Friday, February 20, 2015

My Top 5 Favorite Tools

I decided it's about time to share some of my favorite tools to use with students. Here is a short list and a short description of each tool. These are in no particular order, they are just my go-to tools.

This tool has easily transformed my classroom into a blended environment. I teach my students to use the tool, and we use it often enough that it becomes second nature. When the occasional day arrives that I am not in school, Google Classroom can sort of fill my shoes for the day and keep the lessons running smooth. It also works great if you are at a conference and will have time to log in and interact with students, teaching remotely is very helpful.

I use this two on two different levels. I publish documents for my students, and they will use it to publish documents to share with the class or with me. If you are unfamiliar with the tool, it offers a free account, with some limitations, but the user can upload documents to share. I have used this to upload private ebooks and share experts with my students. Just like if I were to photocopy the pages. I upload the selection pulled from my kindle and share it here with students. There are options to make the document public, private, download-able, or read only. I usually set my documents to private, and read only to share with students. I feel this helps to protect some copyright boundaries. Again, it is similar to a photo copy. However the interface provides a nice on screen reader that feels like the physical document.

Here is a sample of a reading I borrowed from CK-12 for my Earth Science Students. The original document can be found here. However, this interface is a bit more engaging for students.

On the student side of this tool, I have had them take their lab reports typed in Google docs and upload them to ISSUU to share with the class for a peer review session. Many times I have lab activities where students are posed with the same scientific problem, but there are various solutions. It is nice to have them share their publications like real scientists.

I know, it's an oldie, but it is still a better way to break up that linear slide show. I like to have students use this tool to create interactive info-graphics. Recently, students made a Star Life Cycle diagram with prezi that follows a specific star type through nuclear fusion all the way until it's "death."

I've also used prezi to create the rock cycle, plate boundary models, fault type models, and we have used it as a presentation tool. It helps to limit the amount of reading a student will try and do, during a presentation. Prezi forces you to be concise.


This is a handy note taking, to-do list tool. At my school students are allowed to "BYOD" (bring your own device). This is a nice app for students to quickly take a note when we are out in the field, quickly jot down a homework assignment, or a resource. It is accessible across your Google account and has a simple interface. It's just a nice simple note-taking tool with some simple bells and whistles.

Google Docs
If you don't know by now....But, just by chance you haven't heard; Google Docs is a cloud word processing tool that easily allows for collaboration of work, organizing documents, and accessing documents across devices. With the addition of add-ons the tools has become so much more powerful, and it goes hand-in-hand with Google Classroom. The new Speech Recognition add-on is awesome for note taking during teacher meetings. It's a bit clunky, but it gets the gist.

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