Start With Simple Purposeful Tech Tools

One problem of web-based or other tech resources for teachers or students isn’t really how to use them, but that there are often too many tools. There is no way to really keep up with them, nor should one. If you subscribe to a few websites or twitter feeds, the lists resources can be overwhelming. Some of the tools are amazing, but may be start-ups that will be gone just when you get comfortable using them. Still, it’s great to know so many people are thinking of innovative ways to make the web more kid friendly. Two of the three tools below I got from Tech & Learning. Warning: most will be overwhelmed with that site.

Take youtube for example. There are amazing, short videos that are great for launching units, independent study, and other kinds of learning. Unfortunately, for every great video posted, there are hundreds of terrible ones. If a child simply uses the youtube search window, there’s no guarantee what they’re going to get (teaching kids how to search better is also a key).

If you have a specific youtube video in mind that you want a young student to visit, try It allows you to enter the youtube URL, and then gets rid of all the unwanted ads, and additional clutter.

There are also some great websites out there, but they are just too cluttered with ads that get in the way of the real content you want your students to view. Thankfully, most browsers have settings you can turn on to block banner adds and content that may be too irresistible for a second grader. “Click Here to Win an iPod,” for example. Yes, you want to teach kids how to avoid ads, but especially when they are working independently, a little help goes a long way. Along with the browser settings, there are some third party tools such as which is a website where you can enter a url and have it come back ad free. There is also the software you can download, like AdBlock which is also a browser ad-on to help eliminate those ads. I know many websites rely on ads to survive, and I know most adults can live with them. For very young kids, though, sometimes, it’s just nice to remove clutter.

It’s often because the web is so overwhelming that many don’t even want to think about it. But, as much I overuse this word, it’s a mindset. Think of your goal or purpose, find a tool, and start.

An App a Day: Stick Pick

There are many teacher tool apps out there, but not all of them work well. If you’re an elementary teacher, drawing sticks with kids’ names on them out of a can isn’t a new idea. It’s a great tool to randomize the way you select kids. If this app simply replaced this concept electronically, it wouldn’t be that innovative. The person who designed this app actually put some thought into it so it does much, much more.

There’s no point describing it here when their website does it so well.  It was developed by a 6th grade teacher. I can’t wait to use it with my new class this year.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Tech Sites for Teachers

Someone once asked where I get some of my ideas. The answer is the web, but more specifically, from other educators who blog. It took a year of blogging before I used the time during this mid-winter break to explore twitter. I have to admit, it’s an incredibly great tool. I have a lot more to learn about it in order to build a meaningful pln. A lot of new technology requires one to be resourceful and teach themselves how to use it. There was no training in setting up this blog, creating my class website, and using tech in the classroom in meaningful ways. What it does take though is time. Time to explore, discover, play, and share. Some of the things I’ve learned about or learned how to do through videos on the web have all been through other educators. Educators eager to share their passions about making learning more engaging for kids. Here are some of my favorite blogs and websites regarding tech. There are others more focused on ed. news, but I’ll get to them another day.

International Society for Technology in Education


Free Technology For Teachers

Teach Paperless


iLearn Technology

The Apple



and of course all the teachers and parents I work with who willingly share and point out useful resources.

With tech and learning, I have a few concerns:

  • it has to be meaningful and meet the main objectives
  • it has to be engaging
  • so many of the cool web 2.0 sites area all startups and who knows when or if they’ll go out of business or be swallowed by a larger company.
  • it takes time to vet all these sites and ideas and figure out how best to use and integrate them in the classroom

Paper and pencil activities, creating and working with concrete models, and face to face discussions and interactions all remain valuable tools in learning, enhancing these with technology must be done so with care.

Some Resources to Get You Started on Interactive White Boards

Resources for your using tech and your interactive whiteboard: Just Click on the links below.

Presentation Software

Slide Rocket


Google Presentation (part of Google Docs)

Windows Live (powerpoint online)

Online Resources

Google Earth

Google Maps

National Library of Virtual Manipulatives

Reading A-Z (you need a subscription or our school will need to get a site licence)

Donna Young (animated manuscript penmanship)

Scholastic Interactive

Topmarks (a UK site, but get over the spelling and it’s really useful)

Twitter4Teachers (I’m still new to this, hopefully someone can show me how to grow my PLN this way)

Wordle (word cloud site)

Tagxedo (thanks Amanda, Mark, and Logan for pointing this out) – another word cloud sit, but with shapes as well.

Interactive Software to Download

eBeam (Luidia) – not a lot of ready made stuff out there for this.

SMART (viewer is a free download…but you might want to check with Nick to see if we have a site licence and get it from the software file on the server)Click Here for ready made SMART resources.

Promethean Active Inspire (Free) – LOTS of free stuff, a lot of it you will have to get over the UK spelling.

Sources to Learn More About Tech Tools (Where I’ve Been Getting Ideas from these Generous Teachers who Share)

Tech blogs for teachers: There is an amazing amount of info available from these teachers. We only scratched the surface.

pdf resource called 12 Essentials for Technology Integration