A Holiday Gift to Teachers: My Top 10 List of Free Educational Technology Tools
Many educators are intrigued by the use of educational technology in their classrooms and with their students. They want to move past the productivity stage to the point of truly enhancing their own teaching and their students’ learning through educational tools. However, there are so many tools available that many teachers feel overwhelmed. Additionally, educational technology tools sometimes require downloads or access to hardware and software licenses that the school may not have.
After over a decade of working with teachers to improve their ability to infuse technology into the curriculum, here is my Top 10 list of free educational technology tools for 2014-2015. To make the cut, each tool had to meet the following criteria:
- Is the tool completely free or have at least a free account that is robust enough to make it worth my while?
- Is the tool web-based as well as available on at least one type of mobile device?
- Does the tool allow me to create a product that would support teaching or learning?
- Is there a version of the tool that supports teachers and students?
Let’s take a look at the Top 10. I have broken them down into two types: teacher tools and student tools. However, most of these tools could be used interchangeably.
1. Nearpod – http://www.nearpod.com
Nearpod is an exciting way to create interactive lessons. While you are teaching students about a particular skill or standard, you can give students quizzes, surveys, drawing activities, and more. As the teacher, you can view all of your students’ progress and even see reports. To sign up, go to http://www.nearpod.com/signup/ and choose the free educator plan. This tool might become your go-to method for teaching anything and making sure the students are truly involved in their learning.
2. Typeform – http://www.typeform.com
Typeform allows you to create beautiful surveys, review the reports on Typeform’s web page, and export and analyze the data. You can do most common question formats and it is all free. To sign up, go to https://www.zaption.com/signup and choose the free account.
3. Kahoot! – https://getkahoot.com/
Like an interactive game show with music and timers, Kahoot! allows teachers to check for understanding using dynamic item formats. Results can be saved and viewed as reports. Students can even earn points for how well they do and how quickly they respond. Students can participate using many types of mobile devices as well as regular desktop computers.
4. Socrative – http://www.socrative.com/
Socrative is similar to Kahoot! in that it is a web-based student response system. The primary difference is that Socrative allows a teacher to go into more depth for the assessments. Also, there are less multimedia aspects and time pressure, making Socrative more like a traditional kind of assessment and less like a game. Teachers can create quizzes, surveys, and exit slips to check for learning. To sign up for your free account, go to http://b.socrative.com/login/teacher/ and click on “Create an Account.”
5. Jing for Screencasting – http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html
There are a number of tools that allow teachers to create screenshots (single image of what is on a screen) or screencasts (video of what is happening on computer screens with audio recording). However, Jing is the easiest to use, allows teachers to save to a free web-based account, and works across platforms. Best of all, it is free! Jing does need to be downloaded to the machine, but in most cases, you do not need to be an administrator to install. To get started, go to http://www.techsmith.com/jing.html and click on the “Free Download” button.
6. Prezi – https://prezi.com
Microsoft PowerPoint has been standard in the classroom for quite some time. Prezi allows you to bring movement and energy easily to your slide shares. With Prezi, students do not have to have licenses to software to create slide presentations, just a free account. The free graphics really allow presentations to have additional meaning through visual clues. To get started using Prezi for free, go to https://prezi.com/signup/public/.
7. Booktrack Classroom – http://booktrackclassroom.com/
Have you ever thought about the soundtrack of the text you are reading? Do you have students who struggle with reading and need ways to make text more compelling? Booktrack allows you and your students to create soundtracks to text, public domain texts, or your students’ own stories. There are free sound clips including public domain songs, ambient sounds, and sound effects. Completely web-based and very easy to use, this has to be heard to be believed. I wish I had this tool when I was teaching English. To get started, teachers can create an account and add their students or have each student create an account. Click here to begin – http://booktrackclassroom.com/.
8. Zaption – https://www.zaption.com
Zaption allows you to take videos from passive tools to interactive ones where you can add links, questions, surveys, and so much more. There are even reports to see progress. To sign up for a free account on Zaption, go to https://www.zaption.com/signup and choose the basic free account. That account will have more than enough to get you and your students started with the tool.
9. Piktochart – https://magic.piktochart.com
Piktochart is a free, web-based tool that allows students to create infographics. Students can use their own images, visuals from the web, or icons from the tool. By tying together images, text, charts, and other visuals, students can make information come to life. To create a free account, go to https://magic.piktochart.com/users/sign_up.
10. Thinglink – https://www.thinglink.com/edu
When does a picture go beyond a thousand words? When there are interactive aspects to it such as images, videos, links, and more. Students can easily add interactive aspects to images they have created, as well as to maps, photographs, and other types of visual images. With the free account, students can choose icons to represent the interactive aspect. To register free as an educator, go to https://www.thinglink.com/register?student=0&teacher=1 or to register as a student, go to https://www.thinglink.com/register?teacher=0&student=1.