The amount of distractions, challenges, and things to think about that aren’t related to technology has never been greater than it is today. However, it must be said that the show must go on, as someone reminded me earlier today. There is still work to be done by Tech Tools. There are still students who require instruction. And this year’s Teacher’s Guide to Tech has resources that can assist you.
I made this two-year-old video to give you an idea of what the guide is and how it works if this is your first exposure to it:
Every year, I update the guide and compile a list of new tools that I think are worth checking out in the coming year because of how quickly technology evolves. Here are my top six picks for 2021.
One of the most important things teachers can do for students is to provide high-quality feedback, but because it takes so much time, most teachers don’t do it nearly enough. Faster feedback can be given using a tool like Mote, which is easier to use. Using this Chrome extension, voice comments can be added to any Google Doc, Slide presentation, spreadsheet, or within the Google Classroom environment.
The advantages of using voice instead of writing are not only time-saving, but they are also more personal. For example, students will hear your actual voice instead of reading dry, written comments. Since voice offers a wide range of subtlety, you have a much better chance of conveying your message in a clear and understandable manner than you do with written communication.
Even though the free version of Mote is fantastic. Upgrading to the paid version unlocks additional features such as unlimited comment time, automatic transcriptions, and the ability to save voice comments for later use in an online library.
A brand-new section on media literacy is included in this year’s guide, and boy, do we need it now more than ever. Everybody can create and publish anything and make it appear credible. A time when our students spend the majority of their time consuming user-generated content. And an era in which algorithms show us more of what we agree with and less of what isn’t.
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In the new section, All sides is one of five new tools. This unaffiliated website provides up-to-date information from a wide variety of sources. Whenever you search for a particular topic on Allsides—such as the Coronavirus or elections or health care. You’ll be presented with news and opinion pieces from a variety of sources, all of which are clearly labeled as either liberal or conservative or centrist. Any of these links will take you to the full text of the original article. Teachers of history, social studies, or any other subject in which students are required to back up their claims with textual evidence will find a wealth of useful information on this site.
Teacher-friendly resources like a Red Blue Dictionary and lesson plans are also available for teachers to use on the site’s home page.
3. GOOGLE LENS
Have you ever wished you could look up the name of something you’re looking at on Google? Google Lens is capable of this. To learn more about something, all you have to do is point your smartphone’s camera at it. Then, translate text from one language into another by pointing it at the screen. Then, use it to solve a mathematical problem, and it will assist you. Finally, the app will read any text out loud to you if you point it at it—special ed teachers, this one’s for you. For the sake of testing, I used this paragraph and a box of pasta as examples.
This app, which combines augmented reality and machine learning, is not only a lot of fun to use. But it also has the potential to be one of the most useful apps we have on our phones in the future.
The bulb makes it easy to create a digital portfolio as an alternative to traditional grading methods.
Users can create multiple portfolio pages and then group them into different collections on this elegantly designed platform. Text, images, videos and embedded content from other apps can all be included on individual pages. Individual pages can be made private, making it simple to control who sees what, and they can be changed and updated at any time.
This kind of tool has a wide range of applications: Capstone or genius hour projects; showcase creative work like visual art, writing, speaking, or video editing; collect artifacts of performance in sports and extracurricular activities, or build a portfolio for college applications could all benefit from this tool. Teaching professionals can use the site to build a professional portfolio or to gather information about other interests.
New to this year’s guide is a section on Social Justice and Anti-Racism. This includes a massive collection of 24 websites and apps, YouTube channels, and other digital resources. That educators and their students can use to learn more about discrimination issues and how to actively work toward a more just world.
Embrace Race, a site created by a multiracial couple to better educate their children. About race, is one of the sites listed. In a “world where race matters,” the site provides resources, discussion spaces, webinars, and networks to help parents cope with the challenges of raising children. Teachers will still benefit from the site’s resources, even though they aren’t specifically targeted at them. Sharing it with parents would also be a good idea.
My choice for this section’s featured resource was made based on its emphasis on dialogue and in-depth nature. There are times when it’s tempting to look for quick fixes to race-related issues, but in reality, there are none. Long-term change requires sustained thought, honest talk, and reflection, and the work they’re doing at Embrace Race embodies all of these.
6. PREZI VIDEO
An animated Prezi presentation with a talking-head video can be created using this tool. You stay on the screen, talking the whole time, while your animated presentation is layered right on top of that video. Within that side presentation, you can share a screen, show a video. Provide text or images, or anything else you would do with a shared screen presentation. This video focuses on a few features that are relevant to teachers.
Having spent nearly a year creating videos for hybrid and remote learning, this is a welcome change of pace. You get the really interesting animations that are possible with Prezi. Plus the intimacy that comes from having you on the full screen, rather than just in a tiny box in the corner.
Even after we “get back to normal,” I’m hoping that all teachers take at least some of the direct instruction. They used to deliver via lecture and put it into well-planned, high-quality videos that can be accessed at any time. So there is a tool like Prezi that can assist.