Hit the ground running this school year with three easy tips.

Summer is flying by, and soon teachers will be returning to their classrooms. In anticipation of a busy school year, do yourself a favor, and spend some time getting your classroom technology in order. Whether you're a veteran or a first-timer, planning how and when your students will use edtech tools is an important step in creating an engaging digital classroom. Plus, taking care of the small-but-important things now (usernames and passwords, anyone?) will save time -- and your sanity -- during those busy first days.

Sign up for websites that provide support for student learning.

There are many sites with resources that help make lessons more visually interesting and/or support student engagement; make an account, and create playlists or files.

  • Discovery Education has lots of visual materials (videos, video clips, documents, slides) on specific topics that can be kept in files on the site.
  • YouTube has an amazing array of videos for learning. Sign up, and make playlists to file away videos to use throughout the year -- use a service like ViewPure to strip away unwanted ads and other distractions.
  • GoNoodle offers free brain breaks and indoor PE options. The brain breaks include short, active moments or quiet regrouping for busy learners, and the fun PE activities have varied lengths.

Search for websites with activities or lessons that support content-area learning. 

Whatever content you teach, there are free resources available to help take your lesson plans to the next level. Start by doing a quick search for your content -- or for specific concepts you'd like to explore this year. As you look through these sites, bookmark or file your favorites -- then check back throughout the year for any new materials or updates that might be posted.

  • NCTM Illuminations is a free site that has a huge library of high-quality math units/lessons provided by great math teachers from the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.
  • LearnZillion has screencast lessons that are aligned with Common Core Standards (K-8 ELA and mathematics). These can be really helpful for teaching a new concept to your class, and the site is a great place for struggling students to watch a lesson again for review.

Plan to use digital tools that provide classroom-management support.  

Having a solid classroom-management plan is a must for any teacher, and it's time to incorporate some digital tools into that plan. From timing to awarding points, these tools help keep students engaged and on-task.

  • ClassDojo is a tool that allows teachers to keep a management record for each student, provide immediate feedback to students, and provide feedback about a child's behavior to his/her parents.
  • The Time Timer app can be used as a class time-management tool. You can choose from a variety of functions, and it's great for tracking formative-assessment data. Download it, and take the time to familiarize yourself with the available options.
  • Stick Pick lets you choose a student at random, then suggests discussion-sparking questions of varying difficulty to pose to him or her. You may not have your class list ready yet, but you can get familiar with the app early.

Planning for edtech tools doesn't need to be a pain -- following these tips will put you on track for another exciting year. And if you have tips of your own to share, please add a comment below!

Susan K.

My name is Susan Kunze. I live in Bishop, California. Bishop is a small, very rural community on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains. My wonderful husband and I have lived in Bishop more than thirty-five years, raising our two sons here. I enjoy time with family exploring our beautiful "backyard", being involved in community theater productions, vocal music, reading, writing, and traveling.

My educational background includes a Master's degree in education, with an emphasis in curriculum development and instructional methodologies, from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I received my Bachelor's degree in history and Spanish from Point Loma Nazarene University, where I also received my multiple subject teaching credential.

I love teaching! I recently retired after teaching in the elementary grades at Bishop Elementary School for more than thirty of my forty-year career.. My assignments included second, third, and mixed-grade (combination) classes at first, second and third grade, as well as serving as our district K-5 coordinator. Bishop Elementary, where I still serve as a volunteer teaching STEM, is a Title 1 school and has a high percentage of SED (socio-economically deprived)students. Students include English language learners and Native American students from our local Paiute Shoshone tribe. It has been my continuing effort to provide the best, most appropriate education for each student.

Although I am a recent retiree with many years of teaching experience, I have made it a priority to keep on the cutting edge of teaching practice and available technologies. Throughout my career I have been very active in state and national STEM projects, including writing teacher resource materials, writing for web-based teacher resources, such as NCTM Illuminations and LearnZillion, and as a member of the California state mathematics framework and ELA/ELD textbook committee. I was honored to be named a recipient of the Presidential Award of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2010.

I am currently a member of CalTAC, the California Teacher's Advisory Council for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) for the California Council of Science and Technology. As a member of CalTAC, I help advise CCST on providing opportunities for teachers to use digital tools in the classroom, connect innovators to enable the sharing and advancement of new ideas, and advise and support state initiatives and polices regarding STEM education and curriculum. In addition, I am an Ozobot Certified Educator and a QuiverVision Ambassador. Scholastic Publishing will be publishing my new teacher resource book on STEM topics later in 2018.

I am excited about all that CommonSense Media has to offer teachers in supporting student learning and achievement. It is a valuable resource, and I hope that my small contribution here will scale my impact to classrooms everywhere.