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Chicago Speakeasy: Teachers Talk Edtech

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Last week, the EdSurge team was part of the Education Technology Startup Collaborative, an event to bring together users and builders of edtech for genuine dialogue. As teachers checked out the tools, the EdSurge crew asked them what they liked (and didn't like) about more than a dozen tools. We'll roll these clips out over the next few weeks, but here's the first batch:

Freemium EDCANVAS is an online platform where teachers can collect, curate, and share digital materials. Anyone who signs up for a subscription account can create a "canvas" and pull in other materials--from videos to URLs to plain old text. They can annotate the pieces, then share their collection with either students or teachers. Anyone can see sample "canvases" on the EdCanvas home page; registered users can see collections of canvases created by others and organized according to disciplines. Teachers can register their students by inviting them onto EdCanvas via email. Check out the teacher First Thoughts here:

FREE! THINKCERCA aims to help students grades 6-12 develop critical thinking and writing skills by focusing on all texts as "arguments." The product, which was piloted in Chicago area schools in the spring of 2013, consists of a methodology for teaching critical thinking and writing, a platform that supports that work, and a library of Common Core aligned content that teachers can use to personalize lessons for students. Check out the teacher First Thoughts here:

FREE! CLASSDOJO helps teachers manage their classroom with an online tool that uses game mechanics to encourage appropriate behavior. The specific behaviors can be customized by the teacher. For example, if a teacher wanted to reward students for raising their hand, then that behavior could be entered into ClassDojo allowing the teacher to reward, or reprimand, students for following, or not following, the rules. Check out the teacher First Thoughts here:

$$$ MATH DOODLES is an iPad game with three different mathematically minded challenges that lead gamers through developing mathematical thinking, number sense, addition and subtraction skills, as well as algebraic thinking. Each of the three challenges, Summ Stacker, Connect Sums, and Unknown Squares, include a level of customization around difficulty, numeric systems, and the types of challenges each game offers. Check out the teacher First Thoughts here:

FREE! (for now) NEWSELA is a leveled reading program for students in grades 4 through high school students. Readings are based on news stories that are rewritten by journalists to correspond to different Lexile reading levels. The product became available in beta in June 2013. The team eventually plans to charge a subscription for the product. Check out the teacher First Thoughts here:

We also had a chance to chat with Sue Krause, a 12 year developer turned technology teacher for Blaine Elementary in the Chicago Public School district. She had some sound advice for developers, including a pet peeve for products that come without documentation: "Nothing is very intuitive when a teacher is not very tech savvy." Check out the full interview below, which includes commentary on Hapara, Educreations, Newsela, Tales2Go, instaGrok, and NoRedInk.

For more product reports, check out the EdSurge Edtech Index.

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