TeachersFirst Edge

New web 2.0 tools appear each day. Many of these tools were not originally intended for classroom use, but they can be powerful learning tools for today's techno-savvy students and their more adventurous teachers. These sites appear (and frequently disappear) very quickly, launched by creative techno-geeks out there in the world.

Many of these tools require a higher-than-average set of teacher tech skills or some extra monitoring to assure student "safety." TeachersFirst Edge reviews these "tools on the Edge" carefully, and with specific ideas for using them safely and effectively in teaching and learning. Reviews point out any safety or policy concerns for the tool and offer links to management tips for each concern.

Especially popular is this subset of the Edge: BYOD Dream Tools: Free tools that work on any device. Look for the device agnostic tool tag in any review.

This is the world your students already know. Try teaching in their vernacular. A little adventurousness makes for powerful learning.

See General Tips for using Edge Tools - a must for first-time users

Browse the full listing of detailed safety/school policy tips or save time by reading them as needed from each tool review.

Learn about school web filtering, a critical issue with many "Edge" tools

If you try one of these tools and find it especially useful, be sure to leave a comment on it to share your students' successes with other teachers. If you know of another tool that teachers would find beneficial, please suggest it via our webmaster account, as a "suggested resource."

Here's the Edge:

 

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Kodu Game Lab - Microsoft Research

Grades
3 to 12
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Kodu is a software download for creating Windows PC games through a simple programming language. A download is also available for Xbox games; however, it is not free. The software ...more
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Kodu is a software download for creating Windows PC games through a simple programming language. A download is also available for Xbox games; however, it is not free. The software allows users to create and personalize virtual worlds through point and click options. Additional options offer "if this, then that" personalization to add variety to the game. Under Resources find the "Getting Started" tutorial videos that reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): coding (65), game based learning (123), gamification (79)

In the Classroom

Have students work in teams to design and develop content demonstrating an understanding of lessons in any subject area. Begin sharing Kodu with your computer experts who are interested in programming. Allow them to be the leaders in sharing how to use and personalize the program. Use Kodu as part of an after-school computer club. Be sure to take advantage of the resources section of Kodu for tips and tutorials on using the program.

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Inkscape - The Inkscape Project

Grades
6 to 12
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Inkscape is a free vector graphics software program. Download it to your computer using the provided links for different operating systems. Use Inkscape to create icons, logos, maps,...more
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Inkscape is a free vector graphics software program. Download it to your computer using the provided links for different operating systems. Use Inkscape to create icons, logos, maps, and more. The software supports many different file formats and has an extensive set of drawing tools. View the many tutorials found on the site to learn how to use Inkscape and understand the many features available for use. The video tutorials reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): design (94), graphic design (36), images (273)

In the Classroom

Include Inkscape as part of any graphics art program. Allow students to use the program to create digital icons for school projects, logos for athletic teams, or enhance images for school yearbooks.

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RobotBasic - John Blankenship

Grades
6 to 12
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RobotBasic is a free program download for robotic simulations. It features the ability to include several different commands and sensors. The program is for both novice and experienced...more
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RobotBasic is a free program download for robotic simulations. It features the ability to include several different commands and sensors. The program is for both novice and experienced programmers, this site includes several video tutorials that begin with the assumption that users don't have any programming experience. Be sure to read all system requirements and necessary information before downloading the program.

tag(s): computers (100), robotics (26)

In the Classroom

Share RobotBasic with students interested in computer programming. Ask proficient programmers to be the "experts" and share how-to activities with other students. Have your experts create short tutorials using a tool like My Simpleshow, reviewed here, and share them using a tool such as SchoolTube, reviewed here.

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NoteBookCast - notebookcast.com

Grades
K to 12
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Create and collaborate with up to 10 others using this online whiteboard, no registration necessary. Optional registration allows users to save whiteboards for later use. Give your...more
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Create and collaborate with up to 10 others using this online whiteboard, no registration necessary. Optional registration allows users to save whiteboards for later use. Give your whiteboard a name and choose your board size to begin. Options allow for customizing the look of the whiteboard, adding a chat box, and uploading images. Share with other users using the provided link or with your personalized code. NoteBookCast is compatible with many devices making it easy for everyone to work together.

tag(s): collaboration (17), drawing (82), iwb (32)

In the Classroom

Most subject area teachers and their students will benefit from the use of this tool. Allow students to create collaborative drawings as responses to literature. They can map out the plot or themes, add labels, create character studies, and more. Share the finished products on an interactive whiteboard, projector, or your class website. Have a group of students create a drawing, so another group can use it as a writing prompt. Use a NoteBookCast board as a brainstorming or sketching space as groups (or the class) share ideas for a major project or for solving a real world problem. Use this tool with students in a computer lab (or on laptops) to create a drawing of the setting in a story during a read-aloud. As an assessment idea, have students draw out a simple cartoon with stick figures to explain a more complex process such as how democracy works. If you are lucky enough to teach in a BYOD setting, use this site to demonstrate and illustrate any concept while students use the chat and drawing tools to interact in real time. If you are studying weather, have students diagram the layers of the atmosphere and what happens during a thunderstorm, for example. Introduce this tool to students who are working on group projects. Alternatively, have students use this to work as partners or as a small team to complete complex math problems or equations.

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TED-Ed Clubs - Lessons Worth Sharing - TEDEd

Grades
4 to 12
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TED-Ed Clubs provide a platform for students aged 8-18 across the world to explore ideas, share information, and participate in global conversations. Begin by applying to start a club...more
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TED-Ed Clubs provide a platform for students aged 8-18 across the world to explore ideas, share information, and participate in global conversations. Begin by applying to start a club to discuss thoughts and ideas of interest to your group through the leadership of an adult facilitator. Each club is open to up to 50 members. Clubs provide 13 meetings beginning with three sessions exploring TED Talks, following that, students learn how to frame and share ideas. At the conclusion, participants upload their final talk to the TED-Ed YouTube Channel. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): collaboration (17), creativity (121), critical thinking (119), logic (234), problem solving (286)

In the Classroom

Facilitate a TED-Ed Club to promote problem-solving skills and creative thinking in any subject. Challenge students to pursue ideas of interest to them in the classroom. Create a club as an after-school activity for like-minded students, or as enrichment for gifted learners. TED-Ed Club provides an outlet for some quieter students with interests other than what is offered in the curriculum, encourage these students to share their interests and passions through the guidelines provided in the clubs.

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3x3 Links - Federico Elles

Grades
K to 12
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3x3 Links is a bookmarking site that organizes saved websites into a 3x3 grid. Add items as a link to any website or create a folder that links to a ...more
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3x3 Links is a bookmarking site that organizes saved websites into a 3x3 grid. Add items as a link to any website or create a folder that links to a new grid with websites you add. Customize your page to include a personalized URL, add a background image or color, and include or delete captions.

tag(s): bookmarks (66), preK (293)

In the Classroom

3x3 Links is an excellent tool for efficiently managing online resources in your classroom. For younger students, use this site as the home page on classroom computers. Add direct links to sites for student use or create folders for each subject. This site allows the creation of multiple grids, create a grid for each content unit or semester. Use the embed code to add the grid to your class webpage. For older students, this site is perfect for organizing and sharing resources for study or research projects. As an example, if your students are doing a research report on a state, ask them to create a grid to include folders linking to different topics including famous people, population information, geography, and history. Although there is an option to create up to 9 cubes in your grid, it isn't necessary so the number of cubes can be suited to fit your needs.

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Sticky Notes: Just Popped Up! - Ukiv

Grades
4 to 12
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Do you always place sticky notes on your computer screen? This Chrome extension is for you. This simple design allows users to add a note to their screen with one ...more
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Do you always place sticky notes on your computer screen? This Chrome extension is for you. This simple design allows users to add a note to their screen with one click. Change font size, color, and themes to personalize your stickies. View your notes across devices when logged in to Chrome. Be sure to watch for updates to include multiple sticky notes and features for sharing.

tag(s): brainstorming (26), note taking (39), organizational skills (128)

In the Classroom

Make notes for conferences, lab materials, books needed, or even parent conferences on any web page. Add sticky notes to any webpage or PDF shared with students on your interactive whiteboard to remind them of necessary information or as a list of important items to watch for when viewing a page. Create a list of vocabulary words from any website as you view it together. Share this extension for students to use on their device for note-taking.

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Loose Canon - Julia Franks

Grades
K to 12
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Create excitement about books and promote the love of reading with Loose Canon. This site provides over 9000 book recommendations to view by subject or grade level. Create a free ...more
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Create excitement about books and promote the love of reading with Loose Canon. This site provides over 9000 book recommendations to view by subject or grade level. Create a free classroom account to add your books and recommendations by your students. Free accounts allow up to 60 participants to share and compare texts. Be sure also to view the resources provided by Loose Canon. This portion of the site shares assessment, classroom activities, and reading research to viewers without requiring registration. Included is approximately a five minute video explaining reading workshop and features of Loose Cannon. This video resides on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the video may not be viewable. You could always view the video at home and bring it to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as ClipGrab, reviewed here, to download the video from YouTube.

tag(s): book lists (133), book reports (39)

In the Classroom

Share Loose Canon with your students as an extensive resource for finding and comparing books to read. Use materials found on this site to create collaborative Literature Circles in your classroom. If you create an account with Loose Canon, ask students to share their thoughts on books read in school and at home by reviewing and rating it on Loose Canon. These reviews can be made public, or students can keep them private. Take your reading reflections a step further and ask students to share their thoughts through a multimedia presentation using an interactive tool like Sway, reviewed here, that allows users to include images, links, and videos.

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Unio - Harness

Grades
K to 12
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Create interactive online lessons including quizzes and polls with Unio. Create an account using your email address to begin. Upload images, PowerPoints, videos, PDF's, and more to...more
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Create interactive online lessons including quizzes and polls with Unio. Create an account using your email address to begin. Upload images, PowerPoints, videos, PDF's, and more to include in your slideshow. Follow the tutorials to learn how to edit information and add quizzes and polls. When ready, launch your lesson and share the join code with students for access. Students will see your screen and be able to save the lesson for access later. Teachers can monitor students in real time. Free accounts provide temporary student access (instead of student accounts) and storage of up to 5 lessons. The tutorials reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as ClipGrab, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): book reports (39), classroom management (155), multimedia (63), social networking (113)

In the Classroom

Use Unio to create and prepare lessons for presentation on an interactive whiteboard or with a projector. After providing the share code to students ask them to participate by answering quiz questions or use the drawing tools to highlight information shared in the lesson. Upon completion of your lesson using Unio, have students add a video response to share information learned using a collaborative tool like Flipgrid, reviewed here. Flipgrid allows students to respond to a prompt and add comments as part of a shared conversation within a group. Instead of a written report at the end of your lesson, ask students to create a Symbaloo Learning Path, reviewed here, to use for review. This site allows users to create a learning path by adding websites, videos, documents, and more.

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Microsoft Touch Develop - Microsoft

Grades
4 to 12
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Create apps to work on any device using Microsoft Touch Develop. Launch Touch Develop to access tutorials and showcases to begin. The editor adapts to your skill level from beginner...more
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Create apps to work on any device using Microsoft Touch Develop. Launch Touch Develop to access tutorials and showcases to begin. The editor adapts to your skill level from beginner to expert. Step by step video directions provides information on how codes work and then allows you to create code for each step.

tag(s): coding (65), Computational Thinking (14), computers (100), critical thinking (119), design (94), problem solving (286)

In the Classroom

Use Touch Develop as a computer center or during Hour of Code lessons. Encourage students to view programs others have created, then try making their own. If your school has an after-school computer club, Touch Develop is perfect for use in teaching and practicing coding. Consider pairing students who have more computer experience with those who have less. Touch Develop is also an excellent opportunity for "new" coders as it allows them to create and share interesting apps with little background knowledge of computer programming. Have students share their completed apps during a computer or STEM showcase at your school.

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Minecraft Education Edition - Microsoft and Mojang AB

Grades
2 to 12
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Promote creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration through game play with Minecraft Education Edition. This version of the popular game includes features for classroom use including...more
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Promote creativity, problem-solving, and collaboration through game play with Minecraft Education Edition. This version of the popular game includes features for classroom use including documentation of work and a secure environment for class play. In addition to the software download, this site includes a small base of lesson plans, classroom community support forums, and a My Classroom feature. My Classroom allows teachers to create a private world for students to join enabling them to work together in the same world.

tag(s): coding (65), game based learning (123), gamification (79)

In the Classroom

Make use of the features provided in the education edition of Minecraft to allow learning through gameplay. Ask students to use the camera and portfolio features to document decision making and progress through games. Use features within the game to learn about history, for example, have students import 3-dimensional structures such as the Roman Colosseum to explore and create experiences from that time. Instruct students create a story for creative writing projects. Encourage students to retell a story through a Minecraft experience. Use Minecraft features to teach math lessons on shape, volume, area, and more. Discover more ideas at Minecraft Hour of Code Tutorials, reviewed here.

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KingCitation - KingCitation

Grades
5 to 12
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Let's face it, creating proper citations is difficult due to the many different formats and the variety of sources cited. KingCitation helps with this problem with its citation generator....more
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Let's face it, creating proper citations is difficult due to the many different formats and the variety of sources cited. KingCitation helps with this problem with its citation generator. The three step procedure begins with choosing the type of work that is cited then moves on to adding requested information to the form generator. Click "Generate Citation" to complete your citation ready to copy and paste into any document.

tag(s): citations (38), plagiarism (37)

In the Classroom

Use your interactive whiteboard and projector to show students how to use this tool for citing their sources. Share this website for all of your projects using research so students know the correct procedure for citations. Be sure to add it on your class web site as a useful reference.
 

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Boardthing - Dave Gray

Grades
5 to 12
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Boardthing is a web-based visual thinking and collaboration tool. Create your board then share with others. Add cards to your board similar to sticky notes on a whiteboard. Use the...more
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Boardthing is a web-based visual thinking and collaboration tool. Create your board then share with others. Add cards to your board similar to sticky notes on a whiteboard. Use the site's tools to draw lines connecting ideas, change the color of cards, and add images. Share boards via the unique URL or save using different file options.
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tag(s): bulletin boards (18), collaboration (17)

In the Classroom

Create a Boardthing board to collaborate on collecting ideas, brainstorming, and more. Use this tool easily in your Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) classroom since all students will be able to access it for free, no matter what device they have. Boardthing does not show which work is attributable to which student, so you may want to require that students initial their contributions to get credit. If allowing all students to post to the board or make comments, you may want to discuss Internet safety and etiquette and establish specific class rules and consequences. Challenge students to create a BoardThing to display pictures and videos of their research project, science fair projects, steps to how they resolved a math equation, etc. Free accounts after the trial period allow users five new boards usable only by the board creator.

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Slidebot - SlideBot Pty Ltd

Grades
6 to 12
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Create engaging presentations, similar to those used by TedX speakers, with Slidebot. Register using your education email to begin. Follow the instructions after clicking Getting Started...more
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Create engaging presentations, similar to those used by TedX speakers, with Slidebot. Register using your education email to begin. Follow the instructions after clicking Getting Started to add title headings for your slides. SlideBot chooses images for each slide with an option to change at any time from over 25 million choices. Change the design on any slide using options for text, color, and placement. When finished, share your presentation within Slidebot or export as a PPT or PDF.
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tag(s): slides (65)

In the Classroom

Use SlideBot for student presentations in the classroom. Challenge your writers to create short stories and publish with slides. SlideBot is a great resource for your BYOD classroom. Create supporting presentations for lessons. Encourage students to create presentations to support book talks and share them on a library website.

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ChartAccent - Donghao Ren, Matthew Brehmer, and others

Grades
8 to 12
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Add comments and annotations to your online charts with ChartAccent. Upload your CSV file to begin and follow the steps to choose the best type of chart for your dataset. ...more
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Add comments and annotations to your online charts with ChartAccent. Upload your CSV file to begin and follow the steps to choose the best type of chart for your dataset. Options include bar, line, or scatter plots. Follow additional steps to label and annotate your chart. When finished, save your work as a PNG, SVG, or animated GIF. Be sure to watch the included video with directions for annotating and exporting charts.

tag(s): charts and graphs (192)

In the Classroom

Collect data in your classroom and quickly create a graph to represent it. Share through links or adding images to blogs, wikis, or websites. Share graphs on an interactive whiteboard or projector for better analysis of data by the class, then add comments and notes. Graph results of a test, answers from students, favorite foods, fictitious budgets, class schedules, and whatever else is applicable in your classroom. Use an informational text, and have students create a pie chart to understand how to read charts that accompany the informational texts. Have cooperative learning groups create graphs to share with the class on the class wiki. Create quick pie charts on your interactive whiteboard whenever you count class votes or encounter other data so students "see" data visualized on a regular basis; visual students will have another way to absorb the information. Keep the link handy on your web page to access it quickly in or out of class. Assess students' understanding of any chart by uploading one and having the student annotate the information.
 

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StepMap - Ole Brandenburg

Grades
5 to 12
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Create personalized local or world maps using StepMap. Register using your email, then activate your account to begin. Choose from creating a standard map or regional/city map to start....more
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Create personalized local or world maps using StepMap. Register using your email, then activate your account to begin. Choose from creating a standard map or regional/city map to start. Follow the steps to choose an area on the map, colorize specific areas including national parks, add options including latitude and longitude lines, and icons. StepMap also offers the option to upload and add video and images as a link to specific locations. When complete, save your map then share using social networking options, the provided embed code, or download to your computer as a jpg. Watch the video tutorial for information on using this site. If your district blocks YouTube, the video may not be viewable. You could always view the video at home and bring it to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the video from YouTube.
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tag(s): continents (49), countries (80), map skills (81), maps (292)

In the Classroom

Use StepMap as a tool for helping students learn the locations of countries. Demonstrate how to use the site, then have students find and locate countries, then label using specific colors. Use StepMap to create a map of locations from a novel, events in history, or interesting locations near your hometown.

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Canary Learning - Canary Learning, Inc

Grades
6 to 12
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Canary Learning is an online platform for distributing, collecting, and grading assignments. Create assignments from existing documents to download to student devices. When complete,...more
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Canary Learning is an online platform for distributing, collecting, and grading assignments. Create assignments from existing documents to download to student devices. When complete, students submit work even when offline. Grade and manage assignments with Canary Learning's built-in tools. Your Canary Learning dashboard keeps track of daily information including assignments, student and teacher resources, work to be graded, and more.

tag(s): assessment (109), classroom management (155)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of Canary Learning's features to organize and manage your classroom. Provide student feedback quickly through the site's grading tool. Students will always know the latest assignments and due dates through access on the site.

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RooClick - David Bard

Grades
6 to 12
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Create interactive video lessons with RooClick. Embed quizzes and documents at any point in a video and receive detailed reports on student responses. See Rooclick in action by going...more
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Create interactive video lessons with RooClick. Embed quizzes and documents at any point in a video and receive detailed reports on student responses. See Rooclick in action by going to the "Try It!" link on the site. RooClick works on any device; however, RooClick recommends that you download and use their apps when using a mobile device. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.
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tag(s): DAT device agnostic tool (174), digital storytelling (153), questioning (34), video (278)

In the Classroom

Create short review videos for flipped lessons. Annotate by highlighting the significant features of videos through the addition of documents with supporting information. Consider the power of students using this site to annotate videos to explain the material in their own words. Students can also create questions to play with each video. Also, as a final project for any unit, students can share research findings in a video with discussion questions to go with the research and with links to outside resources. Be sure students create a script to read from before beginning to produce their own video.

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Quiznetic - Quiznetic

Grades
6 to 12
4 Favorites 0  Comments
 
Quiznetic is a quiz creation tool that sends players racing on a track you choose. Begin by creating your quiz from options presented within Quiznetic including player movement choices...more
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Quiznetic is a quiz creation tool that sends players racing on a track you choose. Begin by creating your quiz from options presented within Quiznetic including player movement choices and positions on the board. Add questions by selecting from options of question types, add images or videos if desired, and feedback for submitted answers. Quizzes allow for up to 30 players, and they enter the game on any device by entering the unique access code. Also, you can run more than one quiz at a time. When finished, teachers receive a game result spreadsheet with player names and results from each question. Making the creation of a quiz can take just a matter of seconds by copying other people's public game designs.

tag(s): assessment (109), quiz (88), quizzes (101)

In the Classroom

Add Quiznetic to your arsenal of quiz creation tools, especially for differentiation, since you can run more than one quiz at a time. Create a quiz as a tool for checking prior knowledge or making a quick assessment. Have students answer exit questions or see what students remember from the previous day using the Quiz Creator. Use for formative assessment to identify misconceptions that students may have at the start of a unit. ESL/ELL and world language teachers could use Quiznetic for vocabulary practice. Have students create quizzes with characteristics of story characters for classmates to see which character they resemble the most. Students could also create a quiz to present to his/her peers after giving a class presentation.

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Formilla - Tawer Gilyana and Zaia Gilyana

Grades
K to 12
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Formilla is a live chat widget add-on for your website. Compatible with all formats, Formilla is customizable for different languages and appearance. Free accounts include access to...more
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Formilla is a live chat widget add-on for your website. Compatible with all formats, Formilla is customizable for different languages and appearance. Free accounts include access to one website, one chat agent, and up to 30 chats/emails.
This site includes advertising.

tag(s): chat (54)

In the Classroom

Offer a set time for office hours published well in advance for parents and students to drop in and ask questions about assignments, homework help, or any other matters that they may have. Set up a chat time early in the school year for "meet and greet" so parents discover your website or for those who are unable to attend back to school night! Cut down on email! Encourage students to identify the questions they (or their parents) have the most as you develop the scope for your chat. ESL/ELL teachers can use the chat to provide extra written language practice for their students in an engaging way! Use the chat with your colleagues in a Teacher Lounge format to help each other in the appropriate use of technology, content sharing, or professional development.

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