Which one? “What tools have you found to be most valuable?”
Inevitably the amount of tools and options become overwhelming. Which one? Like the sorting hat, you have to make choices about the tools you use and how you will use them in to improve your workflow. In making decisions about which tools to use, focus on how they will help you improve your workflow and address the learning needs of your students and yourself. Not all apps are created equally and sometimes paying for a version of a tool is so worth it!
I have written about this previously but continue to refine and improve my own use. I put the tools into three categories: classroom/student; teaching; workflow
Here I rely on different sources of information because I don’t have the time to examine and vet the bazillion tools available. There are so many different resources that could be added to this list which isn’t even the tip of the iceberg – more like snowflakes…
readwrite – some great information about tools, apps and social media. Not specifically education focused so there are some things you won’t see on ed blogs.
Tech & Learning – another site that introduces and examines education apps and tools. A very comprehensive source for information.
Free Technology for Teachers – Richard Byrne reviews different tools and apps for education. A great source for with comprehensive reviews.
edutopia – a great resource for all thing education. The posts are comprehensive and provide examples of how tools can be used in the classroom.
Educators Technology – another great resource for educational discussions as well as tools.
edu-apps – focusing on educational apps is a great resource with descriptions of apps and contexts for using them.
Common Sense Media – “We empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.” Many great resources and not just for school!
Media Smarts – “a Canadian not-for-profit charitable organization for digital and media literacy. Our vision is that children and youth have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens.”
2learn – based in Albert it is another Canadian resource for educators with plans and information related to using technology.
Go2web20 – this is a great site to look for any type of tool. Especially good for those “hard to find” tools and up and coming apps and tools. I visit this often to see what is new and what is on the horizon for apps/technology.
Getting Smart – articles and information related to education.
Educause – articles and studies related to education – higher ed and K – 12.
With students, I focus on the learning outcomes for what we are studying/exploring. I often let the students choose what they will use and then figure out how to get it to work. If using a school-owned device, there are some apps, Splice for editing movies, that are suggested by students since they are going to be using it. It’s impossible to access all the apps students use but getting their input is very valuable. For younger students, focusing on apps that either are (a) very specific – reading levels – so look for an app that will do specifically what you want for a particular group of learners – or (b) versatile – can be used in a number of different ways by all learners – Show Me, Educreations – helps to avoid “appitice” where every app/tool is “the app” or “the tool”. Remember flip-cameras? No! Me either – instead the teacher I was working with opted to get an iPod that had much more flexibility and, in the end, was much better for recording student learning and providing a file that was easily accessible later on. Be selective when purchasing and make sure it will fit, can be supported and isn’t going to create even more work – the technology should help streamline the workflow.
I really like Google Apps for Education and used them for organizing classes. I used Sites for organizing my classes and adding information, handouts, videos, podcasts, etc for the classes I was teaching. Google Drive made sharing items with students even easier and allowed students to hand in assignments and do collaborative work with greater ease.
I also used these tools during teaching –
Report Monster – I used this to almost eliminate paper hand-ins. Since most of the students were still using paper – I used report monster to take an image of the work and then make comments and provide feedback – assessment – that I would email back to the students. It was easy to use and now, with the dropbox and evernote integration and support, makes it even easier.
GAFE – Google Apps for Education – this is for both students and myself with so many options and possibilities. I like the ability to share documents with teachers, students, community members, PLN…. and being able to collaborate can be seamless.
Workflow – I have been examining my own workflow and reflecting on how, as an educator, my workflow wasn’t what it could have been as I always found myself “busy” but not often as productive as I would like to have been. After doing some reflection, I have found that the following tools are key to my own workflow –
Evernote – this is my workflow app that I use for planning and saving information, organization, writing and a great deal more. If I was to recommend one app to help with workflow, this would be it.
As an admin, I used it for all my meeting notes, agendas, reflections plus the ToDo for the day/week/month.
I also use IFTTT to send different information/content directly to folders so that I have access in one place. IFTTT is a online site that allows you to create workflow recipes that will connect and do the work for you without you having to do certain functions. An example is that I have all the favourites from my twitter account go straight to Evernote where I can then decide what to do with the information, graphics, links, etc. Great for helping me to sort and keep things that I think are going to help me.
I also use Evernote, with pistach.io, to blog – it’s not as active as this blog since I haven’t really figured out what to write about but I have posted a few ideas that I have had. I also really like the vJournal which allows me to make a journal entry that is directly synced with evernote – great for making notes, jotting down writing ideas or things that come to mind as I am out and about!
Any.do and Cal – I use these two apps for my calendar and tasks. Any.do sits has a web browser app for chrome that allows it to always be available. It has an app options that allows me to access information from any device and syncs for instant updating. Cal is only available for mobile devices but I sure hope it will have a web versions soon. It syncs with my calendars so that isn’t really an issue since I can use my ical on my laptop. The two apps sync so my upcoming “to do” appear on the calendar and vice versa – so the items that my wife puts on her ical show up for me.
Pearltrees – online curation – this is the tool that I have adopted because I find that it makes sense, is easy to use and is constantly improving to make the user experience much better. The pearltrees team has just unveiled some great improvements that will allow teachers/students to collaborate and share easier. It has options for mobile devices which means that, no matter where I am, I can curate and access the information. Please see my post related to using this awesome tool!
Notability – I have been using this app for annotating pdfs and making notes for specific research or papers that I am writing. Because it syncs between all my devices, its great for the research part of my work. I also have used it for annotating and adding information to different agendas and documents in pdf format. It’s a great tool that I’ve slowly been incorporating into my workflow.
Finally, I use Feedly as an RSS aggregator and use ReadKit on my laptop and Newsify on my devices to access the content. I also use a number of other apps at times but keep coming back to these as the easiest way to access information from various RSS feeds.
So, that is an outline of the specific tools I use. I created this thinglink for ipads of the apps I think are essentials for educators. This is by no way all the apps and tools I use but the others are specific tasks or things that I do. In general, these are the ones that I use each day throughout the day.