by Vicki Davis
So many of these tools are essential to me. It is amazing how I use them every single day. Here’s what I’m using all the time in my classroom (and life) right now. Some even hum along and do their job and I didn’t do a thing but set them up.
36 Tools I’m Using Right Now in My Classroom and Life
Today I’m celebrating my friend Jennifer Gonzalez’s 2016 The Teacher’s Guide to Tech. I highly recommend this book. It is a simple and powerful tool any teacher can use. (She also has a Technology Jump Start Course with 8 modules to help get you comfortable with technology in the classroom.) At the bottom of this post, we’re giving away a sample including 5 tools just for the readers of this blog. Thanks Jennifer!
As I was readingThe Teacher’s Guide to Tech last week, I realized that it had been a while since I’d shared my own favorite edtech tools. These tools are not in any particular order. They are part of my trusty toolkit. I’ve also shared any previous blog posts that will help you get started with the tool.
1. Haiku Learning (my LMS)
Haiku Learning is my Learning Management system. Now that it interfaces with Powerschool, it is so helpful. I just enter the data once. I log in and look at the “dropbox” (not to be confused with the product of the same name) and see what I have to grade. I grade it and bam – there you go. Great, stable system that the kids love.
Haiku Learning is the tool I use to blend my classroom. it connects with PowerSchool (so I only have to enter grades once.
Tip: To learn about my blended learning strategies, see my presentation on Slideshare Simple Steps to Blended Learning
2. YouTube (for Tutorials)
I share tutorial videos on many subjects in my YouTube channel.
Tip: Create a custom thumbnail for your YouTube videos. The thumbnail shows when the video is not playing and helps the embedded video have context.
3. PowerPoint (for Handouts, Presentations, and Screencasts)
I use PowerPoint in 3 ways:
4. Wikispaces (for the Class Website)
Wikispaces is my go-to group editing website. Whether my class is uploading their Scratch video games, or linking to their website efolios, we post our group work on the class wiki. Wikispaces is also the backbone of my global collaborative projects since 2006, with MAD about Mattering as the most recent example.
Tip: See the sandbox lesson plan and rubric I use to introduce wikis to my class.
5. Keynote (for Presentations)
Keynote – For my presentations, I use a technique that my friend George Couros has mastered. I include videos from many sources. I also love the magic move feature and use it strategically. It is taking me a while to convert my most popular speeches like “Differentiating Instruction with Technology” to the new software, but after I do, I’m so much happier with the flow of the presentation.If you use Keynote, learn how to use Magic Move. It makes your presentations click. Also, learn how to make the videos start automatically as you open the slide.
6. Crescerance and MAD-Learn (for Mobile App Development)
Crescerance and MAD-Learn are my tools for mobile app development. We’re in the midst of the MAD about Mattering project. The kids are programming apps and using the MAD (mobile app development) Learn platform. We love it.It is so simple. We have 14 apps we’re developing with other schools. From suicide prevention to domestic violence to poverty to stress in school – it is all there. While we’re excited, the issues the students are grappling with are among some of the most serious on this planet and we don’t take it lightly.
MAD-Learn is a curriculum. MAD stands for “Mobile App Development.” More people access the Internet with mobile phones than with computers. For this reason, it is likely more important that kids learn to program apps than make web pages.
7. ClassCraft (for Tracking Game Based Learning Experiences)
I got into game based learning. I needed a system to track points and all the things that go along with it. I’m in love with Classcraft for this and looking at using it in all my classes next year. Very fun and cool. I recommend trying their free trial for a short experience to see what your students think.
Classcraft is awesome for making the class a game. I’ve used this to turn my keyboarding class into a game. They love it. We start class every day with the random event of the day. What a blast! If you use this link, you get two months free (I also get a free month.)
I learned about this tool when hosting Shawn Young, the founder on Every Classroom Matters. But Michael Matera and Lee Sheldon deserve the credit for convincing me of the merits of this approach when they each came on my show (and I each of their respective books to prep.
8. Trello (for Tracking Genius Projects)
Trello the project management tool the students are using for MAD about Mattering. It helps them organize their work and workflow and communicate with teachers. I recommend using Trello for genius hour work and tracking projects where students are all doing different things.
I’ve included the video above where I teach our students how we are using Trello for Agile software development, however, Trello has some incredible videos in their help files.
Trello and Slack are two of the tools Jennifer Gonzalez shares in her The Teacher’s Guide to Tech. Yes, I’m encouraging readers of this post to buy her book. It is a great one!
9. Slack (for managing my business, show, and just about everything)
Slack was the answer to the long running text messages with some of the people who help me the most. Lisa Durff and Jim Beeghley help me so much. Slack makes communication quick and easy. It also links with other tools we use like Trello, Google Docs, Dropbox, and more. We use Ifttt.com and zapier to link it with other tools so all work is in one place. This quick tool is being used by schools and many more to just communicate better. There’s a reason it is popular. It is EASY!
Slack I use slack all the time to communicate with my team, Lisa Durff and Dr. Jim Beeghley. Lots of schools are using it to improve communication. It also links with Trello via ifttt.com so that when a card is moved, it notifies the appropriate “channel” in Slack. Think of it as messaging you can organize by hashtag and search. You can dm in slack too. Great tool!
10. Zoom Room (for online meetings and video recordings)
I use Zoom.us for my meetings now. Just quick and awesome. I also used this to record Angela Maiers’ keynote for MAD about Mattering and then edited in Screenflow. This tool is stable, quick and easy to use.
11. Day One (for journaling)
Day One is my personal journaling app. The new version of this app gives you separate journals. I have one for general journaling, another for prayers, another for blog post ideas and still another for accomplishments or wins. Using text expander, I store and use 7 questions I ask myself each morning to help me be more productive and focused.
12. Evernote (my digital notebook and filing cabinet)
Evernote holds all my notes. I link it with Omnifocus, my task manager, for my online “filing system.” When I research for Every Classroom Matters, I put an alarm on the notes so they pop up when it is time to conduct the interview.
My favorite Evernote productivity course is The Secret Weapon tutorials. I never really understood Evernote until I went through this course.
13. Dropbox (for syncing files)
Dropbox just runs in the background. I never ever have to worry about it. I moved all of my documents to Dropbox. Dropbox is so fast and stable, it just works. It is totally worth the pro version. Love dropbox and use it all the time to move files.
A few years a go, I lost my hard drive on a computer just before a major book deadline. I fired up a laptop, installed dropbox and was back writing within an hour. No problem. What used to be panic was just a peaceful shift to a different device.
Tip: With selective sync, you can sync some files to each computer. For example, many of my personal files from home, I do not sync with my school computer.
14. Screenflow (for capturing Mac screenshots, iPhone and iPad)
Screenflow – This is THE screen capture program I use on my Mac. It will even capture iPhones and iPads using the lightning cable. It can rip just about anything and I can pull the videos into Powerpoint. Thanks to Tony Vincent for this gem. I love it.
You can see how my students used film from their iPhones in their Bullyproof video.
15. TextExpander (to make things faster)
TextExpander – I keep this running on my Mac, so if I type a quick code, it will expand it – if I type “semicolon ecm” I get Every Classroom Matters. I have lots longer snippets for blog post templates.
You can copy blog post templates by going into HTML view and copying the HTML. Text expander also has many other cool tricks.
16. Canva (blog graphics)
Canva – While I know Photoshop and use it sometimes, Canva is just lightning fast. We use it for graphics in my classroom and I use it heavily for this blog.
I’ve written six free lesson plans for Science, English, Literature and other topics that you can use with Canva.
17. Excel (for budget tracking and rubrics)
Excel – This workhorse is still often open on my computer. From forms to spreadsheets and budgets – I need excel.
18. Google Drive (Collaborative Writing)
Google Drive – My students get to choose what they will use for word processing and collaboration. They usually open a Google Doc and add collaborators and they are off to go. Many of them use Google Docs for everything.
Take a look at the 100+ Google resources if this interests you. While Google Classroom is fine, I want students to know how to quickly create and share a doc with others. I also want them to know how to collaborate and communicate in the document.
19. Microsoft Word (Personal Wordprocessing for Basic Documents)
Microsoft Word – Lots of layouts, templates, and just heavy duty wordprocessing. Word has been my go-to tool since the 1980’s when I first used it.
20. One Note (Student Notetaking)
One Note – My students have their favorite notetaking app – definitely One Note. They sync it with their mobile devices. You can’t beat one note for student note taking.
21. Google Forms (Quick Surveys)
Google Forms – We are surveying our Project Managers and Assistant project managers for MAD about Mattering using Google Forms right now. The summarization aspect of this tool has improved so much in the past few years.
22. PhotoShop (Advanced Graphics)
23. Grammarly (Spell and Grammar Checking Everything Online)
Grammarly – My students love Grammarly and I do too. [Blogged it here.] It saves time by finding grammar mistakes. I also load and use it to check the app pages to ensure there is no plagiarism (a pro feature). This way I can know we’re not publishing work that is not original.
Please see my blog post on 4 Writing Tips to Save you Time for more tutorials on using Grammarly.
24 and 25. Amazon Prime and my Jtouch Multitouch Board
Amazon Prime – I have a monstrous JTouch Board that I adore. [Blogged about it here.] When I’m not teaching with the board or using it for announcements, we play these awesome screensavers with scenes of water, beaches, great places in the world, and just beautiful things. It calms the classroom and we get more work done when it is playing. It is amazing how a quick glance at a high def meadow or waterfalls just does something to you!
26. Omnifocus (Task Management)
Omnifocus – I use Omnifocus for my tasks. I went through an incredible course on Lynda.com in January to help me use it better each day.
27. Task Clone (Send Tasks from Evernote to Omnifocus)
Productivity Tip: I use Task Clone to send tasks from Evernote to Omnifocus. It even attaches the note. Task Clone works with omnifocus but also other task managers like Wunderlist and 40 other task apps. It works like this. I make a note in Evernote. When it has a checkbox for a task I want to do, I tag the note omnifocus. Task clone works behind the scenes to put this in my inbox in Omnifocus. Very cool tool.
28. Google Calendar (Appointments, Coordinating Times to Meet)
Google Calendar – Google calendar integrates with Haiku Learning and runs the calendaring on our school website. I couldn’t live without it. Shared calendars with me and Lisa Durff, who helps me with my calendar, make calendar management so much easier!
Here’s a tutorial to help you see how we use it to coordinate meetups between classes.
29. Audacity (Recording Audio)
Audacity – When we need to edit audio, this is our tool. We often record it and then pull it into our favorite movie program: Pinnacle Studio.
30. Pinnacle Studio (Video Editing)
Pinnacle Studio – Our preferred movie making program for the PC. Students who have macs may use iMovie but largely we just use Pinnacle. It has a quick learning curve but will let you add special effects, tracks, and so much more. My seniors are making movies with it right now.
Pinnacle is a fantastic program. Here’s a recent trailer my students made on domestic violence made in Pinnacle.
31. Ning (Student Blogging)
Ning My students blog privately on Ning in the eighth grade. In high school we blog on WordPress sites depending on the project. Ning is a great private place for working together.
Snagit has a plugin for Chrome that my students and I use daily. I also love the feature that lets you grab a picture of the whole page. Snagit syncs with Google Drive so the pictures all go in there.
Extensity is the most important chrome app you can download. It lets you turn on and off all the other plug ins. Teach this to your students and stop fighting the battle of which plugin is causing the problem.
Make games and activities with Kahoot. I make sure my students know how to make and share kahoots so they can review any time they want.
Alfred is my Mac’s productivity superhero. I use it on my Mac or I use remote control on my iPhone to control things on my Mac. While this is for a more advanced user, this handy Swiss Army Knife app lets me set up work flows. For example, I can click “Start my day” or press Option space on my Mac (the keys to start alfred) and say “Start My Day” and BAM — it opens Pandora, my Bible App, Evernote, and Day One. I programmed it to do that. So, instead of deciding what window to open and clicking here and there before I get started, I hit a button or type a command and BOOM, I’m working.
Here’s the setup screen for some workflows I have set up on Alfred. I click a button on my iPhone and the windows open and close that I want on my Mac.
Scrivener is my book writing, brainstorming tool. I use it for organizing all of my writing and especially for writing books. I love this tool and the easy way I can write and reorganize writing. Great tool.
I took the Scrivener Coach’s Learn Scrivener Fast Course and it helped me so much! I love this course and still go back in and go through the videos. If you write professionally or just write a lot, I highly recommend Scrivener and the course.
How Do I Pick What Tool To Use?
Well the thing is, for most of these items, I don’t pick. At this point in the year, my students are fluent and just pick up whatever tool they want to use.
I’ve not even covered all my tricks and tools for blogging. Let me know if you’d like to know more tools for blogging, productivity, and more. I’m happy to share. (It just takes a while to write these posts which explains how long it has been since my last post.