Move beyond the posterboard with these great EdTech tools you can use in the classroom.
I’m pretty done with talking about “technology.” The term is too broad. To me, a fax machine is a form of technology, but it sure doesn’t come close to innovations like Moleskin’s Paper Tablets for Digitalization. Lately, I’ve been explaining the use of technologies as “platforms for learning.” I’ve written often about “pitching the poster board,” but the landscape is always changing. Here are some great examples of EdTech “platforms” that we can offer all students depending on what type of learner they are.
EdTech for Audiobooks: Overdrive/Libby/Sora
My own children are 11 and 14, and they have gone to sleep with audiobooks for their whole lives. Oliver, the 11-year-old, likes to listen to the same book over and over, just like a smaller child wants to hear the same story one more time. When they were younger, we’d go to the library together and check out a few books on CD, and inevitably I’d owe a truckload of money when I forgot to return them. One day a former student working at the desk took my cash, and she asked, “Why don’t you just use Overdrive?”
Overdrive is a platform that allows people to download audiobooks and books with your public library card. Problem solved! Libby is a more kid-friendly version of Overdrive, and Sora is linked to school libraries. Multiple devices can be linked to one library card as well. Students who struggle, or who learn best by listening, can have ready access to the best platform for their type of learning.
EdTech for Design: Canva and Haiku Deck
I’ve always encouraged students to create visuals that capture what they are trying to say with clean lines and design. Clarity of expression—both in writing and design—is valuable for students, particularly in a world that is so driven by screens. Even students who struggle can create a beautiful design using Canva or Haiku Deck. Canva is excellent for social media posts, and I often have students create a summary or a theme statement with Canva and then share with their peers. I’ve used it as a teaching tool as well. When each person in the entire group has created a Canva slide, I can string them together in a slideshow for a great review. Here’s an example of one I made for my book The Flexible SEL Classroom. Students can create clean designs to express themselves as opposed to a messy poster board with illegible handwriting.
EdTech for Data: Piktochart
Piktochart is a platform for creating infographics. Like Canva, Piktochart is a great tool for both teachers and students. It has a five-visual limit for free. I use it to create my own infographics, like this explanation of what I mean by the term "Flexible Classroom." And because it’s easy to use and has a really hip vibe, this platform is perfect for school projects and posters too. For example, my students have used Piktochart to create an advertisement for their Utopia—a project I assign as a part of my Giver unit. (You can find the unit on ShareMyLesson.com here).
Piktochart offers the options of fliers, themed presentations and other design elements that make young learners’ ideas come to life. Students are so inundated with professional graphic designs that they often have an almost innate sense of what works and what doesn’t in presenting their ideas. When they feel they can produce high-quality products, they are invested in the outcome.
As I always say when I talk about technology (ugh… that word again), I am not against old-school crayons, markers and paints. I encourage students to get their hands dirty and THEN add it to their presentations. They recognize that the platform they use makes their creative products more accessible to larger audiences, which I think just might be the next educational shift. Provide students with ways to act globally, and they will surprise you with professional products that you’ll never believe come from kiddos!