Edutech for Teachers

Cool Tools for the 21st Century Classroom

7 Ideas to Tech Out Learning



Innovation… Versatility… Performance… What teacher doesn’t want to provide the best technology has to offer for students? But with a plethora of choices, sometimes it’s overwhelming trying to determine what device best suits the needs of all learners. So, what should educators choose—the power of a laptop or the compact, lightweight portability of a tablet? Well, it’s no longer necessary to settle for one option when the best of both worlds are at your fingertips. Yep, it’s true. With the latest and greatest technologies currently available on the market, students now have access to the functionality of a laptop while also having the capability of completing captivating assignments and/or creating meaningful content via a tablet. And better yet: The instruction and learning goals can dictate the type of device being used as opposed to the reverse, which typically occurs in classrooms today. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it?

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m referring to a super cool technology known as the 2-in-1. Whether your students need to generate a document or spreadsheet, transfer files, read an e-book, capture photos or create media, this hybrid does it all with just one simple twist, click or flip. Not only is this option flexible and convenient, but cost-effective as well because schools no longer need to provide students with more than one device to achieve desired outcomes. It’s really all that—and much more!

In fact, it’s just what the edtech doctor ordered! The 2-in-1 hybrid model provides the learner with a perfect all-in-one tool, one that can be utilized in a variety of meaningful ways to promote 21st Century skills anywhere at any time.

So, how can the 2-in-1 be integrated into classroom activities? By minimizing restrictions and limitations, the possibilities that exist are seriously endless. Go ahead and give some of these fun yet effective strategies a test drive, and you’ll be wondering how you’ve ever operated without one of these devices!

1. Not Your Grandma’s Research Paper

After conducting research on a specific curricular topic and writing a paper or essay using a word processing application, students can bring the facts to life by creating a dynamic interactive image containing media rich links such as video and audio with the ThingLink web tool/app. Students not only love being engaged, but they also appreciate having the opportunity to discover new content, so why not use ThingLink as a means to explore information and/or extend learning related to a particular topic or concept. Interactive images can be viewed via the ThingLink web site, or as an added bonus, they can be embedded to a class or student blog, wiki or web page.

2.  Join the QR Code Craze Quest

Take the old-fashioned treasure hunt to a high tech level using those souped-up bar codes known as QR codes. Keep things new and exciting by developing a digital scavenger hunt utilizing scannable images to get students physically and mentally engaged in learning about a specific curricular topic. As they move about the classroom visiting a variety of websites to gather information, students can also record their findings using a Google Doc or Form. Better yet, students could even create a digital presentation to demonstrate the knowledge they acquired from their web adventure.

There are tons of other uses for QR codes in the classroom, especially when students have access to a mobile device: Stations for self-directed learning, checking answers on an assignment, adding information to artwork and the list goes on. So, just go for it! Create your first code and then design some creative approaches to utilize this concept in your space!

3.  Book Reports with a Digital Twist

Time to ditch those pencils and that paper and say hello to an alternative to the dreaded book report: A movie trailer. Using a tool such as Movie Maker, iMovie or VoiceThread, students are given the opportunity to produce and publish a multimedia project that encourages them to summarize and convey what they have read in a format similar to a film preview. Besides communicating meaning through the creation of a digital story, students are also analyzing the mood of a book and reflecting those emotions through the selection of corresponding music. Going beyond the traditional book report concept also has the potential to generate interest and excitement for reading by exposing others to some really great new literature.

4. Convey Concepts with a Medley of Images

Looking for a neat way to involve students in classroom activities? Well, of course, there’s an app for that! A favorite of mine—Pic Collage—is one you will definitely want to check out! It’s fast, fun and one of the best ways I have found to create awesome collages using a variety of photos, stickers, backgrounds, text, web images and freeform cutouts. Pic Collage—or a similar collage generator—can be applied to any learning experience. Yep, utilize one of these applications as a quick, easy and creative way for students to produce an original piece of work demonstrating their knowledge about a particular topic. A cool tool like this is also perfect for developing pictorial journals to highlight school and/or classroom field trips, activities, events and more!

5. May the Forms Be With You!

Take formative assessment to the digital level by having students show their understanding of content through completing forms, surveys and/or polls. Get the job done via tools such as Google Apps for Education or a variety of web resources and apps including PollDaddy, Survey Monkey or Socrative.

With a few clicks of a mouse or taps on a screen, teachers can obtain an instantaneous snapshot of what skills have been mastered and/or what needs to be reinforced at any point in a given lesson. In addition to instructional feedback, teachers can also acquire other valuable information from students such as interests, needs, assignment progress, etc.

Teachers can also extend learning by having students develop and distribute their own forms, surveys or polls. Once data is collected, they can compile and display their findings in a spreadsheet.

6. Transform Quotes into Visual Masterpieces for Learning

The use of quotes and/or images to motivate and inspire students is not a new concept. I personally incorporate both on a regular basis and can honestly say that this strategy is one of my most favorite ways to begin the class.

Of course, if you conduct a search for tools that can achieve this outcome, you will locate more than enough options. However, after several hours of experimenting, I found ReciteThis to be the perfect tool for teachers who are looking for a quick and easy yet powerful way to create their own quote images and/or who want their students to do the same.

If you need further justification for integrating tools like ReciteThis into your lessons, then use the visual literacy rationale. Why? Because we live in a world in which our students are constantly bombarded with images; thus, it is essential for them to have the skills to recognize, interpret and understand the context of these signs, pictures, graphics and/or symbols in order to make meaning of their environment.

Want to add another layer of technology in connection with quote images? Then consider utilizing Edmodo, an educational microblogging platform that allows students to share and discuss their responses to quote images in a collaborative online environment. Not only is this application engaging and relevant, but students really enjoy completing writing assignments in this manner.

7.  Positively App-Smashing!

App smashing: The art of merging content from a variety of apps to generate a unique finished product. Sounds pretty nifty, right? That’s because this latest edtech craze is an app-solutley amazing way for students to really unleash their creativity… A way for them to not only demonstrate information about a particular topic but an opportunity for them to show off their tech-knowledge-y skills in a unique manner… To be innovative with mobile devices and digital media!

Of course, any of the previously mentioned activities can be combined to achieve the app smashing effect. For example, create a collage and then import it into ThingLink to create “hot spots” containing links to additional resources about a topic.

The app smashing concept can enhance learning while maximizing the potential of digital tools by merging their features and functions to create a pretty sweet final project—one that should be published to the web. After all, digital presence is the new resume!

OK, so let’s face it. We live in a digital society that is dominated by computers; consequently, the more adept students are at navigating them, the better equipped they will be to succeed in the “real world”. Having a device that allows students to be both productive and inventive guarantees they will acquire the necessary skills to compete in an ever-expanding high-tech global marketplace.

This article is sponsored by by Intel Education. For more great ideas regarding the use of 2 in 1 devices with students, be sure to visit, where you’ll find strategies, suggestions and more!

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Hey, edu-tech gurus!

Looking for some technology integration ideas to enhance your classroom lessons? Then be sure to check out my "Tech Tips" for the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tools, applications and web sites that can be incorporated into activities and/or projects. Although some posts may not be applicable to your content area or grade level, be sure to check back often as I will be varying ideas in order to provide resources across the K-12 curriculum.

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