Saturday, January 26, 2019

4 Simple Tech Tools I Love Right Now

I am a lover of using technology in the classroom. While I do not believe that technology is the answer to all of our problems, I do believe in the power of technology to help us transform our classrooms and make our learning even stickier. When using a technology tool in the classroom, I like to ask myself two questions. The first is, "How will this tool support the already-planned objectives?" I won't plan to use a tool first and then try to figure out which standard I can teach with the tool. Instead, it's a matter of looking at the objective and figuring out if there is a tech tool that could support the learning. I also love to ask myself, "What can we do now with technology that wasn't really possible before?" With technology at our fingertips, my students can participate more in their learning than ever before. I no longer need to force feed them content; they can use technology to do the work and, therefore, do the learning. This love of technology in the classroom is why I am so incredibly excited to have the opportunity to attend FETC 2019! We'll be spending three days in Orlando this week exploring all of the latest in classroom technology. I hope to write a blog post next weekend about some tech tools that I discover while I'm there, so today I want to share with your four simple tech tools that I'm using right now in my classroom.


Graphic design is one of my favorite hobbies. I love taking a blank digital canvas and creating something beautiful with high utility. That being said, I don't always have time to start with a blank canvas. Sometimes I need something that looks well put-together and I need it pronto. I love Canva for this! They have so many amazing design templates (the free selection really is excellent), and you really can't mess them up. I needed a "menu" for a food symbolism activity my literature classes are doing next week, so I was able to use Canva to whip one up in no time.

I also use Canva to design the badges that I award students. Now that I have one badge template, I just swap out the background image, the border color, and the badge name for each new badge I create.

My students have had success using Canva this year too! They did a great job creating infographics for a mini research project.

Pear Deck (Add-On)

If you aren't familiar with them, Pear Deck and Nearpod are interactive presentation tools. They are both amazing tools for a one-to-one classroom. Both tools allow you to put the slides of your presentation directly onto the student devices, essentially eliminating the need for a projector (although I still love and use mine). Both tools allow you to do whole-class presentations that are controlled from the teacher device, or you can assign student-paced presentations. Finally, the trademark feature of both tools is that you can add interactive slides to your presentations that require students to answer a multiple choice question, write a response, take a poll, draw a picture, drag and drop... It is awesome. I'm fortunate to work in a school that has a paid subscription to Nearpod, and I really like it. The tool I am really loving the most right now, though, is the Pear Deck add-on for Google Slides. It is so incredibly easy to use. Once you get the add-on, it is as simple as opening a Google Slides presentation you've already created, opening the add-on, and plugging in some interactive slides. You can then launch your presentation from the add-on, or you can go to the Pear Deck website and begin the lesson. This week, we did a lesson on analyzing an author's tone. I was able to constantly cycle between I Do, We Do, and You Do using Pear Deck. I would teach them the analysis technique, together we would analyze a passage using the technique, and then students were required to do analysis on their own of a different passage and write a response on a Pear Deck interactive slide. This whole process makes for more engaging note-taking and I get immediate feedback to see if the kids are getting it. I would love to get my hands on the paid version of Pear Deck (you get more data and more interactivity options that way), but for now I'm enjoying what you get from the freebie. If you need to spice up your presentations and you are one-to-one, I highly recommend this add-on.


Thinglink is a very cool tool that allows you to turn any image into an interactive graphic. Using Thinglink, you can add hotspots to any image that will link the viewer to websites, videos, images, text boxes, and more. I created a Thinglink to provide contextual information to my students before reading Refugee. Instead of frontloading information by lecturing for forty-five minutes, students completed a Hyperdoc activity that included this Thinglink.


I'm late to the Kami party, but this is such a great tech tool. Kami allows you to easily annotate PDFs. You can highlight, underline, add text notes, drop comment bubbles, draw shapes, and more. It does integrate nicely with Google Drive, which is a bonus. I introduced Kami to my students during our note-taking stations activity, and I have several who have really latched onto this method. Since the students have access to a PDF of The Hunger Games, many are taking their reading notes by directly annotating their PDF of the novel.

There you have it! I love using these four tools in my student-centered classroom environment. Like all technology tools, you can burn your students (and yourself) out if you use them too frequently. Peardeck would lose its pizazz if I used it for every lesson, and Thinglink would get boring if I used it every time I needed to provide context. However, mixing and matching our tech tools will ensure that we keep our students wondering what we have up our sleeves next!

Is anyone else going to FETC this week? Let's connect! I'll be posting on both Twitter @eatwriteteach and Instagram @eatwriteteachblog during the conference.

Happy Teaching!