Technology is needed more than ever before as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way students across the nation go to school. Whether it be in person, hybrid, or online learning, educators are turning to technology to help support their students academic, social, and behavioral needs. What are some of the best tools educators are using in their classrooms during this unique time of schooling? Below is a strong list of some of the best educational technology tools for this 2020 school year.
“Let’s do a zoom…” would have had little meaning to anyone just a handful of months ago. Now that phrase is as common-day as “staff meeting.” Zoom has made video conferencing easy, effective, and engaging for students and staff alike across the nation. It offers collaboration features such as one-click content sharing, real-time co-annotation, and digital white-boarding.
Teachers are able to record their live classes or pre-record lessons using Zoom, which has been found helpful for those working under a hybrid learning model. Students have fun being able to change their backgrounds and pretend they are in places like the ocean or the mountains. And teachers enjoy the ability to mute others while they are instructing (think no more blurting and fewer disruptions). Zoom continues to top the charts of video conferencing tools.
eSpark makes a claim to being the perfect tool for small group, independent, and remote learning, and for the most part, its statement holds true. With eSpark’s standards-based games, engaging videos, and digital activities, students work independently to succeed at their own level and at their own pace.
Students begin by taking a placement test that puts them on an adaptive pathway with direct instruction and an assortment of practice activities. Teachers also have the ability to assign specific standards to reinforce what they are currently teaching or if they want to target specific skills that students need more work in. While there are similar programs like eSpark, the ability to do both math and reading makes it stand out to educators and has become a one-stop-shop as a digital tool.
Prodigy is one of the top apps of 2020 when it comes to student engagement and students’ excitement for learning. As students explore the Prodigy Math Game world, they answer questions to complete quests and earn in-game rewards. Teachers can align the in-game questions to match their instruction.
Educators can also track student progress with real-time data that creates comprehension and progress reports that teachers can use to guide instruction. Students often mention Prodigy when asked about their favorite app, making it a win-win for students and teachers.
With 94% of schools in the U.S. using Epic, there must be something good happening in this popular reading app. Epic is currently the leading digital reading platform used by educators. It has a collection of more than 40,000 books that are high-quality, popular, and from some of the world’s best publishers. With the options students have to read independently, have books read to them, or watch educational videos, it isn’t surprising why this app is so popular amongst school districts.
Additionally, teachers can assign students books or create collections of books for students to read. Some of these texts even have short comprehension quizzes at the end, making yet another reason why this app is so widely used.
iXL is a computer program for students in grades preK-12. It covers four core subjects and is Common Core and State Standards-aligned. A new feature to iXL, the Real-Time Diagnostic, evaluates students’ grade level proficiency in math and language arts at a deeper level than ever before. This provides teachers with data they can use to help make informed decisions about where students are at in their learning.
iXL also uses the insight from student work combined with the diagnostic to generate a personalized guide for each learner. iXL is a great tool to use to take a deeper look into how students are doing, give them more practice on the content being taught, and engage them in a digital program.
Another top app of 2020 that has been around for quite some time is Chatterpix. It is simple to explain, easy to use, and pleasantly basic (making it suitable for Kindergarten students on up). The idea is that users turn any picture into a talking picture (think: talking pet dog, talking broom, or talking PB & J Sandwich).
This is a great app to use with students for sharing information, answering questions, or just for fun during morning meeting. With how simple this app is, it’s worth a try if you haven’t already discovered its charming features.
Kids A-Z (which emphases the more widely known Raz-Kids) is an award-winning resource that provides students with leveled books, teachers with progress reports, and everyone involved with another great platform to help practice reading skills.
Built into Kids A-Z is a library of differentiated books at 29 reading levels. These books can be accessed at home or school. It is a great app to use when teaching small group reading, for students’ silent reading time, or for read-alouds.
There are easy-to-use online controls that allow teachers to quickly manage and track their students’ progress. Additionally, there are built-in incentives and rewards that students use to personalize their “Star Zone.” The downfall is that this tech tool does come with a cost, but don’t let that sway you from its many benefits.
It’s hard to pinpoint the best technology tools of 2020 when there are so many wonderful ones available. Zoom, eSpark, Prodigy, Epic, iXL, Chatterpix, and Kids A-Z are just some of the exciting digital resources out there. Whether your students this year are learning in person, in a hybrid model, or completely online, take a look at these top technology tools. They are sure to become some of your favorites, too.