It feels like a lifetime ago that teachers were thrust into the unknown world of ‘Remote Learning’. In March 2019, Computing Leads no longer just needed to juggle the “What’s wrong with my projector?” queries and the task of convincing other teachers that Data Handling and Coding were just as easy and important to teach as Word Processing. They were also given the mammoth task of ensuring all staff members, pupils and families were proficient and equipped enough to undertake their education through technology. Oh, and if they could just make sure that happens in under a week, that would be great!
The purpose of EdTech is to improve education by facilitating teachers and pupils either to develop digital skills, or aid efficiency or collaboration within the classroom. This is the case before and after the pandemic and the recent rise in teachers trialling new technology to ensure blended learning is inspiring. However, when choosing an EdTech product or service we should ask the questions, ‘is this going to improve education?’ ‘Will it enhance teaching and learning or will it cause barriers to pupil progress?’ It is important to trial and review each EdTech product you may want to bring into your practice but as a starting point, here are my Top Ten EdTech Tools that I feel are essential for use within the classroom.
1. Mote: The Chrome Add-on that easily adds voice notes to shared documents. This was perfect for quick and effective marking during Remote Learning but now can be used for explaining or marking Homework and any digital work within the child’s portfolio, (an issue that sometimes rears its head when presenting computer-based work to inspectors). I love Mote for several reasons; firstly, the fact that it is a voice note not only provides a personal touch to the comment, but is also great for children who do not have the skills to independently read your comment. Mote now has a transcribe and translate tool that allows you to share the comment as text, but also helps support EAL families who may struggle with instructions or even just listening to the praise their child is getting for the work.
2. Loom: Another must-have tool for Remote Learning, teachers dusted off their GCSE Drama skills and tried out their best Blue Peter presenting voices for every single lesson during Lockdown. However, Loom has not lost its place in education now we are back face-to-face; it works brilliantly for setting homework or alongside pre-planned PowerPoints for supply cover, and even assemblies. The children absolutely love using Loom to record over their own PowerPoints, developing both digital, oracy, reading and writing skills. Just make sure to check the privacy settings and your school’s policy if using it with your pupils’ faces.
3. Augmented Reality Apps: There are so many apps to mention here but an amazing way to spark children’s interest in a new topic is to create a relevant hook. Using AR in the classroom is a fun and engaging way to do this. During Lockdown, our new topic of “Castles and Dragons” led me to film at my local castle and ‘discover’ a dragon! This led to a level of excitement on the Year 3 Homepage that I thought could not be matched until I used the AR Book ‘iDinosaur’ whilst teaching face-to-face. If you have a topic to introduce I highly recommend searching for any AR tools to help bring your topic alive.
4. Stop Motion Studio: The list of things you can use this app for goes on. Stop Motion in itself is a fantastic stand-alone ICT lesson that can evolve into a series of lessons, but used across the curriculum can really enhance children’s learning and is a great formative assessment tool to show what they have learnt. My children have used Stop Motion Studio in Science for longitudinal studies such as; the timelapse of a plant, clay models of life cycles and photographing processes like the digestive system - if you have never done the tights activity I highly recommend it!
5. Google Earth: An oldie, but a goodie. Google Earth gives us the opportunity to go on any Virtual Field Trip anywhere in the world! This is a fabulous tool for comparing and contrasting features of two different areas in Geography, as well as an affordable alternative to actually visiting the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt and the ruins of Ancient Rome, or even something as simple for those children that have not experienced a beach or the countryside. I recently observed a lesson where the children were taken to the Grand Canyon and had to complete a reasoning Diamond 9 activity with a collection of items that they felt were most important if visiting there. Although not a necessity, this coupled with Virtual Reality can really provide the most engaging lesson and equip children with knowledge and experience of places they have never been.
6. Photo Editing Apps: In 2021, our Art lessons should not be limited to pastels and charcoal. Photo editing provides children not only with the skills needed for some of our future jobs but also highlights the important issue that photographs can easily be edited. When teaching these lessons, it is crucial to discuss the airbrushing, editing and manipulation of pictures of celebrities in our magazines and films so that children know that things may not always be, as they seem. Another idea is to use an App like the ‘Voila Al Artist’ App that allows selfies to be changed into 15th century drawings.
7. Talkr/Chatterpix: Both these apps use the same face manipulation technology to make a picture ‘talk’. You upload a photograph, mark out the relevant features within the picture, and record your voice. The app brings the picture to life, making the mouth move, and eyes blink. This is fantastic when used as a hook, but also again to encourage the oracy and script-writing skills of children who are pretending to be a character from a book, bringing their own drawings to life, or simply pretending to be a hero of theirs. Children are much more eager to talk through a character than themselves. I have used this several times, for assessment opportunities, particularly in MFL lessons where the children display their new found “about me” language skills by pretending to be a famous person and introducing themselves.
8. Jamboard: Our school used Jamboard daily through Lockdown 3.0 and now continue to use it in discussion heavy lessons such as PHSE, R.E. or introductions and plenaries as it provides a way of recording evidence for these oracy heavy lessons. Jamboard can be used as part of Google Classroom (Google Meet) and works by allowing children to interact with a stimulus or work together in real time by adding digital post it notes, text boxes, pictures and drawings to either a blank Jamboard screen or a pre-prepared slide. Useful templates were shared across the school such as; a ‘thought car park’, where children add their ideas for a Key Question in each car parking space near similar thoughts, a digital Think, Pair, Share with thought-provoking stimuli. Furthermore, Yes/No Voting slides are perfect for an AfL check mid-lesson where children drag their names to which side they believe is right, and peer assessment opportunities within Art and D/T can be recorded by uploading and commenting 2 stars and a wish on photographs of children’s work (and that of artists/designers).
9. Class Dojo: I have used Class Dojo for more than 5 years and over this time, the company continues to upgrade and add extra features that further enhance classroom practice (parent/carer email links, a ‘Twitter’ style timeline, empathy and resilience character storylines etc.). Class Dojo can be used both within a single classroom and across the school as a behaviour tool highlighting both positive and negative actions (depending on your preference). It is totally editable from children’s names and avatars to the descriptions and point weighting of each behaviour button. I have found that the most beneficial way of using this tool is to spend a session discussing classroom rules, diamond ranking positive/negative behaviours so that the children have ownership over the weighting and description of desirable/undesirable actions in the classroom. Rewards can be discussed within these sessions too, personally I find that a simple change of avatar once reaching a certain level of points or simply the winning child’s choice of what to do in the last 10 minutes of a Friday afternoon is more than enough for children from Nursery to Year 6!
10. Flipgrid: Another way of developing oracy skills without the anxiety of a full classroom environment is the use of Flipgrid. Designed with social media in mind, this ‘free for educators’ tool facilitates video discussions among students using key questions or topics to spark a conversation thread. Today, our pupils have role models that are influencers, vloggers and TV presenters. By providing them with an alternative creative way to present their work, in my experience, leads to more dynamic, confident learners that are far more engaged in a lesson.
Through my Instagram account, (@tenminuteteach) I promote technology tips alongside lesson ideas and leadership advice. During Lockdown 3.0, I spoke to a range of other teachers through Live Sessions that showcased Edtech Tips to help with the demands of remote learning. As well as this, I would share a daily remote learning tip that helped with workload, engagement of pupils or simply a ‘must-know’ tip that I had come across and needed to share. Instagram soon became a source of inspiration for teachers and lots were eager to share their latest Edtech tool or tip that they were using alongside remote learning. I can safely say in that period of time, I learnt more about what technology, apps and tools were available than any amount of previous CPD I had undertaken. These tips and IGTV live sessions are still available to watch on my Instagram account.
With Edtech predicted to grow by more than 47% in 2021 alone, we as educators must endeavour to keep our skills and knowledge surrounding these tools and programmes updated in order to fulfil our children’s needs. Education in the future will teach children how to use technology to their advantage as well as solve any problems that may arise from it. I hope that if you are still unsure of how best to introduce Edtech in your classroom, these Top 10 Tools provide you with a starting point to continue to explore the ever growing, ever changing world of Edtech.