12 Productivity Tools for Tech-Savvy Teachers

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Teacher using FreshGrade - Brilliant or Insane
Photo via FreshGrade, one of 12 Productivity Tools for Tech-Savvy Teachers

We are living in an age when what we can achieve in one day is becoming more and more important. The rise of technology has helped spur productivity to heights never previously seen. In the not-too-distant future, people may even be using 3D printers in their homes to make household goods and clothing. Schools also participate in the technology race as integrated smart boards take over the classroom while laptops for students are quickly becoming the norm. Animated classroom experiments and live podcasts keep student minds active.

There is an ever-increasing variety and number of tools available to the teacher to help liven up the classroom and improve the learning experience for young minds. Textbooks are not as important as they once were, while eBooks and interactive classrooms are definitely “in.”

School administrators may complain about the added expense of switching from a book-oriented classroom to a high-tech model, but in the long run everyone wins, including nature when digital options replace paper, thereby saving lots of trees.

Students these days don’t need to worry about losing essays in a heavy downpour when walking home or being penalized for not returning a book on time to the library as all this effort and knowledge is carefully secured in the cloud.

By Shelly Sanchez Terrell
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They can download a text to a home computer or even on a smartphone on the bus. They can tap away at homework while waiting in a queue at a bus stop or for parents to pick them up.

Technology is constantly evolving, and the teacher’s role can easily be enhanced by the many tools available online. We’ve outlined 12 productivity tools in four categories that all tech-savvy teachers should consider.

Learning Management Systems (LMSs)

Schoology is an online LMS suitable for K-20 and corporate needs. It gives teachers a range of possibilities when it comes to the creation of a virtual classroom and lessons with embedded videos and other media. Its free version includes assignments, discussions and grading examples.

Schoology is extremely mobile-friendly and offers many learning opportunities, including quizzes, tests, polls and other activities. The platform also has multiple tools to make curriculum more individualized and measure student performance.

Designed to enhance studying, communication with peers, and sharing information across departments and campus, this platform is a handy all-in-one solution for both educators and students.

FG mobile pic
Courtesy FreshGrade.com

FreshGrade is an educational platform created to establish better connections between teachers, parents and students. It is available to them for free. The platform allows sharing digital student portfolios and recorded student activity so parents can always stay aware of their kids’ progress and easily track it.

FreshGrade also helps increase student involvement in the studying process by showing performance grades and letting them leave comments on graded assignments. For teachers, FreshGrade can become an irreplaceable assistant to instantly deliver feedback to students throughout the school year.

Class Dojo is an online program encouraging teachers, parents and children to actively communicate during classes by exchanging messages and photos. Even more importantly, it helps students develop positive attitudes towards studying.

The platform also tracks and evaluates student participation in lessons. Teachers set up class “values” or choose them from a default list. “Positive” values may include teamwork, staying on-task, being well prepared for a lesson. Being off-task and/or unprepared, answering questions out of turn, and so on are defined as “negative.” For each value, teachers assign a certain number of points that then can be viewed by students and their parents.

Aside from keeping track of individual student and class-wide points, teachers can generate performance reports, control student attendance, and get notified of parents’ messages.

Gamification Tools

“Gamification” is a relatively new word in the school dictionary for sure. It typically means how learning can be more effective using all the digital means possible to turn students and classrooms into productive, game-like learning environments. This type of studying helps learners retain information, which is far more productive than textbook learning or blackboard immersion. Here are a few of the most efficient gamification tools applied by educators.

Minecraft has long been a favorite game among educators. It encourages both instructors and their students to imagine a completely different world and explore new things in a much more engaging way.

Depending on the learning goals of a lesson, a teacher thinks over the mechanics and creates a virtual environment in which students study. There’s even a Minecraft edition developed especially for education. It allows students to personalize their accounts so that teachers can easily track their activity, use special signs to give directions or prompts, and enable up to 30 students to work at a time.

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To quickly incorporate the game into the teaching process, Minecraft initiated an educator community to share best practices for educational uses of the game.

What subjects does Minecraft fit best of all? Here you can go as far as your imagination can reach. Anything from works of art to DNA extraction can be studied through this game.

PlayBrighter was designed by teachers to transform boring questionnaires students hate into engaging game missions.

To get started, an educator needs to fill out a quick registration, create student profiles, invite them to join the game and select questions from the list offered by PlayBrighter. Questions may be assigned to each student individually and be related to one out of many suggested subjects, including French and Literature.

Students will be asked to play some of the PlayBrighter missions and achieve better results by responding to the questions. Upon successful completion of each mission, students are rewarded with special on-site currency. It allows them to upgrade their avatars and motivates them to take on more questions.

One of PlayBrighter’s advantages is that it provides detailed reports of student achievement. It’s a good choice for revision exercises and homework or a suitable alternative to quizzes and tests.

brilliant or insane

Kahoot is for those teachers who are fond of creating games on their own involving the whole class along the way. Teachers can make multiple-choice questionnaires on any subject and add visuals like videos, graphs, and images to increase engagement. The only thing required to start the game is to share the screen and encourage players to be attentive and active.

The game can be accessed on any device and doesn’t need any setup or registration of student accounts. To increase communication skills of students, the game can be played together with any students out of the classroom.

Kahoot allows comparing upgraded student knowledge with previously achieved results by playing against previous scores. It is also suitable for introducing new topics or boosting collaborative work.

Social Channels

In the past, experts had to find their way to a school or university to share and discuss their knowledge base, but this can all be done interactively these days through webinars, online teaching portals and live sessions coordinated remotely. To make this happen, more and more educators are using social channels. Here’s how it works in practice:

Twitter is a valuable source of lesson ideas and teaching methods. By following Twitter feeds like #HackLearning or similar communities, educators can keep up with the latest trends in education and archive many invaluable resources.

Many universities now use Twitter to keep their students informed about last minute schedule changes or upcoming events, while teachers and professors use it for deadline reminders or answering streams of student questions.

Educators often use 140-character tweets to boost writing skills of students and expand their vocabulary. Ask them to compose book or movie reviews or tweet sentences with the same meaning and suggest synonyms to new for them words. Find out how well your lectures were understood by asking students to summarize main points in tweets.

If you aren’t on Snapchat yet, it’s high time to try it out in the classroom setting. This messaging platform offers many handy ways to share content in a quick and engaging way. Its users are welcome to share photos and videos or add text and drawings to their messages. These are so-called “snaps,” which stay visible for 1 to 10 seconds and then vanish. Why not use it then for learning new words by adding a text caption?

“Stories” is another useful Snapchat feature that allows for arranging snaps in chronological order to make a short live story of events happening at college or school.

With these opportunities at hand, educators can better connect with their students and even instruct them on how to approach certain types of assignments. Educator/author Matt Miller has more suggestions for using Snapchat in the classroom.

voxer with B or I labelVoxer is another app that can become a helpful online assistant for all educators. It is generally described as a walkie-talkie platform supporting text, picture and voice messaging. Voxer allows communicating with one or multiple users at a time, which is perfect for group classroom tasks.

With Voxer, educators create group discussions that help hone students’ listening and speaking skills. The app is also a great choice for exchanging peer feedback, delivering presentations, and developing group storytelling. Some educators also take advantage of this app for improving their lectures. Self-recording helps them find out what still needs tweaking.

Tools for Quick Assessment

There is always in the back of a teacher’s mind that with all these online resources available at everyone’s fingertips, plagiarism could become uncontrollable and unstoppable. But with plagiarism checkers being readily available these days, you can reduce academic plagiarism. Unplag is one of the online tools that can check students’ papers for similarities in just a matter of seconds.

It is available for personal use or can be licensed for an entire college or university to use. It can scan student papers against the Internet, databases and files in one’s account, generating reports with detailed analysis of student writings. It highlights plagiarized sentences, allows omitting sources and even adjusting search sensitivity settings and more.

By Shelly Sanchez Terrell
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Edmodo Snapshot is a real time-saver with its functionality that quickly evaluates student knowledge. What an educator needs to do is make initial setup and pick up a subject about which students will be questioned. This tool also enables teachers to receive immediate feedback from students, make use of their performance breakdown, and change settings for each new quiz by setting time limits and more.

Performance analytics are presented through graphs. This way, educators can quickly figure out what students still need to learn.

EssayTagger is one of the tools that can help reduce teachers’ daily workload. Similar to Unplag, EssayTagger also helps check student writings with ease. Although this web-based solution doesn’t do all the editing and proofreading work for a teacher, it can greatly reduce the amount of time spent on the checking process.

By making use of the essay evaluation toolbar, teachers can quickly evaluate paper consistency, proper quotation, paragraph structure and more. The tool supports real-time comments and presents a snapshot view of all the comments in a checked student writing, making it possible for each student to see where exactly these comments come from.

With tools like these at their fingertips, tech-savvy teachers have an exciting opportunity to be much more productive in developing engaging classroom lessons and evaluating student learning. It’s a win-win-win solution for teachers, students, and parents.

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Rose Scott

Rose Scott is a literature teacher who is always aiming to improve education. A lifelong dreamer, she finds her inspiration in pep-talks with meaningful people whose enthusiasm is contagious. Outside of her teaching pursuits, she cannot imagine her life without writing. Chat with Rose on Twitter @roserose_sc.

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