27 January 2017

My Top 10 Tech Tools of 2016

It's 2017, but these tools served me well through 2016. No, these are not the cool new tools that came out in 2016: these are the tools that I relied on to survive 2016. Maybe they can make 2017 smoother for you too!

1. Google Classroom

Where would I be without Google Classroom? Still making shared folders with individual student folders selectively shared for each class and contemplating printing out every writing assignment submitted just so I could actually add some real feedback without writing a bazillion disjoint emails. To say nothing of all of the logins I'd need for surveys and announcements and resources I wanted to share with my students. Google Classroom truly does pull everything together, and for free! And while there's not a functional gradebook there yet, the ability to label assignments and announcements really does make finding, well, EVERYTHING easy enough that it doesn't make that much difference. And the new parent feature? Brilliant. Google still wins the LMS Smackdown for me, hands down.

2. Seesaw

I almost left Google for Seesaw this past year. The kids talked me out of it because they like having everything integrated with their emails and other classes, but I don't think they could live without Seesaw anymore than I could now! How else are they supposed to get their videos online as fast? How else can they share links and messages and recordings across classrooms? How else can they find (and embed) their evidence for their portfolios? How could they doodle and label straight onto images they--and their classmates and teacher--uploaded? I like it even better now that I just make one big Seesaw class for all of my Spanish 1s or all of my Spanish 2s, because the folders let me split it all up however I want anyway!

3. Adobe Spark

I mean, when it just did videos and just on iPads, I was already cien por ciento SMITTEN. But now that it makes my blog posts beautiful AND lets me create videos and classy webpages? I don't know, is it time to build a shrine? I mean, yes, saving can be a little wonky now and then, but there is no way to put a price on videos where I don't have to wait through minutes of pondering to hear seconds of Spanish! And with pretty music and easy embedding too! AND I can create comprehensible videos for my kiddos without A) spending hours on animations and B) putting on makeup so as not to frighten the darlings.

4. Nearpod

I confess, I tried to quit Nearpod when I ran out of my silver subscription, but it might as well have been Jake Gyllenhall. I need that ability to order my plans for the day AND build in interaction and links. And NOW there's a built-in collaboration activity where students can vote on responses? They already LOVED the instant feedback I could give them when they write out answers to questions, and Nearpod really  helps them shine in regular formative assessments!

5. Vibby

I don't remember how I lived without Vibby--or I just really don't want to. On the SAMR scale, this took me to Redefinition, because I was doing a lot of time consuming guessing (as were my students) before they could highlight exactly the segments they could comprehend and then put exactly what they thought those segments meant directly ON the segments! I mean, maybe not ON the video, but this is almost better--and quicker.  I do still advise keeping a Google Doc open while editing, though, because, well, comments have been known to get eaten or scrambled. But I LOVE playing with new ways to use comments and replies, so keep an eye out for more Vib love posts, especially from my online class!

6. Blogger

Blogger hasn't really gotten any fancier, and I'm still not willing to mess with the disaster that is the Android or IOS app, but the sheer versatility of the pages and labels and layouts...I'm just really loving what it's doing for student portfolios and centralizing student work. And everything else seems to have easy-to-access embed codes these days, so the HTML mode just makes everything work together so nicely. AND everyone can comment on it!

7. Google Drawing

Combining Drawings with Google Classroom has really helped my scaffolding. From first-day collage assignments to interpretive practice, even to IPAs, Google Drawings have allowed me to personalize tasks for students while highlighting what it is I really need from them. I can create templates for them to fill in, thus cutting down on time diverted to decoration, or even add some simplified AAPPL rubrics on the side so they can self-evaluate!

8. Google Slides

I mean, seriously, can Google and I just paint nails together and talk about boys? Because we are totally BFFs by this point. I love creating task templates in Slides because it helps make everything look manageable. I can break down a multi-step task into separate slides that students just have to fill in. I can designate a separate slide for each student in a group research assignment so everyone can add their own links, quotes, and analysis. I do kind of wish I could comment onto specific highlights like on Docs, although I can also add fill-in-the-textboxes like in Drawings, just, you know, with more room. I might be switching to Slides for online class IPAs, just to stretch out what students can show--and hey! They can even give me their main idea/supporting detail analysis in the notes!

9. Pinterest

It bears repeating that Pinterest is a novice's best friend (not to mention a globetrotting teacher's). I've set up collaborative boards for sharing self-improvement resources, collected authentic texts on  gamification and marketing and Mexican history, AND created my own sources from Mexico through Instagram and a little internet magic. Pinterest allows me to organize myself and also personalize choices for students on assignments and assessments. Not to mention all of the great resources from my go-to pinners!

10. Flubaroo

I don't give multiple choice quizzes or tests, so you would think that Flubaroo has nothing to offer me. However, this extension has proven a handy way for me to offer feedback on portfolios! I have indeed abandoned ForAllRubrics to keep things centralized and familiar with my BFF Google, but students are finding that "pledging" their badges with Google Forms is just a lot more intuitive, and I love how I can give them targeted feedback and just hit share to send it right to their inboxes. I can even send HTML code for when they earn a badge or use the new automated sticker function to just send the image! I'm struggling with how this will fit with students making their own objectives, and I wonder if it's going to be necessary with the new quiz function on Google Forms (ah, Google, you always know what I like!), but this definitely helped me survive 2016!

So there you have it! My top 10 tools for the past year! What new tools will you try this year?

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