Tech Tools You Need to Try This Year

2020 was a year of many things–stress and anxiety of living through a Pandemic, the year of toilet paper hoarders, endless changes to guidelines, mandates and re-opening plans…but one of the really wonderful things to come from 2020 was the urgency it created to learn new things. 

I’ve always considered myself relatively tech-savvy. I’m one of the people in my school that people come to with tech-related questions. Of course, I don’t know it all but 95% of the time I can find a solution. I like this kind of problem-solving. 

Teaching virtually has required us to find new ways to do things and discover new tools. Here are my favorite new things I’ve used successfully while teaching online and in the hybrid model with my students.

What it is: Whiteboard.fi is a free site where each student is assigned a blank whiteboard with access to drawing tools. Name your temporary classroom and share the link, room or QR code for students to connect. Rooms expire and are erased after two hours. 
As the host, you have a view of all students’ boards (see below). The boards appear as students sign in. You have your own whiteboard you can write on or insert in a PDF (which you can ‘push’ out to students)! Watch your class work in real time. You have the option of sharing other students’ whiteboards with the class or keeping it private. 
Above: My small group was working on spelling words with long i patterns. On Zoom, I would dictate a word for them to spell. This was just an informal check-in (and showed me that we needed some practice!) but you could definitely use for assessment as well! Just make sure students aren’t viewing their classmate’s boards 🙂

Ideas for using: 

spelling/phonics dictation, math problems, any PDF worksheet, formative assessment, response to morning meeting questions, emotions check in (draw or pick an emoji for how you feel)

I stumbled upon this website in a Google search. I’m always looking for phonics activities that are perfect for online learning. My hybrid schedule means I teach 1 day in person and the following day 90% online. Wordwall.net has become a life-saver!!

What it is: A community library of interactive activities for all subjects. You can create your own, too but I haven’t found a need to do that since there is so much already available. It’s totally free to use (some additional features you do have to sign up for). Just go to wordwall.net and click the “community” search tool to get started–no log in necessary!

Here’s an example of one of the activities already made and ready to go! It times how long you take to complete it and reveals correct/incorrect answers. We usually do an activity twice to see if we can beat our time and get more correct.

Ideas: word sorts, MAZE activities, spinners, interactive games, word searches and more!

Wheel of Names is another totally free tool to use with no log-in requirements. It’s an interactive, customizable spinner. I started using it to motivate my readers since when we are online, we often read round robin (I know, not the best practice…). I plug in my students’ names and spin to keep them engaged and excited. This never gets old! Even my 3rd and 4th graders beg for it. 
Of course, there’s way more you can do with an interactive spinner. You could put numbers, words, even pictures in the spinner. 
One of my reading groups includes 4 in person students and one online student. To adjust the activity so she could participate, I made a spinner to match the one my students were using on the worksheet. When I gave remote control of the screen to her, she was easily able to complete this activity using the annotation tool and spinner.

Here’s a video on how I set up this split screen:

If you aren’t using Boom Cards yet, stop right now and go check them out!
What it is: Boom Learning is the home to Boom Cards which are interactive, self-correcting task cards. You can join for free (there are additional features for paid subscriptions). Boom Card sets are called decks. You can search for decks in the store directly on the site. They are also available on TpT. There are LOTS of great free ones to get you started.
Here’s an example from a Homophones Boom Card deck. Students simply click on the correct spelling. It will “ding” for a correct response or say “oops” if it is incorrect. There are many different Boom Card versions–as simple as picking an answer or as complex as walking you through an entire guided reading lesson. 
Ideas of use: Pre-covid, I used Boom Cards in my classroom as a practice, review and formative assessment tool. With the paid account, you can track students’ responses and get a lot of valuable data and insight into students’ performance. Now that we are in a hybrid model and I’m teaching small groups, I use Boom Cards as an interactive part of my lesson. I share remote control of the screen so my students can take turns choosing answers. Using the free account, you can generate a “Fast Pin” link so students can play without signing in. 

No matter what your model of instructional delivery may be, exposing students to new books should remain at the forefront of your priority list. 

What it is: Virtual libraries are a collection of digital read alouds. Each book cover links to a YouTube video. The YouTube videos are embedded and full screen which means no advertisements or opportunities to click on other YouTube videos. The libraries are available as Google Slides or in Seesaw to share with your students

Ideas for use: Virtual libraries make a great independent reading center, or you could start each day with choosing a book to listen to as a class. Each library comes with a listening response page.  

Click here to sign up for a free copy of the January virtual library.

The new year is a perfect time to choose a new tool to implement into your classroom. My advice would be to choose just one to roll out. Take the time to try it out–maybe with a family member or teacher friend–first. Then, share it with your students s l o w l y. Use it together as a whole class first–always–before sending students off to use it independently. Then, you can work out any kinks together!

Happy teaching!

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