Connecting dots of digital learning

20 New Tools for Digital Classrooms

by Staff Writers of OnlineUniversities.com

It’s hard to find a field that hasn’t been radically changed by technology, and education is no exception. Few classrooms these days operate without digital tools, gadgets, or applications that have made it easier for teachers to track student progress and tailor lessons to student needs and interests. While the tools of today are great, there are even more great technological teaching tools and practices on the horizon, many of which are just starting to be adopted in the classroom or are just making it out of the developmental stages. These tools offer new and often very promising ways to connect with students and improve the quality of education offered in schools. Read on to learn about just a few of the websites, programs, and amazing technologies of the future teachers and students alike will soon be using.

  1. ClassConnect:ClassConnect is a startup founded by teen entrepreneur Eric Simons (who spent monthsliving on AOL’s campus while he worked on the project). Inspired by his own difficulties finding interesting lessons in high school, Simons wanted to create a place where teachers could more easily mix up their instruction. ClassConnect does just that, making it easy for teachers to build, store, and share lessons with colleagues, students, or parents, which may just help teachers grab the interest of bright young minds like Simons.
  2. 19Pencils:19Pencils is another great up-and-coming tool for teachers that allows them to more easily manage and share class content. Through the site, which is still in beta testing, teachers can build a class website to which they can post lessons, links to other class sites, quizzes, and even fun educational content for students.
  3. Augmented Reality Glasses:Some laughed when Google announced it was working on a pair of augmented reality smart glasses, hopefully for release in 2013. Yet the device is incredibly impressive and could eventually become a common sight in classrooms, just like the once much maligned iPad. The glasses have incredible potential as a learning tool, and it’s only a matter of time before teachers are using the cutting-edge gadget in classrooms around the nation.
  4. Online Learning Exchange:Educational publisher Pearson is taking the future of educational content development into their own hands, through amazing resources like the Online Learning Exchange. The site is still in its first stages but has already been part of pilot programs in states like Texas, where teachers can use resources offered by Pearson to build, share, and discuss their lesson plans. Even better, it’s easy for teachers to enrich lessons with videos, documents, and even games.
  5. Prentice Hall Writing CoachWriting coach is another pilot program by Pearson, which is also getting a lot of use in Texas classrooms. With writing being a skill that many students need to hone, the timing couldn’t be better for an educational tool like this to emerge. The PHWC is an online curriculum that guides teachers and students through a series of activities and projects designed to bolster writing skills in grades six through 12. It’s flexible, personalizable, and will likely inspire many similar programs in the coming years.
  6. Three Ring:More and more modern classroom interactions are taking place online, and programs like Three Ring can help to make that process a whole lot more streamlined. Through Three Ring, teachers can easily digitize student work, create online portfolios, and even assess student progress. Even better, it can all be done right from a smart phone.
  7. Class Dojo:Recently launched education startup ClassDojo is a really great tool for teachers who need a little help with behavior management. Through the site, teachers can offer students real-time feedback on their behavior and can print out daily reports for students and parents. It could quickly become a popular way for teachers to spend less time on classroom management and more time on actually teaching lessons.
  8. CAVE technology:While many of the tools on this list are already pretty accessible to teachers, those like Virginia Tech’s CAVE facility aren’t. CAVE, or Computer Augmented Virtual Environments, allows students to strap on VR glasses and enter a 3-D, immersive, multi-person environment, where students can quite literally become immersed in their lessons. So far, the school has developed a virtual Jamestown, entomology projects, and a virtual dandelion. While the technology isn’t widespread now, with so many amazing and highly futuristic applications, more schools, museums, and science centers could be building their own CAVE tools in the future.
  9. Cognitive tutoring programs:Another amazing high-tech tool for education being developed by a top university is cognitive tutoring. Programmers and educators at Carnegie Mellon have teamed to build customizable software that adapts to student needs and abilities, increasing or decreasing difficulty as the student needs it. This sort of AI-based educational program offers some great possibilities for students who are struggling or those who just want to test their skills, and could prove to be a valuable educational tool for any school willing to develop their own versions of the software.
  10. Fast ForWordOne of the best benefits about future teaching tools is their ability to help students who have learning disabilities. Fast ForWord is one example of a new product, designed around neuroscience research on dyslexia, that helps students with difficulty reading and writing improve their skills and reach grade-level standards. Even better, the new program is designed to mesh with No Child Left Behind mandates, which can make it easier on teachers to incorporate it into the classroom.
  11. EEG:While you might think of EEGs as something you only use in a hospital, in the future they might become a more common sight in the classroom as well. EEG is short for electroencephalography, and is a method of recording electrical activity along the scalp to measure brain activity. Currently, there are only a few educational companies working with EEGs for educational purposes, like NeuroSky, the company we’ve linked to here. Yet EEG technology offers teachers unprecedented insights into the minds of students, and as neuroscience research exerts greater influence over classroom practices, teachers could find themselves administering their own brain wave analysis to check student learning.
  12. Lore:Blackboard not working for you? Startup program Lore makes it simple to manage your course, using a social media-like format to help students turn in assignments, have discussions, and share ideas. While it could work for any type of class, Lore and other sites like it could be a big help for teachers working in distance learning.
  13. GlobalScholar:GlobalScholar isn’t new, the company has been around since 2006 and is a division of the education giant Scantron. But it is part of a growing number of tools designed to help teachers meet district standards, organize records, develop lessons, and even engage in professional development. Used in 1,000 school districts nationwide, GlobalScholar’s Pinnacle Suite and other similar software are fast becoming requirements in the modern teacher’s repertoire, which may not be a bad thing as districts tighten belts and demand bigger and better increases in test scores from teachers.
  14. HMH Fuse:Pearson isn’t the only educational publisher looking to think outside the usual textbook box. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is also working on their own high-tech educational tools, one of which is the very impressive pilot program HMH Fuse. Fuse isn’t computer-based, instead operating exclusively on the iPad. The platform offers Common Core lessons in interactive form for Algebra and Geometry, though others may be rolled out in the coming months. It’s designed to help keep students motivated and to raise their test scores, boasting in-app homework help for students and tracking capabilities for teachers as well.
  15. Integrated ApplicationsA pilot program in Arkansas that blends a custom-curriculum with iPad applications is one among many such programs being developed in the United States for use in the K-12 classroom. Educational applications are increasingly playing a major role in teaching, and as new programs are developed and refined, few teachers can expect to stay untouched by the growing trend. Students in the Arkansas classroom got a chance to read iPad based books, Skype with the author in class, and design and built their own adventure stories, an experience that will undoubtedly become more common in the future.
  16. Social Media-Based Learning:While many schools still ban YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, the reality is that social media offers so many opportunities for learning that it will be increasingly difficult to justify prohibiting students from using it for educational purposes. Already, many students are using sites like Evernote, Skitch, Blogger, and YouTube to develop amazing projects, even in early elementary school. While many social media tools for learning already exist, there will likely be an explosion of new sites in the coming years and new ways for teachers to use existing sites that will make social media an indispensable tool in the classroom.
  17. Top Hat Monocle:K-12 classrooms aren’t the only places getting a boost from educational startups. Top Hat Monocle is working to bring disruptive technologies into the college classroom as well, bringing polls, quizzes, and interactive features to students and professors on their laptops and mobile devices. While the site first launched in 2009, it hasn’t seen widespread use until fairly recently, as more teachers look for ways to shake up the traditional university model of education. Results are promising, as professors report an average increase of 3% to 5% in grades.
  18. Socrative:These days, it isn’t enough to reach out to students just over a laptop. Tools like Socrative understand that, engaging students through educational games and exercises via smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Teachers simply choose activities for students that relate to their lessons, students interact with the content, and teachers can then measure how much students are taking away from a lesson. It’s simple and could be a quick and easy way for teachers to gauge student progress.
  19. Late Nite Labs:With school districts around the nation fretting about STEM education, tools like Late Nite Labs could become an ever more important asset in a teacher’s arsenal. Schools that cannot afford lab equipment or who just want to give students extra practice can use the program to complete virtual labs, enhancing STEM education in chemistry and biology without substantial increasing school budgets or requiring a large amount of new resources.
  20. Simulation TechnologyFrom middle school frog dissections to medical school surgical practice, simulation technology is helping to give students at all levels a better biological education. While tools like these have been in use for almost a decade, new, more advanced versions of simulation software are being produced that more adequately replicate real-life scenarios for learners. These kinds of programs can be useful in teaching a wide range of subjects, from medicine, like we mentioned, to driver’s ed to engineering.

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