The Top 8

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I’m blogging from the International Literacy Association conference today!  I always love a great meeting of the minds.  Yesterday Kristin and I presented on Building Literacy Communities in the classroom.  It was a fun session filled with great energy and an amazing twitter stream thanks to all of the connected educators! (I’m looking at you Chris Lehman!)

We are huge advocates for choosing the right tools and using them well with our students.  You don’t need pages and pages of apps and websites to use with kids.  You really only need a few good core ones that you can use all the time across the day.  Of course everyone always wants to know what our top tools are.  So here are my top 8:

Kidblog:  My favorite blogging platform for primary and intermediate students based on ease of use and security settings.  Blogging in the classroom is a game changer as long as we remember that the point of a blog is to honor authorship and connect kids with an authentic audience for their work.

Padlet: The number one tool for visual collaboration, sharing, creating, reflecting, and almost anything you want to do.  If you haven’t tried out Padlet yet you need to!  It’s easy to use, free, and extremely versatile.  For example last year I had students keep a record of every book that they read over the course of the year using a Padlet instead of a reading log.  Students chose how much information to include (if any) and shared their reading lives with each other and our Twitter buddies using the power of technology.

Explain Everything/Screen chomp: I use these two interchangeably.  Screen Chomp brings a nice simplicity to screen casting whereas Explain Everything offers myriad possibilities and options.  These screen casting apps are amazing for math but can be used as reflective pieces in writing or portfolio tools across the year.

Today’s Meet: Another free and easy to use tool.  Fantastic for getting responses for the entire class and facilitating small group digital discussions.  The 140 character limit forces students to be succinct and to have back and forth discussion instead of just posting all of their thinking without considering others ideas.

Sonic Pics: A simple to use app where students select a series of images and then swipe between them as they talk.  We use this for students to share questions about images related to a unit of study, reflect on digital discussions, create presentations about new learning, and more!

iMovie: Reflection movies, book trailers, and sometimes just plain creative fun.  Students love to use iMovie to create multimedia presentations for the classroom.  Our favorite use is for students to archive a learning process over a series of days or weeks and then put the images, reflections, and ideas into an iMovie as an end of project reflection piece.

Book Creator: Students as authors, it can’t get any better than that.  This app has become a mainstay in my classroom over the years as a go to way for students to gather their thinking, publish written work, collaborate on projects, and more.  Students create ebooks on the simple to use interface that include text, images, audio, and video.  Books can be turned into PDF files, ebooks, and even videos.

Google Drive: This nuts and bolts tool has changed the way that I interact with my writers and how students collaborate.  From whole-class collaborative documents, to digital teacher feedback on writing, to student organization and work flow.  Google Drive is a great multi-purpose tool for education.

Over the years tools make their way into and out of my top eight.  For example Edmodo used to be at the top of my list but has dropped out in the last year.  It’s a tool I still use with students, but for some reason last year’s class found a lot more synergy having conversations on Today’s Meet.  Then there are tools like Skitch, a photo annotating app which I’ve just begun to dip my toe into more and more.  This app has great possibilities as it works well with with other apps, but hasn’t quiet made it into that “most essential” category just yet.

For more about how we use these and other technology tools with students check out our new book Amplify: Digital Teaching and Learning in the K-5 Classroom.

2 thoughts on “The Top 8”

  1. I can’t wait to get my hands on your book. You and Kristen are so lucky to be able to have such an amazing teaching relationship. I’m so excited to continue learning from you two.

    Sarah Parker
    Holland, Michigan


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