12 Must-Have Digital Resources for the New Year

December 18, 2014
Melanie Gentzler
Media specialist/librarian
Forestbrook Middle School
Myrtle Beach, United States
CATEGORIES Professional Development, Tools

Happy Holidays, ya’ll! In the spirit of the season, I've created a list loosely based on the 12 days of Christmas. Instead of 12 drummers drumming, however, I'm bringing you my list of 12 must-have digital resources for the coming year. Why not add professional development to your New Year’s resolutions and give these suggestions a try? My background is teaching in the secondary grades, but these tools work well in all grades. Enjoy!

Rethink Presentations

Slidebean (Website)
Slidebean has a free version that teachers or students can use to easily create visually appealing presentations. If you're tired of using PowerPoint, this is an excellent resource to try. Students can download projects and then share and collaborate on them without Internet access.


Emaze (Website)
Prepare to be Emazed! This easy-to-use, cloud-based tool allows teachers and students to create stunning presentations. I also found it to be extremely easy to navigate using a tablet. Take a break from the blahs and give Emaze a try. You won't be disappointed!


PowToon (Website)
Do you want to make your lesson pop? Are you looking for a way to flip your classroom? If you answered yes to either of those questions, you really need to give PowToon a try. Take any content and transform it into an animated presentation. Zoom! Pow!


Animoto (App & Website)
Easily create (free) 30-second videos to introduce new topics or review previously taught concepts. You might use this tool to make fast book trailers, or encourage students to use it to create their own quick video presentations.


Make Note-Taking Fun

Popplet (App & Website)
I like to use Popplet as a mind-mapping or note-taking tool. Students can take the overall topic we're discussing and create a visual presentation of the thought processes or steps involved in an assignment. Students love manipulating colors, and sharing work is easy and user-friendly. 


Skitch (App & Download)
I'm a new Skitch fanatatic! Snap a photo of a presentation or take a screenshot, and then add arrows, notes, images -- whatever you like -- to help you remember the information. Easily share your notes and collaborate like never before. I really like to use it when creating step-by-step (visual) directions. Give it a try! 


Create Virtual Lessons

Screencast-O-Matic (Website)
This teaching tool allows you to insert photos or record your voice to walk students through content. In a world of blended learning and learning stations, Screencast-O-Matic allows you to virtually teach students. It's super easy and makes you look like a super-tech teacher.


Educreations Interactive Whiteboard (App)
I love many things about Educreations, but what I love most is the many pre-created lessons available. You can use those or easily record your own lessons for students to access on their devices in blended learning rotations or for content review.


Set Up a Virtual Classroom

Handouts (App)
Want to reduce paper? Snap a picture of your worksheet and immediately assign it to students. Very user-friendly, there's no need to attach an assignment or to use email at all. It's a newer app, so occasionally I’ve experienced glitches, but it's still very worthwhile.


Edmodo (App & Website)
I've used Edmodo for years, and I love that it looks and acts like Facebook. Students love the ability to communicate with teachers and peers, and they enjoy earning badges. If you're looking to make your classroom paperless and want to have one spot for students to access digital content, Edmodo is a perfect choice. 


Create a Webpage

SymbalooEDU (Website)
Symbaloo allows you to save links to all your digital content resources in one spot. You can then share your Symbaloo with students and parents as a single link to all your resources. I also like the visual appeal of this site. I created a Symbaloo of the 12 resources discussed in this blog: Access it here.


Make Reviewing a Game

Zondle (App & Website)
If you try nothing else this coming year, please please give Zondle a try! This is an amazingly fun tool to use to survey or review content knowledge in a way that allows students to play as they respond. Teachers can add questions that must be answered correctly, and students get to choose a quick and fun game to play.