While Flashy New Technology can be fun to Consider, Proven Solutions Should not be Overlooked
The world of EdTech is often focused on flashy gadgets too expensive for school budgets. Or it’s crammed with technology too early in its infancy to be of practical use. For example, virtual reality has the potential to be somewhat revolutionary. But it's still years from delivering affordable benefits in most classrooms. Still, there are other digital tools available to support the basics of teaching. They're so ubiquitous and simple; however, they're often overshadowed by flashier technologies. Yet, they have the power to save you time and money and enhance learning for students and teachers alike. Here are four such technologies and some examples of each.
1. Streaming Videos
Streaming video technology combines the flexibility of remote access and the power of moving images. With streaming video, you can access an all-digital catalog of video and audio. No more shelf space needed to store physical DVDs or VHS cassettes. With streaming, your media is stored online. Space savings, instant access, and free content make streaming video a perfect tool for modern teachers. Tech-savvy instructors subscribe to YouTube edutainment channels like Khan Academy, National Geographic, and Ted-ed. Use the videos on these channels to spark interest in topics and inspire students.
So streaming video is practical, but it’s also a highly effective pedagogical tool. Research shows 70% of people who watch documentaries share what they’ve learned with others. Such data suggests videos pique student interest, create emotional connections, and improve retention. And because streaming video is accessible anywhere, it’s the perfect complement to blended learning strategies. Teachers can assign viewings outside the classroom, leaving more time for discussion.
2. Mobile Apps
Among the limitless titles of mobile apps out there, hundreds exist that can help teachers and students. Mobile apps bring flexibility to students who can access information or complete assignments outside the classroom. And many mobile apps are free to use or have special educational plan pricing. Here are some educational mobile apps to consider trying out next semester.
Google designed its Classroom app as an organizational and communication platform for educators and students. The Classroom app lets teachers manage coursework in a centralized location. They can manage classes online, grade and distribute assignments, and send feedback to students. Like most of Google’s apps, Classroom offers a clean interface, easy navigation, and a functional design. The app is available and free if your school has a G Suite for Education account.
Want to end the hassle of sending and gathering consent forms for your students? The app Classtree streamlines the entire distribution and collection process by taking it online. The app makes communicating with parents secure and easy. Use Classtree to batch invite parents a consent form as a PDF. They’ll be able to e-sign the doc on their phones or email them back within minutes. The app works with or without a smartphone. And it has automatic tracking to let you keep tabs on which students still need permissions.
Learning moments can happen at any time. Teachers encounter articles and videos all the time that are perfect for lesson plans. But these resources usually get lost within the chaos of the day. With the Pocket app, you can store and organize learning resources on-the-go. Save articles, images, and videos from any publication using any device. That Smithsonian Magazine article on the Battle of Gettysburg would be a perfect addition to your unit on the Civil War. With a few pushes of a button, you can add the article to your curated media page and access it later.
Podcasts like Serial or This American Life are wildly popular for their investigations into unsolved crimes and their unique look at American culture. But today's podcasts offer much more than entertainment. Hundreds of them focus on educational topics (e.g., Hidden Brain) or are podcasts dedicated to education itself. Like streaming videos, podcasts are accessible anywhere and anytime. And most shows are ad-driven, so they’re free educational content. And many podcasts, like those produced by NPR, offer high-quality information delivered with the rigor of journalistic standards. Here are a few podcasts you'll want to subscribe to.
Ten-Minute Teacher Podcast
Start off your commute with the Ten-Minute Teacher Podcast — a show made for and by educators. Host Vicki Davis interviews experts from around the world on a variety of topics specific to education. Whether it’s “Using Comics to Teach Chemistry” or “5 Ways to Greet Students,” the Ten-Minute Teacher Podcast will bring you tips, insights, and new angles on how to become a better educator.
The House of #EdTech Podcast
This is a great resource for learning about new apps, programs, and digital tools to help instruction. Host Christopher Nesi examines everyday strategies for incorporating EdTech into your classroom in House of EdTech podcast. Tune in to learn about tools for increasing reading comprehension or how to use digital portfolios. Episodes run around thirty minutes each — perfect for your average commute or lunchtime listen.
4. Online Databases
Educators and students have many more online database options today. Many standard databases (e.g., Ebsco) have opened part of their libraries to the public for free. And there’s always Wikipedia. Some secondary and college-level educators warn students against using the open online encyclopedia. But when used responsibly, Wikipedia a practical tool for locating primary sources. Here are some more scholarly and literary online databases to consider.
Founded in 1971, Project Gutenberg is the oldest digital library in the world. The collection has a searchable library of over 57,00 ebooks, digitized by volunteers, and free to the public. It’s a great resource for language arts teachers who are researching American classics. Here, students can find novels by Mark Twain, Frederick Douglas, and Charlotte Brontë. But Science teachers going over units on evolution can also find Origin of Species by Charles Darwin. There are many ways to use the database to support your instruction.
JURN is a free online database for locating and reading full-text scholarly works in many disciplines. Students can download entire articles from journals in the arts, business, law, medicine, and more.
This research database is a standard at universities and colleges. Such restrictions have traditionally come from the high cost of subscription. But over the years, JSTOR has opened up its catalog of journals to individuals and small groups. And, it now has an open content section filled with public domain articles and free ebooks.