turning up with a crossword when my A-Level students are expecting Python programming might cause a few problems for me, but that’s OK because these recommendations are not just for me and my area!

Teacher time is a precious commodity (if it could be traded, it would be worth more than gold, or wood from what I’m hearing at the time of writing!) and so we need to work smart not just hard!

I remember back in when I was in teacher training, a lecturer and I had a ‘professionally-animated-disucssion’ (we’ll leave it there for your imagination, but yes) about generated worksheets. They wanted me to make the content myself and my position was that if someone who knows more than me has created something that meets my needs exactly, then why not use that person’s experience and content? Twinkl didn’t exist during this disucssion, so it’s interesting to see how see how our professional has developed. (As a follow-up, I am not/was not advocating laziness or an “it’ll do” in any way shape or form, but that I should be happy to learn and benefit from more experienced professionals until I am at that point myself and creating my own content from a position of intelligence and professional competence).

But now the job of the teacher has expanded to a point where the classroom activity is being pushed down the list of priorities. So how do we manage our classroom time effectively and maximise our productivity? Twinkl may be the answer for many teachers in many circumstances. Having observed a number of teachers comment on the NI Teachers Collaborate group on Facebook ask about new topic ideas, this would certainly be a helpful place to start, even if only for ideas to contextualise the new topic.

The only genuine criticism I can register with Twinkl is their lack of computing provision for 12-18. I appreciate that getting into the exam classes would be too difficult to implement helpful resources, but certainly at Key Stage 2, this is an area for development.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #9: Canva

 

image showing homepage of EdTech app Canva

Canva is a super app! Available online and on both Android and iOS app stores, it will raise your design game! Using the templates, you can style posters, social media posts, presentations, video content, CVs and other print material to quickly implement high level design with the message you need it to have.

I have used this app for a number of years for various posters and classroom activities. My content always looks high quality, even though I haven’t spent the time to make it that way myself.

There is an increasing aspect to the site that is becoming pro (i.e. paid) but there are still lots of free options to give you the designed product you need.

 

EdTech apps in the Classroom #10: Labster

 

image showing homepage of EdTech app Labster

One for the science nerds! But it’s ok – I’m a nerd too, just in a different department! As you can see in the promotional text in the homepage, Labster is developed by scientists for future scientists, which I tend to think this is a good sign that it’s going to be a good product that the people behind it are proud to put their name to (which is true – the creators of the platform have PhDs in Biotechnology and Learning Science respectively). The product came into existence because of a problem they both saw in their students being demotivated. And so Labster was born! The website explains its methods pretty clearly:

“Labster virtual simulations are based on mathematical algorithms supporting open-ended investigations. Combined with gamification elements such as an immersive 3D interactive learning environment, engaging storytelling and a scoring system the simulations pique students’ natural curiosity and highlight the connection between science and the real world. Apart from the full-length simulations, Labster provides additional learning content, such as short-form simulations, a library of science animations and lab supplements.”

Once again the aspect of gamification is being used to help pupils learn by recreating real world experiences and allowing them to make choices in a way that does not have a real world consequence (one of the simluations is about acids and bases and how you should avoid falling into a lake of acid – which we’d be keen for students to avoid doing as a matter of principle.)

There is a resources area, so even if you choose to not use the platform there are still ways you can learn and implement new teaching into your curriculum!

 

Bonus EdTech app: Video creation: Filmora & OpenShot

Filmora is a Windows 10 edtech app that I have started using to create video content for my students, for CPD courses I am developing and for the EdTechist!

 

image showing homepage of EdTech app Filmora

I find the app really simple to use. It is much more friendly than Adobe Premiere Pro, but I am undecided whether I prefer it to OpenShot! OpenShot is really simple to use – drag and drop interface, that is really hard to not pick up within the first 30 minutes.

Filmora has an educational programme, where you fill in the form and once they verify your identity as a teacher, you get 50% off the purchase price which works out to be about £52.

OpenShot is completely free – so if you budget is £0, then your choice here is really easy and you won’t be disappointed. If you objective is to create a simple video, then OpenShot will do that. If you want an app that is much more polished, comes with a marketplace with effects, video, audio or images that can be purchased, taken as part of a subscription service or may be free.

 

image showing homepage of EdTech app OpenShot

 

Concluding thoughts for Using EdTech apps in the Classroom

There are lots of edtech apps competing for our attention. Some of them aren’t specifically EdTech, but their usage can be focused on educational goals. Some may be useful, others may be too time consuming or unwieldy to get a return on our time investment.

While I will certainly want every teacher to be making the best possible use of as much edtech as possible – it’s very much a case of quality, not quantity.

If there is an edtech app on this list that you like the look of, use it and gain competence and confidence in using that app, then move onto the next one. In this way, our confidence and classroom practice will improve.

To put another way, it’s better to do the simple things right, than mess up on the fancy things. We’re all teachers who want to do the best they can in the classroom for our pupils. If one of these tools helps us make a break-through with our learners, then it has to be a good thing!

Thanks for stopping by and if you have an app that you love using, then let me know in the comments!

MJ.

 

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