In human history, there have been three great technological revolutions: the agricultural revolution, the industrial revolution, and the one we are in now– the software revolution. As Marc Andreesen stated in 2011 in The Wall Street Journal, software is eating the world, and the advent of education technology is a direct result.
Since technology emerged, thousands of educators have tried to enhance education with it. The problem is “education and technology have a dysfunctional relationship,” according to Julian Miller, current CEO & co-founder of Learnmetrics Miller is a former teacher and knows firsthand of the struggles and opportunities education technology presents.
“It could be used as infrastructure to power a world-class education for every student. What we see instead are digital versions of tools that weren’t working when they were analog.”
There is an upside, though. Miller states that there is still a lot of untapped potential. Andrew Rowden, CEO & co-founder of Classkick and another former teacher agrees: “We are just barely scratching the surface’.
Before digging into the education technology teachers can use to improve learning in the classroom, let’s take a quick dive into how we can inspire more educators.
First, it’s important to show that it works. Stacey Roshan, an AP calculus teacher at Bullis School, struggled for years with keeping her students engaged and motivated in what is typically considered a difficult course.
In an effort to overcome some of these hurdle, she decided to apply an innovative method called classroom flipping. By combining video presentations with lectures recorded in Camtasia Studio and iTunes, she was able to change her method of instruction.
The results: students with the new method scored an average of 4.11 on the AP calculus test, compared to the 3.59 average scored by students with the regular learning method. What’s more impressive is that a third of her student (a 10% increase from the previous year) scored a 5, the highest score possible.
The second thing to consider is simplifying a teacher’s access to technology, making it easier for them to apply software in the classroom. “Teachers are among the most dedicated, resourceful people out there,” Miller said. “We should build tools that improve their ability to reach their students as individuals and fit into their workflow.”
Rowden, on the other hand, is a bit more cautious. He isn’t interested in inspiring teachers to use education technology just for the sake of it. In the past, it hasn’t worked. He believes in providing software for teachers that are already looking for ways to involve tech in learning. As he says: “The main thing in teaching is effectiveness, even if it’s with a blackboard and some chalk.”
Two Great Education Technology Tools
There are numerous tools out there for educators, but as we said before, there are plenty of digital versions of tools that weren’t working when they were analog. Andrew Rowden believes that it “is very rare that you see a product that demonstrably increases student knowledge, yet has the potential to work at scale.” What we want to show you are tools that have the potential to really, truly improve student learning in the classroom.
Organizing your classroom with Learnmetrics
Learnmetrics is a software tool that allows schools to aggregate, analyze, and act according to data. By providing a beautiful dashboard, it shows teachers important information like 360° profiles of students, or the status of particular performance indicators.
In other words, Learnmetrics is like your personal assistant: it keeps an eye on everything happening in your classroom, in the moment, and on one screen. It takes time away from administrative tasks, and it increases your capacity (and available time) for reaching your students.
Getting feedback with Classkick
According to the Education Endowment Foundation, giving students feedback is the one of the most effective ways to improve and increase student learning. Based on that, Rowden founded Classkick, a digital tool that allows students to work on their assignments on iPads while teachers observe everyone’s progress at the same time, interacting individually with students and providing personalized feedback.
We believe there is potential in Classkick because it’s extremely easy for teachers to use, it encourages feedback, and it’s relatively easy to scale up, particularly in a 1:1 classroom environment.
Our Favorite Education Technology Tools
Apart from these 2 software tools, teachers can benefit from other simpler platforms that make tasks easier for learners. I reached out on Twitter for some suggestions and was overwhelmed with the results!
Here’s what I heard from fellow educators:
- LiveSchool: LiveSchool is a teacher-friendly app for tracking behavior that allows for and encourages student and parent feedback. It also has built-in tools for a school store and other engaging incentive systems.
- ClassDojo: Like LiveSchool, Class Dojo is an online behavior management system intended to foster positive student behaviors and classroom culture. Students can earn ‘points’ based on their classroom conduct. Teachers use Class Dojo to keep parents up to date on student progress and classroom happenings. Class Dojo is completely free for users.
- Remind: Remind is a tool that offers two-way messaging between teachers and parents/students without involving the exchange of phone numbers. The system allows teachers to send messages by logging onto the Remind website, or by using the iPhone or Android app. Messages can be sent immediately or scheduled for later delivery.
- Quizizz & Kahoot: Quizizz and Kahoot are a free student-response tools that allow teachers to run game-like multiple-choice answer quizzes in real time.
- In Kahoot, questions and answer choices are projected onto a classroom screen while students submit responses using a personal device. Students’ devices display color and symbol choices only; the actual answers must be viewed on the classroom screen.
- Quizizz takes a different approach. Players see questions and answer options on their own screens, and the question order is randomized for each student, so it’s not easy for players to cheat. With Quizizz, players don’t have to wait for the whole class to answer a question before they continue to the next one.
- Weebly: If you are looking to create a classroom website with a free website builder, take a look at Weebly. It’s ad-free, full of customization options, and super easy to use. Its drag-and-drop interface is ideal for busy teachers, and you can create student accounts that you moderate from a central dashboard.
- Flocabulary: Flocabulary is a company that creates educational hip-hop songs, videos and additional materials for students. The company takes a non-traditional approach to teaching vocabulary, United States history, math, science and other subjects by integrating content into recorded raps. Flocabulary’s website features videos, lesson plans, activities and assessments.
- BrainPop: BrainPop is a group of educational websites with a ton of short animated movies and quizzes for students that cover a wide variety of topics. BrainPop is used in more than 20% of U.S. schools and offers subscriptions for families and homeschoolers. BrainPop is available by subscription but has some free content, including a movie of the day, several free movies from each topic area, educators’ materials, and games. The videos and other materials are aligned to state education standards.
- Green Screen: Green Screen by Do Ink allows students (and teacher) to create green screen videos and images on an iPad. The app lets you combine photos and videos from the camera roll with live images from your iPad’s camera. This app emphasizes ease-of-use and simplicity while still enabling you to get fantastic results.
- Notability: Notability is the note-taking tool for iPad, iPhone and Mac that has a simple, ‘paper-like’ interface. Its integration with services lie Google Drive, Dropbox, and iCloud makes it remarkably versatile in the classroom. Notability is a great tool for teachers and students looking to explore a flipped classroom model, go paperless, or do more with digital markup of essays and homework.
- NewsELA: NewsELA builds reading comprehension through leveled articles, real-time assessments and actionable insights. It encourages student engagement with primary sources and articles from world-class news publications, and it enables classes to read together because Newsela adapts to each student’s reading level. I used it in my gifted ELA classroom, and my kids enjoyed being able to digest texts at their own pace.
- Epic!: Epic! is the world’s leading online children’s subscription book service. With thousands of high-quality books for children ages 12 and under and partnerships with leading publishers, Epic! bring age-appropriate, award-winning fiction and non-fiction books to kids with ease. Maybe the most surprising part is that it’s 100% free for teachers and librarians in the US and Canada.
- Google Drive & Docs: Writing essays on paper and grading them one by one is an outdated method. Google Docs is a great way for students to work on assignments and for teachers to give feedback , while Google Drive is the perfect storage solution in the cloud – files can be accessed from school, home, or while traveling.
- Google Hangouts: Apart from giving feedback on a specific paper in Google Docs, students can benefit from quick one-on-one meetings. Google Hangouts is the perfect tool to do a 10-minute call with a teacher to clarify any doubts.
- Slack: Building a community and having constant debates on important subjects is a great way to engage students and improve learning. Slack, the new team communication tool is a great way for students and teachers to collaborate and discuss.
- Camtasia/Screenflow/Educreations: On certain occasions, teachers may want to provide supplemental information to their lectures, or they may want to try out a flipped classroom. A great way of doing this is by creating video recordings of the educator’s screen while solving a difficult problem or explaining a PowerPoint presentation. This is the method used by Stacey Roshan in her study.
This post was originally written by Gonzalo on March 18, 2015. It has been updated to reflect changes in tools and style.