In the early days of TRL on MTV, top ten music video countdown lists ruled supreme. Everybody likes a list, right? But here at EdSurge, we don’t geek out at music videos; we geek out at edtech tools. Every week, our educator-specific INSTRUCT newsletter contains a section called “S’Cool Tools,” where we list either popular or up-and-coming edtech tools. And throughout the 2013 year alone, we’ve showcased over 350 edtech tools in our S’Cool Tools section.
Certain tools get more clicks than others, and as we close this year, we felt it pertinent to bring you the most popular S’Cool Tools of 2013 -- counting down from twenty up to the number one most popular edtech tool of 2013. Enjoy this first round of #20-11 (did we mention, they all happen to be free?), and look out for our #10-1 list next week.
20. ExitTicket - Free! From Leadership Public Schools and Full Circle Fund, ExitTicket is a classroom and feedback system designed to work on any smartphone or tablet that enables students and teachers to get real-time feedback any time during class (and one of 30 participants in EdSurge's Tech for Schools Summit). Teachers can select questions from a database or choose their own as the basis for quizzes, polls, and other "rich media questions". ExitTicket really shines as a pulse-test of whether most students understood the core of a lesson--before they walk out the door. We first wrote about Exit Ticket after they joined the Education Pavilion the 2012 Maker Faire, and they’ve actually been featured twice in S’Cool Tools during 2013. The tool -- which was then beta-tested across Leadership Public Schools as a web app -- now offers a Lite version to teachers free of charge. The accompanying student module is available via web or through the iTunes App Store.
19. EdWeb - Free! Want to brush up on blended learning skills or maybe learn more about what game-based learning is all about? EdWeb provides both free webinars and a social networking platform for teachers. Webinars can be viewed both live, or on demand and enable live chatting with the trainer. Teachers can also create their own professional learning communities or join one of the many PLCs already formed. With 55,000 people strong, teachers use the tool to connect with each other through live chats or one of the many forums.
18. Timelapse - Free! From the site: “Two generations, eight satellites and millions of pictures later, the space agency, along with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), has accumulated a stunning catalog of images that, when riffled through and stitched together, create a high-definition slide show of our rapidly changing Earth.” Quite simply, place an eagle eye anywhere in the world, anytime over the last 30 years, and watch as society develops (or decays?!). Preset views include Las Vegas, Dubai, Shanghai, Alberta Oil Sands, Wyoming coal mines, and a two (melting) glaciers.
17. Teach Your Monster to Read - Free! Teach Your Monster to Read (yes, that is the name) is a collection of four adaptive mini-games aimed at increasing how quickly and accurately students recognize letters (something that also goes by "grapheme" recognition for the purists among us). Young learners begin on Island 1, progressing through each mini-game to properly associate a series of letters and sounds ('s', 'a', 't', and 'p' in this case) until they've achieved mastery. It's a simple and straightforward process akin to leveling up through the Mushroom Kingdom in Super Mario Bros. Teach Your Monster to Read is provided free of charge with support from the Usborne Foundation (of Usborne Publishing) and works in your web browser on Mac or PC. Here's a handy PDF to get you started.
16. ClassCharts - Free! ClassCharts is a comprehensive classroom management tool that combines behavior management with custom seating charts and activity logs. Perhaps the coolest feature is the ability to tag students by any number of custom fields (the demo includes gender, reading age, target literacy group, and free lunch) which may then be used to optimize group seating charts by whatever ratio you fancy (e.g. 50% gender, 50% free lunch would try to make all groups evenly split between these two metrics). There’s also a drag-and-drop room creator that allows you to mimic any number of classroom setups, and associate collected data with a real-time physical layout.
15. Mathics - Free! Mathics is a free, online mathematics computing engine built in the same vein as Mathematica, the best-in-class computing engine from Wolfram. The extensive reference library (all the math we can imagine) covers a number of math topics pertinent at the secondary level, and nearly every math or engineering concept covered at the university level. If you think there's no need for hyper-powered calculators in HS math, listen to this high school teacher's experience and reconsider!
14. Slick Write - Free! Slick Write provides instant feedback on style, structure, and flow for any collection of text(s) up to 200,000 characters. The interface could use a makeover, but the feedback is helpful. We especially got a kick out of this warning not to use wordy or redundant phrases: "Think of Donald Rumsfeld. Do you want to sound like him? Of course you don't." To get started, copy and paste your text into the textbox under the 'Edit' tab (2nd from right) and click the 'Proofread' tab. Next click through the remaining tabs to view analyses for flow, structure, and grammar usage. Re-write if you fancy!
13. Newsela - Free! 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 (a company that was featured during the EdSurge Tech for Schools SV Summit) 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.
12. Modern Lessons - Free! Modern Lesson offers video based courses, teaching "real-world skills." What's great for teachers is that they provide beginners guides to things like iPads in Education, infographics, and Twitter. For those too embarrassed to ask, it's a great way to catch up on how to use new tools. Also, specially for teachers, they offer special courses on specific classroom topics like Launching BYOD In Your Class. Each course is broken up into a series of video lessons lasting 10-20 minutes each. This is a great tool for independently brushing up on technology skills over the summer.
11. EDUonGo - Free! Watch out, Moodle and EdModo--here comes an LMS that borrows from the MOOC world and virtual school world. EDUonGo is a free LMS that allows teachers to launch their own “online academies.” This means that teachers can create courses with video content and questions, easily adapted for a flipped learning classroom. If you’re looking to be the next mini-Coursera, this might just be the platform for you!