Fresh--and Free--Edtech Products This Summer
Here are some of the edtech products that we've heard have special offers this summer--like "free" for teachers. We don't know all the details of these offers, so read the fine print. In addition, many of these products may be built by very young and still evolving companies--so get ready for some fun (and the occasional glitch!)
One of the most frequent requests we hear these days is for "leveled texts," or content written to the level appropriate for a specific reader. East coast-based startup Newsela is doing exactly that: creating texts that have five different levels of reading complexity. All the text is build around the news. (Newsela has crafted a partnership with long-time publisher, McClatchy Company. ) Newspaper writers take a story from a McClatchy paper and rewrite it four times, corresponding to a total of five Lexile levels of difficulty.
In many stories, Newsela then embeds quizzes that correspond to the levels so that students (and teachers) can check comprehension. Particularly nice about this approach is that all the students in a class--no matter their reading level--can read some version of a story and then engage in a group discussion.
The company just launched its product in early June 2013. Executives say they are churning out two stories a day (multipled by four new levels each), along with quiz materials and so on.
Newsela is the brainchild of teachers, writers, and yes, a few business executives too. The company expects to offer the service in a subscription form to schools in the autumn.
Desmos has been a popular graphing software. Since it got started in 2012, Desmos had made its software available for free via webbrowsers and on whiteboards. This week, it launched a free iPad application, too. That makes it hard to come up with a reason why you shouldn't make your point with a graph!
Here's a sweet deal: Rice University in Texas will offer five four-week courses aimed at K-12 science teachers via Coursera. The courses will include training on the new science standards announced in April. Best of all: Yep, each course is worth 16 hours of continuing-education credit. All the details are here. The first program starts September 9. The program will use materials from STEMScopes, a science curriculum used by a million students in Texas. Teachers will not have to pay for a certificate of completion; Rice is even trying to get the relevant chapters of text material available for free!
Lumosity is a cognitive training program that aims to build the scaffolding to help students improve their working memory and attention. Educators are eligible for free subscriptions (for you and your students) to the program when you apply to the Lumosity Education Access Program (LEAP) program for the autumn. You will have to commit to providing Lumosity with data in exchange for the program. (The summer program is just like the autumn program but shorter). Apply here before June 24.
Scrible is a handy way to annotate any web pages that you're reading. You add the free service to your browser toolbar, then use Scrible to save web pages, highlight and mark your work, save it to the cloud and share with others. Scrible (classic) is in beta and free; this summer Scrible is offering students a free upgrade to a version that includes the ability to capture citations, ways to compile your notes into a report, more storage, etc. The team is considering what would go into a premium version. The National Science Foundation helped fund some of the work on this product.
Presefy is a brand-spanking way to broadcast presentations using your mobile device. You upload your presentation to the Presefy cloud. When you're ready to share it, you'll receive a unique URL that you can share (or not) with anyone else. As the presenter, you control the presentation from your mobile device. Presefy launched in March and has about 7,000 users so far; it's free for now (with premium features launching later this summer).
Free--but beta: the second release of the Nutmeg Education platform aims to help teachers build tests, quizzes and worksheets through a
crowd-sourced question bank. Students take the assessments on
any device (computers, mobile devices or even paper). Nutmeg uses the data to connect students with free resources (like games and
videos) from across the web. It's aligned to Common Core standards. The team was a finalist in the NYC Gap App Challenge and was just selected for a four-month program at the Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator in New York City.