I am not a “technology for technology’s sake” person. I do a lot of old-school pen-and-paper work in my classroom, and I am happy about it. When I do love an app or website, though, I love it, and the following tools have made their way into my everyday teaching life:
- Tiny Scanner Pro. Free basic version. $4.99 for the full app, and worth every penny. I have not been teaching for long, but even in a few short years I had managed to amass an ungodly amount of paper. I use TSP to digitize almost everything. Just take a picture with your phone and the app creates a pretty decent PDF of your document. From there, you can upload to Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Evernote, and more. You can also print (if you have a wireless printer) straight from the app if you need to make a copy or two of the document. I use TSP primarily for digitizing things I want to recycle, but I use it for things like “scanning” workbook pages from other curricula that I want to use as inspiration later. I also use it to scan keys of exercises or “model” work to be posted on Haiku (our LMS) for students to refer to.
- ZipGrade. Free basic version. $6.99/year for unlimited scans and custom answer sheets. I made the switch to ZipGrade this year after having heard a lot about it for a long time. ZipGrade has made my life so much easier. It has cut down on the time it takes me to grade because I’m not waiting to go run Scantrons; I can scan students’ responses as they turn them in, leaving me to spend my planning time actually planning or giving feedback on their written work. I love that ZipGrade automatically makes item analyses, and I love love love love that it re-grades papers instantly if I change the key. I don’t know if I’ll ever go back to Scantrons.
- Screencastify. Free basic version (and the basic is nothing to sneeze at), and I think about $24/year for full features like video cropping. I have only started using Screencastify in the past few months, but I love how easy it is to make a recording of my Surface while I’m working. I use Screencastify to make short videos for my students showing them how to use an online tool (like Magistrula – see a sort of awkward video here as an example) or walking them through an exercise like conjugating or declining. Next semester, I plan to use it for storytelling – this would be great to incorporate with a website like EdPuzzle. The best part of Screencastify is that it syncs with Google Drive, so your videos are housed there and easy to share.
- PearDeck. Free basic version, but you most likely want the pro version, and the price will depend on whether you’re buying it individually or as a school/district. PearDeck, which is an interactive presentation tool, is great for having students show their understanding, and I (usually) love the anonymity of student responses in the default display. It makes it easy to discuss a response as a class. I’ve run into some problems before with students submitting inappropriate or off-topic answers, but now I usually require them to include their name in their response. (NB: You can see who made a certain response, but not, as far as I know, in the default way that student answers are displayed on the screen. That’s why I have them put their name in their response most of the time.) PearDeck also has a fun new game called Flashcard Factory and a few more bells and whistles, like their “takeaways” option and their Google Slides add-on, that make it an attractive option for increasing student engagement.
And then there are the “classics” like Quizlet and the things I love, but don’t really have any say in choosing, like our LMS, Haiku (well, PowerSchool Learning now). These are all things that make my life easier and make instruction better (I think) for my students.