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5 Tech Tools to Add Power to Your School Day

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Tech Tools for Homeschool and Classroom

The Oxford Dictionary defines a tool  as “a device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.” In our classrooms, technology is everywhere. Teachers use it; students use it. But are we getting the most out of these products as tech tools?

In this post, we will look at five tech tools that you can add to your school day, without needing PD or a college course to use them. Not only are these great for the classroom, they add interest to homeschool and tutoring sessions, providing other ways for students to learn and practice material.

5 Tech Tools to Try

IXL Math and English

IXL is a comprehensive math and English language arts practice website for use by K-12 students and educators. A paid subscription ($12.95/mo, or $99/year) gets you unlimited access to thousands of Common Core Standards-based practice sets, progress monitoring, including reporting, and awards for the student as he masters standards. If you are a Canadian citizen, you are also directed to curriculum specific to your province.

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IXL Math and Language Arts – free, standards-based practice each day.

For those who don’t need the full subscription, free access gets you 20 practice problems per day — a great independent assignment to assess student progress on a particular standard. You don’t get the reporting feature, but I have my son photograph and text me the score screen to show me how he did on an assessment.

New content is posted to the site regularly, with new material for higher-level English on the way, and brand new apps to get access to the site on all your mobile devices.

Project Spark

Interested in teaching computer science to your students, but don’t know how? Sign up for Project Spark, and your kids will be coding with no help from you, at all.

In Project Spark, students use a video game setting and intuitive commands to create “worlds” run by “brains” (computer programs), creating characters and game-style actions (e.g., picking up objects, getting rewards) by writing their own html code. The interface is game-like, but the learning is straight-up computer science, with students learning about string variables, subroutines and other basic computer science concepts using drag-and-drop coding components.

Students can choose to publish their worlds for others to explore and use. If they don’t know how to do something (e.g., change the color or texture of a creature’s skin) there is a ton of Google-able content by other users.

The digital download is available free for Xbox One and Windows 8.1.

Dipity

Timelines are a great way for students to summarize their learning in history class. In my house, however, lives a young man who has always abhorred any activity that involved “cutting and gluing.” Using Dipity, an online timeline-building tech tool, he can create beautiful timelines, complete with photographs and links to online resources — a great way to create a multimedia presentation, using simple cut-and-paste functions.

Users can change backgrounds, fonts and timeline markers not only to create timelines, but also to document their learning over the year, to create visual guides to their reading over the semester, or to chronicle important events in their own lives — the options are limitless.

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Use Dipity to create stunning, interactive timelines online.

Users can create a few timelines free, or subscribe to Dipity Premiums (subscriptions start at $4.95/mo) for more timelines and premium backgrounds and effects.

Bing Home

For a great tech tool that can become a great addition to your students’ independent work, look no further than the Bing home page.

You probably have noticed that the Bing home page image, which changes daily, is always visually stunning and generates many questions. But have you ever noticed the little squares on the Bing home screen? These clickable spots on the daily image lead to great content on the image, using Bing’s own highly rated search function.

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Use the Bing Home image as a springboard for web-based research.

For example, in the image for today (11/10/2015), we see an overhead view of a shopping mall, which we learn is in Singapore (by clicking on the “info” button at the bottom of the screen). The clickable spots on the image lead to three other Bing tech tools, Bing images (of street shots in Singapore), Bing videos (showing shopping areas in Singapore) and Bing web search (with links to a renowned Hindu temple in Singapore).

You could use the Bing home page image to start a great web quest, or as a way for students to begin to explore a topic of study, to gather ideas for their own research project.

Bing offers many other tech tools for the classroom. All are free. You can choose to set Bing as your home page or simply type in www.bing.com to use the home page image.

Khan Academy

Need something for one of your advanced students to do while you work with her classmates? Does one of your students need a refresher on how to solve for x? Is your homeschooler interested in Neoclassical Art and you don’t know a thing about it? Khan Academy is a tech tool for you!

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Khan Academy lets students create a customized learning path.

With only an email address, you can start a class account and invite all your students, or set up accounts for each student, for free. You can assign placement tests for a particular subject, and Khan will build a customized practice plan for that student. Or you can let a student create his own learning profile, telling Khan Academy what he wants to study, and letting Khan recommend materials for him (a great “unschooling” tool).

No matter how you choose content, Khan keeps track of your students’ activities and progress, through their own individual dashboards, and a coaching report placed your teacher dashboard. Additionally, parents get a report on their child’s activities, via their email address. Students win badges for various tasks (minutes on Khan, mastery of a concept, videos watched).

Khan has an amazing wealth of short instructional videos for teachers and students (if you forgot how to read the periodic table, or use the FOIL method in algebra).

Khan Academy  is always free, all the time, and is available for PC or Mac OS.

Tech Tools for All Your Teaching Needs

Have you used any of these tech tools in your classroom or homeschool? Leave us a note to tell us how you included any of these in your routines.

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