Still Teaching Remotely In 2021? Here Are Five Tools To Make Teaching Easier
5 Smart Educational Tools For Every Digital Classroom
Ever since the pandemic closed schools around the world, teachers have had to turn to various online resources to ensure the continuation of their student’s education. These resources existed before the pandemic hit, but have become more prominent and necessary in this time of e-learning in education. Their effectiveness, utility, and popularity vary among different educational levels. Tools that are best for a certain grade level will not be the best for secondary school or university students and vice-versa. The focus of these tools also varies. Some are aimed at lesson delivery or creation, while others are intended to foster lively online discussions between students as well as recreational activities. This article will take a broad look at all the best online learning tools.
The Five Tools Every Online Teacher Needs
There are several categories of educational tools that are available to teachers. The range of teacher tools spans from digital learning systems, mobile-based applications, as well as tools that are configured for offline capability, and even self-directed learning applications. For this article one application from each of the following categories will be examined:
Grading and Assessment
The cost and accessibility options also vary for each tool, something which will also be looked at. Along with a description and outline of each tool, other factors like areas of improvement and potential applications will also be discussed. Here is a rundown of the most effective remote teaching tools available right now:
Online Communication and Debates
Sparking Group Discussions and Face-to-Face Engagement
Parlay is an online discussion tool that prompts students to engage in critical thinking, active listening, and participate in teacher-guided discussions with their classmates. Discussion can take place online (asynchronously) or during a live Roundtable (synchronously) where participants actively listen to anyone’s contributions and then share their thoughts. The tool features several different discussion topics that are pre-made and span a wide range of topics. Instructors can also create their topics for discussion and input them into the library for use by other classrooms.
Other features of Parlay include:
Two discussion formats help sharpen different skills (online discussions are for written responses, while live roundtables help students think creatively)
Interactivity is high given that students can enable video modes and speak to each other face-to-face
The flexibility of the platform lets teachers adapt lesson plans to their specifications
Important data is generated at the end of every discussion or lesson that allow teachers to gauge student’s progress
Parlay is not a free tool, although a free version does exist for individual teachers. There is a price scale that goes up for versions that include more features like unlimited access to the Roundtable option, as well as prices based on the number of students.
Some drawbacks of the tool include:
The various components of the live and Roundtable discussion (listening, taking notes, reading responses) may overwhelm some students
A steep learning curve for teachers to master the tool’s functions
Teacher Feedback and Annotations
A Vital Tool For Document Sharing and Editing
Lumin PDF is an online PDF reader that lets teachers and students share annotations of PDF files more easily. Lumin PDF is a cloud-based tool that teachers and students can use to add images, text, and notes to important class files. Lumin also lets teachers give assessments directly into the file with its annotation feature. The tool also has cross-platform compatibility, which makes it easy for users to upload or download documents with various devices. The application also lets teachers digitize print materials and then alter in any way they see fit with Lumin’s software-specific Optical Character Recognition.
Some other important features of Lumin PDF include:
The app can sync with Google Drive and Dropbox to enable easier file sharing and storage
Users can collate or split different texts from larger sizes to make them more succinct and relevant
Compression and conversion allows a myriad of different file types to be changed and manipulated according to an instructor’s needs
Areas where users have said Lumin can improve:
Its design layout could be more dynamic and visually-appealing
Some features are restricted to premium versions
Easy-to-Use Tool for Extra-Curricular Study
Quizlet is a mobile and web-based learning tool that enables students to learn on their own when not in class or to collaborate with their peers on assignments. The application takes a traditional study aid – flashcards – and modifies them for digital use by letting students create their flashcards as well as teachers being able to add multimedia elements (audio and video files) to them. With the flashcards acting as a blank slate, teachers from all disciplines and subjects can add their content to them or select licensed content from the Quizlet library.
Other outstanding qualities of Quizlet:
A research-based tool that aims to enable students to understand, retain, and retrieve new information
Encourages team-building among students as teachers can assign quizzes or tests that require students to work together to problem-solve
Quizlet Live feature gives students the ability to enter competitions to test each other with new knowledge
Quizlet has free versions of its software, but there are also premium packages that are aimed at other disciplines like studying for entrance exams or higher-level degrees. The premium content also comes with more features and allows greater access to Quizlet’s online database.
Some drawbacks of Quizlet:
A focus on memorization that does not enable creative or critical thinking
Teachers must ensure student use and engagement outside of class
Open Source Learning for All Students
Kolibri is a learning application that surmounts the many obstacles placed in between students and quality education. Whether it is their lack of technological resources, distance, or no viable Internet connection, Kolibri aims to bridge that gap by using patented compression technology to compress multimedia lessons into small files that can be replayed on any playback device. The platform collects and downloads as much material as possible in areas with an Internet connection and then makes those files available to students wherever they may are, even if they do not have an Internet connection. Kolibri users have access to a wide library of content from premium sites that varies between curriculum-based lessons and more recreational activities.
Other ways that Kolibri stands out:
It has wide accessibility due to its compatibility with nearly any device or operating system
It lets students learn and study at their own pace, but still allows for teachers to track student’s progress as well as perform assessments
The application can easily sync up with other devices that have Kolibri to share materials, but only where there is Internet availability
As it promotes learning equality, Kolibri is available for free. Users can download the application directly from the website and install it on their computer, laptop, Chromebook, tablet, or smartphone. Kolibri has some obvious limitations but as it is an essential tool to reach under-served students in hard-to-reach places, there are very few complaints about its design and execution.
Planning, Planning and More Planning
Common Curriculum is teacher-centric as it gives teachers the power and organizational tools to plan out an entire school year, semester, or school day. Common Curriculum’s platform lets teachers organize entire lessons digitally. It also gives them a broad range of templates that correspond to specific subjects and disciplines for quicker lesson creation. Once created, teachers can also modify their lesson plans accordingly, taking out or adding several elements whenever they want. As Common Curriculum was designed by teachers, the program also provides support to new teachers as well as those who have just started to use it.
Some other notable remarks about Common Curriculum:
The program allows for cross-collaboration between teachers at other schools and lets them input ideas into each other lesson plans
A wealth of free resources from several different accredited sources that align with universal teaching standards
Constant online support guides new users through the ins and outs of the program while guiding best practices
Common Curriculum has a three-tiered pricing system that gives individual teachers a free version, while more feature-laden versions come reasonably priced or aimed at institutions and school districts.
Some reservations teachers have about Common Curriculum:
The platform wastes time as new-users need to familiarize themselves with the mechanics
Other platforms are better for experienced, established teachers