How do you decide what apps, software, and web tools to put to use in your classroom? Some of the decision may not be in your hands, if your school uses particular learning management systems or has certain sites or types of tools blocked on their network. Regardless of what restrictions you’re working within, you likely have some choice on what to use.
Certain ones may be ruled out based on price or appropriateness in your particular classroom setting. There are many different ways to go about finding new tech tools for your classroom, but if the options are overwhelming to you, we’re here to give you a few options on where to look.
If you’re keeping on top of the latest news in both the education and technology, you’ll likely stumble across a lot of different products that you can check out. I see so many different things mentioned on social media by people who use them, in the news regarding funding or press about new features, and through a plethora of EdTech blogs and sites written by teachers.
This is probably the best way to find out about the widest variety of apps, web tools, software and more, especially those that are in the early stages of development/funding etc. There is, however, a huge drawback to this option: It takes roughly forever. News sifting, as I like to call it, is a lot like panning for gold: the payoff can be awesome when you find the perfect new tool for your classroom, but more often than not your sitting around with wet feet and a cramped back like the guy in the photo above. I spend a large chunk of my day perusing social media, news outlets, and more, and I can assure you that it is Time Consuming. If it isn’t your job – and most teachers, well, teach for a living – then that time isn’t always something that is available.
If sifting through about a gajillion (yes, that’s a real number, I swear) products isn’t for you, then perhaps letting someone else curate what you see is a better idea. The Monthly Genius Box by Daily Genius is a startup on the scene that will be curating a digital monthly “box” full of great products. For a monthly fee, you get a virtual box filled with stuff tailored to your needs. The monthly box is like a ‘birchbox for education’ as it is slated to offer trials, samples, and premium access to products you would normally never try (or even hear about, most likely). Since teachers and just about everyone else in the education world doesn’t have the time or money to spend discovering new products, this might be a good solution if you want everything wrapped up in a nice little box. Box. Get it? See what I did there?
Many of you have heard about the #saveedshelf campaign by now. Earlier in the summer, EdShelf founder Mike Lee announced that the platform would be shutting down because it wasn’t sustainable. So many people reached out saying they loved EdShelf that there is even a Kickstarter initiated to raise money so that it could keep running. EdShelf is basically a giant database of EdTech tools that is searchable and includes a number of different criteria. Each product listing contains pretty detailed information about the product, pricing information, and the best part – reviews by actual teachers who have used it!
EdSurge offers another database of EdTech products that is available for your perusal. They call it a ‘community driven’ database of edtech products. That means that users are adding in products and reviews. In theory, a teacher is only going to take the time to upload/talk about/review a product that they really like (or dislike) so you’ll likely find a lot of Use This NOW or STAY AWAY! recommendations, which is ultimately quite useful. I personally really like the look and layout of this particular database.
There are a few other resources worth mentioning as well. We also particularly like Graphite from Common Sense Media and the good ol’ Twitter hashtag chats. Be sure to try out #ntchat (new teacher chat) for innovative ideas to approach the classroom. I know it’s a new teacher-focused chat but every time I take part there seems to be some new products and innovation being discussed. Graphite is a great tool that’s been growing in popularity as well. Be sure to try out all of these products and share your personal favorites with us as well!