EdTech Hidden Gems of 2014

Handpicked by Common Sense Editors

December 29, 2014
Tanner Higgin Director, Education Editorial Strategy
Common Sense Education


On Common Sense Education, we get to know the tools we review well. When great stuff comes across our desks, we try to champion it because we want teachers out there using the best of the best in edtech. Sometimes, though, the tools we like get a bit lost in the mix alongside heavy hitters like Pearson, Khan, and Google. Here's a list of some tools we've reviewed this year that we'd love to see in the hands of more teachers.


Erin Wilkey Oh, Senior Editor, Education Reviews

Land of Venn

Land of Venn, App, Common Sense Rating: 5

This is how you make a learning game that tackles traditional content. Land of Venn teaches kids geometry but in a wacky adventure that's so fun and so well stylized that it stands up to the kinds of games kids choose to play on their own.




Composer Pro

Composer Pro, App, Common Sense Rating: 4

An app that'll pay dividends all year round. Composer Pro is perfect for PBL, allowing students to create professional-quality ebooks that demonstrate and share their learning with teachers and peers alike.




Pixel Press: Floors

Pixel Press Floors, App, Common Sense Rating: 4

Kids love games, and making games is one of the best ways to build critical-thinking skills. But coding can be a big barrier to entry. Pixel Press flips the script by turning kids' pencil sketches of game levels into the real thing. It's cutting-edge technology that's good for learning and incredibly fun.





Jeff Knutson, Senior Editor, Education Reviews


Matific, Website, Common Sense Rating: 4

A go-to supplemental resource for K-6 math instruction that gives teachers just what they're looking for. Matific features hundreds of interactive activities and worksheets that offer inventive and varied ways to help kids build conceptual understanding of math.




The Knotted LineThe Knotted Line, Website, Common Sense Rating: 4

As much a work of art as it is a teaching tool, The Knotted Line invites students to digitally pull and tear open the often hidden history of injustice and incarceration woven into the fabric of U.S. history. A gripping, provocative, and unforgettable exploration of topics that can too easily go untaught in school.





ArtsEdgeArtsEdge, Website, Common Sense Rating: 4

Tons of content designed to communicate the importance of art throughout history and across culture and subjects of study. Teachers will love the ready-to-go lessons and standards alignment, and students will enjoy the relevant and interesting topics.





Tanner Higgin, Senior Manager, Education Content

The Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Sonnets by William Shakespeare, App, Common Sense Rating: 4

The Sonnets is an incredibly well-produced package that hooks students on Shakespeare's poetry. Video readings by trained actors breathe life into the poems and aid comprehension, while supplementary materials offer engaging context and learning opportunities.





NPR BorderlandNPR: Borderland, Website, Common Sense Rating: 4

NPR tackles a valuable topic poetically with evocative imagery, audio, data, and reporting. Students will gain new, grounded perspective and build empathy for the people affected by the U.S. and Mexico border.




Contraption MakerContraption Maker, Game, Common Sense Rating: 4

I'll bet some of you remember creating Rube Goldberg machines using The Incredible Machine computer game from back in the '90s. Well, the creators of that computer lab classic freshened up the concept and made a delightful puzzle game and creation tool that lets students engineer bizarre contraptions fueled by the laws of physics.




Photo: "100721-AppWall" by Rogier Noort. Used under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 License.