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Six Great Ed-Tech Resources …and they’re free

Educational technology appears to have huge potential to enhance teaching and learning, and in recent year a myriad of new ed-tech resources have flooded the market all competing for lucrative contracts with schools, universities, local authorities and education ministries.According to market analysts the global education technology market is experiencing massive growth and by 2017 the sector is expected to be worth $220bn.

Educators lucky enough to work at schools with generous ed-tech budgets now find themselves spoil  for choice when it comes to choosing new resources.

As for those teachers working at schools with more modest ed-tech budgets, there are still plenty of great resources available, including an impressive selection of free resources.

Over the past few years I’ve been integrating educational technology in my classes with some success and here are six greated-tech resources which I use regularly and fully recommend.

A lot of teachers use Twitter, it’s a great place to share ideas and experiences with like-minded educators, but it can also be a powerful tool for engaging with students.

A couple of years ago I started a Twitter project, ‘A Tweet a Day’, with my Grade 9 students.

I chose Twitter for this project because by being limited to 140 characters, students need to formulate their ideas and contributions concisely.

Furthermore, Twitter accounts don’t have huge amounts of personal information like FaceBook accounts do, and, finally,by asking the students to use different hashtags for each assignment it is quick and easy to check ‘homework’.The Twitter ‘homework’I set usually consists of asking questions, sharing ideas or giving opinions on the topics discussed during class – this works particularly well with social studies, history, literature and other liberal arts.As a teacher I found the project particularly useful for quickly reviewing the students’ grasp of new concepts, and I noticed they really enjoyed the opportunity to share their ideas on social media.

I also discovered that some students were much more confident, and expressive, communicating through social media than they had been contributing during the traditional classroom discussions.

The seemingly endless supply of educational videos and documentaries on YouTube make this website an invaluable resource for any educator, but YouTube is more than just an unbounded video library.

Recently, I’ve begun to fully appreciate the potential of YouTube as a tool for teaching, and a medium for communicating directly with my students, by sharing tailor-made ‘flipped’ videos.My earlier attempts at creating flipped lessons were not particularly successful, but I’m learning, and by keeping the videos short and concise I have found my students more enthusiastic about learning in this manner.

ShowmyHomework

ShowMyHomework is a web resource I’ve only been using for a few month, but I’m a huge fan of it already.Teachers allocate each student an account and students login in to check their homework schedule, complete homework assignments and submit homework online.

The site enables teachers to track homework completion in real time, and create personalized quizzes for learners to complete online.

Teachers using ShowMyHomework can also give parents access to follow their child’s progress, a useful option, but not one my teenage students are particularly fond of.

The reporting functionality in ShowMyHomework is also a powerful tool for motivating students.Finally, there is a smartphone app for this resource but the app only enables students to check their progress and the homework calendar.

It would be great if a future upgraded enabled students to complete their homework quizzes on their smart phone.

M-Reader is a resource I stumbled across, as if by chance, during a professional development workshop in 2012.

This resource is simple but very effective and it’s a great way to keep track of students’ extensive reading.The resource was developed with research funds from Kyoto Sangyo University and the Japanese Ministry of Education and there are now over 4,300 quizzes in the database, covering virtually all popular graded reader series and a wealth of youth literature.

When students complete a text they take a quick comprehension quiz on M-Reader before moving on to the next book.

I find the resource great for mixed ability classes because each student can go at their own pace and teachers can easily track each student’s progress.

The librarian at my school also loves this resource because it enables her to quickly create reports on achievement and the students’ reading habits.

I started using WordPress for my own teaching blog and I was amazed at how user-friendly it was.

It wasn’t long before I began having students upload their projects and writing assignments on WordPress.The students took to blogging quickly, and they appear to relish the empowerment of running their own website.

One project I ran was for students to set up a blog about what they enjoyed doing most in their free time.

What was really inspiring about this was seeing some students continue to regularly update their blogs long after the project had finished.

The only problem I found with WordPress is the advertisements that show up on the free version – someone of these ads were a little inappropriate for student blogs – it would be good if WordPress were better able to match the advertising with the theme of the blog.

The ‘Hour of Code’is an excellent initiative from the US which was first introduced in response to the lack of opportunities for school students to learn basic programming skills. The initiative, which has the support of a diverse range of public figures that includes; Bill Gates, Snoop Dogg, Malala Yousafzai, Richard Branson, Aston Kutcher and Mark Zuckerberg, aims to ‘demystify the art of coding’ and expand student participation in computer science.I’m not a computer science teacher but I appreciate the important of 21st Century learners being introduced to computer coding and Code.Org has some great tutorials that make coding exciting and assessable for students of all ages.

The new Minecraft tutorial is a great place to start.

It uses Blocky to introduce learners to the basics of computer code.

Students use these blocks to program a Minecraft character to complete various tasks.

Not only is the tutorial easy to follow and engaging but it also introduces learners to ‘commands’, ‘repeat loops’ and ‘if statements’, concepts which lie at the very foundations of computer programming.

Once you’ve come to grips with the Minecraft tutorial they can move on to the Star Wars tutorial which allows students to create their own games and adventures.

There is also a Frozen tutorial which encourages students to program Elsa to carve patterns by skating over the ice – a great activity for students learning angles.

 

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