10 Inspired Tech Trends Every Teacher Should Know About

Technology Tips

10 Inspired Tech Trends Every Teacher Should Know About

By Stephen Noonoo     Sep 6, 2018

10 Inspired Tech Trends Every Teacher Should Know About

It’s back to school season, and these teachers are excited. Why? The bevy of tech tips and trends brightening their classrooms—including 360-degree video, thoughtful ways to use Alexa, and the sleeper Google tool for improving note-taking and research.

EdSurge recently spoke with four educators to see what they were most excited about. Here’s what they shared:

The start of the school year means handing out course outline packets by the dozens. For the past few years, teachers have been sparing the printer and turning them into infographic syllabi. This year, though, San Diego English teacher Jen Roberts challenged herself to turn a fellow teacher’s creation into a collaborative, sharable template. “I think the phenomena of the infographic syllabus has been an effort by many teachers to make that document more accessible, more real,” she explains. “We can solve a lot of problems as educators if we can just get people to read the syllabus upfront.”

Over summer some teachers have been raving about their homemade video recording studios (picture bright green pop-up tents in the classroom). Many were using the space with students recording video material for Flipgrid. Now, a spokesperson for the classroom video site says the company has rebranded the idea as “VoicePods” (based on a generic model that retails for about $30 on Amazon). While Flipgrid doesn’t sell the tents directly, it does give them away via various social media and online contests.

Amazon ignited a controversy earlier this year when it suggested its Alexa voice assistant wasn't suitable for classroom use. But some schools are trying it out this year, with an eye on student privacy. Chattanooga Christian School in Tennessee is piloting five Echo Dot Kids Edition devices in elementary and high school classes. Teachers are using them with remotes to turn them off when not in use. They're working with Alexa Skill Blueprints to create new assessments and letting kids ask for word definitions or simply to play soothing background music.

It's especially handy when students are grouped in centers, where a teacher can't talk to every student at once. "Especially in the center setting, it's like having another teacher voice in the room," explains Julie Daniel Davis, the director of instructional technology. To protect student privacy, students don't use their names with devices, explicit results are filtered out and they don't share personal info. "We're being very intentional about using it in the classroom," she adds.

This year, teacher Vicki Davis, who blogs as the Cool Cat Teacher, says she’s most excited about the promise of 360-degree video, which students can view on virtual reality devices. “I don't get excited about the cartoon environment,” she explains. “What really excites me is the ability to take my kids into a 360 video experience. Last year she showed students in her film class a 360-degree photo of the Star Wars movie set and had them identify the equipment.

While there are a handful of 360 cameras that retail for under $400, technology for shooting general digital video, including wide panorama shots, can be done on most smartphones now, especially Samsungs. “I'm really excited about digital film and the ability we have to shoot incredible movies with kids just using a cellphone and a gimbal and some of the lighting and microphones coming down in price,” she says.

Google's G-suite is nothing new, but Jonathan Brubaker, a 9th grade English teacher in California, calls the productivity and organizing tool Keep Google's "sleeper" hit. His students use it to save webpages, notes and photos and then drag-and-drop them into docs. "It's like if Evernote talked to Google Docs," he says.

Also from Google: a canned response function for Gmail hidden in Labs. If “you get sick of writing the same email over and over again, you can create a canned message and then just choose it and send it out,” he says.

In his English classes, Brubaker often uses AnswerGarden, which bills itself as a “minimalistic feedback tool,” to take a temperature check on students’ feelings on a novel or character. Students use it to type in one-word answers that generate a word cloud of responses.

Brubaker’s also big on Vocabulary.com, which uses adaptive learning to gauge the words students know and then test them in a game he compares to Quizlet Live, where it assigns kids to random teams and gives them points for right answers.

And finally, a way to see YouTube videos without all the side ads, recommended videos and comments: a Chrome extension called Distraction Free that focuses only on the video.

To Roberts, few of these tools are really brand new—most have been around a while—but she’s often running into teachers who have recently discovered them and become instant converts. “It reminds me of the old quote, ‘The future's already here, it's just not evenly distributed,’” she says. “In education there's so much of that.”

Learn more about EdSurge operations, ethics and policies here. Learn more about EdSurge supporters here.

More from EdSurge

Get our email newsletterSign me up
Keep up to date with our email newsletterSign me up