You know the drill—with the winter holiday celebrations come those familiar “Top Ten Lists.” Top ten films of 2016. Top ten books on the New York Times bestseller list. In keeping up with tradition, we here at EdSurge like to throw our hat in the ring with a selection of the top ten most popular tools from the year. But here’s the twist--we don’t choose them.
Every week, our INSTRUCT newsletter contains a section called “S’Cool Tools,” where we list either popular or up-and-coming edtech tools. And throughout the 2016 year alone, we’ve showcased over 300 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 2016.
We also noticed a few trends while tracking the top tools. Just like last year’s list, ten out of the ten tools are free. (Not a surprise—it happened in 2014 and 2013, too.) But not everything stayed consistent; 2015 countdown featured three math tools, while 2016 seems to have been the year of search engines and open educational resources, as indicated below.
Without further adieu, enjoy the top ten countdown, from #10 all the way to the coveted #1 spot.
10. FREE!—JeopardyLabs—Create and play your own Jeopardy games. Devised by biotech researcher Matt Johnson when he was an undergrad at Washington State University, this is a simple way to play Jeopardy, sans PowerPoint or fees or even registration. Some games exist, or build your own. And the winning answer, of course, is: “What is fun!”
9. FREE!—Lab 4 Physics—Turn your smartphone into a sensor for physics experiments. The app uses the accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers built into smartphones to measure, graph and analyze physical properties and their changes. Students and teachers can export the data. A mere phone becomes a piece of equipment for basic physics labs. Privacy flag: Lab 4 Physics may collect personally identifiable information, though it is possible to use the app anonymously with some functions inhibited. Lab 4 Physics does not share information with third parties without user permission.
8. FREE!—Rewordify—Hat tip to language arts blogger Caitlin Tucker for pointing us in this direction. Rewordify is a tool that teachers can use to differentiate reading texts for readers of all levels. The site is also useful for learning vocabulary words or seeing classic literature or public documents reworded more simply. Privacy Flag: Rewordify.com requires no personal information, but students must be 13 or older to register. Student accounts are anonymous, but if parents or teachers request a child’s account information, they may ask the company to review it, delete it, and/or refuse to allow any further collection or use of the information.
7. FREE!—Curriki—A library of open educational resources with curated curriculum collections. Educators and Curriki’s content partners create content and share it on the site and create collections of resources. The Curriki team and designated educators also select collections of high quality. All materials on the site are downloadable and customizable. Teachers can rate resources, search by alignment to standards and pool students into groups to work on certain resources. The site also offers professional development on how to integrate its resources into lesson plans. Privacy flag: If students register for Curriki, they must provide personal information. It is possible to use the tool without registering.
6. FREE!—DataUSA—We’re geeking out this week over DataUSA, a platform that allows students to search the vast troves of federal census data. The tool organizes and visualizes the data in an easily digestible and, frankly, beautiful ways. The subsections alone could fill S’Cool Tools for weeks. There are maps organized by median age and smoking prevalence; searchable subcategories by industries and occupations; and different courses of study ranked by popularity. If the data seems overwhelming, check out the stories compiled by the team behind the tool. Everything here is free to download and repurpose. We’ve spent hours looking up facts about places with the tool.
5. FREE!—The Educal—A crowdsourced map and calendar of education events (meetups, professional development, lectures, etc.) worldwide. Users can add, find, and promote learning opportunities and professional development. Users can also search for events by location, date, name, intended audience or topic. There are 161 events listed in the next eight months mostly in the USA, so there’s probably something out there for you!
4. FREE!—Chronas—Want some interactive historical maps for your classroom? Chronas integrates the Wikipedia pages of countries, notable people and important artifacts with timestamped maps. For example, click on Rome in 14 AD and read about Emperor Augustus. Students can see how data on major religions, empires, and populations fluctuate throughout history in one of the site’s many data visualizations. Did you know 40 percent of the world practiced Confucianism in 1000 AD?
3. FREE!—Guess the Correlation—The EdSurge team had great fun with this back in the spring—and we think math and economics teachers may, too. This old-school tool has all the flair of a Nintendo game and the simplicity of a Geocities website, yet it’s a fun way for students to see whether they can accurately predict correlations between two variables in a scatter plot. The site also has a two-player option, and—fun fact—was created by a PhD student at the University of Cambridge.
2. FREE—Literature Map—A search engine that tells you what authors you’ll enjoy based on similarities in style, tone and topic to your favorites. Geared for adult readers, the results appear in a fun, swirling word cloud. Your students liked Poe? Send them a Mark Twain essay or an Agatha Christie mystery. Hated the “Raven” writer? Try something farther afield like a Jane Austen novel.
And, at the top of our list, in our coveted #1 spot, heralding back from one of our very first newsletters in 2016…
1. FREE!—Photos for Class—Another no-frills search engine! But this time, it’s a search engine for Creative-Commons-licensed photos for students to use in class or on their homework. Students can download and repurpose any photo they find, and the images come with appropriate attributions. The search also filters out inappropriate images—so teachers don’t have to worry!