Get a Head Start on Back-to-School EdTech

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

August 16, 2016
Susan Kunze
Classroom teacher

CATEGORIES In the Classroom

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.

Take time to prep usernames and passwords.

This last tip doesn't require a special digital tool (though you can find a ton of free password-keeper apps and generators online), but it will save you a headache or two when students ask, "What's my password?" for the 100th time.

One neat, easy way to keep usernames and passwords handy is to use paint chips from the hardware store. Use one for each student, and copy usernames and passwords for each site on a different color on the chip. Punch a hole at the top, and use a ring to link the whole class set together.

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!