By: Alex Stubenbort @alexstubenbort
“I’m on a mission to disrupt education”-Kirsten Winkler
People in the edtech “know” understand that education is undergoing a historical and much needed facelift. Unfortunately, a procedure of this magnitude leaves behind its fair share of scar tissue. In many ways we are redefining the basics. No longer is it education’s sole purpose to teach the “3 Rs”. We are evolving beyond what was familiar. This has left many teachers begging the question: What are the new essentials for the students I serve?
Fortunately, educators are beginning to understand what the “new basics” are and aren’t. However, merely defining the basics does us little good. Without moving the theoretical into practice, we merely have ideas— glorious and useless ideas. Therefore, I (with the help of my #EdtechAfterDark colleagues) have sought out to not only define the new basics but to also offer a list of apps and edtech tools that I have found effective in fostering these basics in my classroom. Enjoy!
NEW BASIC #1: Communication
- Periscope: Few tools have played a more surprising role in my classroom this year than Periscope. I started using the app as a way to share my best practices with other educators, but what I found was that students love sharing their work with the world! Periscope is an app that uses live video taken on your smart device and streams it out to the world. Excited about the opportunity to share their work with people outside of the class’ four walls, students notify their followers on Twitter and Instagram when their work will be featured on Periscope and invite their contacts to tune in as they present. To paraphrase the great George Couros: When students create for their teacher, they do good enough; but when they create for the world, they do their very best.
- Canva: As adults, we understand that communicating in the 21st century means far more than merely the spoken word. With information being shared constantly, consumers are often confronted with the daunting task of differentiating between what is truly worthwhile and what is better left ignored. That’s why I believe it is crucial that students learn to communicate their ideas in short, powerful, and aesthetically pleasing ways which is why Canva is such a great app! In minutes, students can create attention grabbing graphics that will be sure to get their message across.
NEW BASIC #2: Collaboration
- Equil Note’s Smart Marker: Although this tool will cost you (or your district😉) some money, it’s well worth the investment. Equil from the makers of Ebeam have created both a Smart Marker and Smart Pen that stream physical notes from whiteboards and notebooks to smart devices and computers seamlessly using the Equil Note app! However, the collaborative power of this tool lies in the fact that the note taker can “host” a session that students can join! By doing so, students can add to and manipulate the notes appearing on their device’s screen in real time. Every edit is automatically synced to all devices within the host’s session; making the metacognition involved in reflecting on note taking a truly collaborative process.
- Google Apps: Instead of attempting to recreate something that someone else has done far better than I would ever be able to do, follow the “Google Apps” hyperlink above to view Julia Stiglitz’s presentation about the collaborative possibilities of Google Apps in the classroom.
NEW BASIC #3: Critical Thinking
- Quandary: Students love an opportunity to create avatar versions of themselves, and any technology that allows them to do this while challenging them to think critically about real life scenarios is a game-changer. Quandary is precisely that. In an attempt to build a new colony on planet Braxos, students are introduced to moral and ethical dilemmas that mirror those they will face in the real world. This gives students an engaging, low-risk way to think about their decisions and implied consequences for themselves, for others in the colony, and for planet Braxos as a whole.
- Hopscotch: Coding is admittedly one of many new buzzwords surrounding edtech. Like with any buzzword, “coding” should be met with some skepticism. When done wrong, “coding” is little more than a digital connect the dots. However, when done right, coding is an engagingly rich way to promote critical thinking skills for your students. Hopscotch offers teachers a platform to introduce students to coding. Students love that hopscotch is easy to use without jeopardizing its general rigor. Hopscotch is, simply put, hype-worthy!
NEW BASIC #4: Creativity
- Paper 53: My students love that notes have become less of a practice in regurgitating the teacher’s words in written form and have become more of a practice in creation via sketchnotes. After “playing” with many apps, students have unanimously decided that Paper 53 is their go-to app for all of their sketchnote needs. It’s easy to use platform turns even the most hopeless artist into a practical Picasso. Paper 53 also has become a staple in our school’s Digital Art class with astounding results. It is a must for any school that takes a student’s ability to create seriously.
- GoFundMe: I know what you’re thinking. What does GoFundMe.com have to do with creativity?! Although it is not a clear choice, students utilizing crowdfunding to support Genius Hour projects have effectively removed a typical barrier to creative success—financial support. Some of the most creative pipe dreams for the students I serve are now real possibilities. No longer are grand plans of altruism thwarted because of lack of funding. It has almost become a classroom joke at this point. When a student sees a roadblock due to funding, his peers will say, “Dude, just start a GoFundMe!”