Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 25 TOOLS

Best EdTech of 2017

The editorial staff at Common Sense Education evaluated and rated approximately 180 tools for learning potential in 2017, and all we can say is that it was a great year for edtech. Some years it's hard to select the most engaging and supportive tools for students, teachers, and schools. But as we looked back at a year that was divisive in so many ways, we had no trouble narrowing down our top picks to the 25 best apps, games, and websites.

What you'll find on this list are tools that get students to develop a true love of writing, engage in authentic scientific practices, collaborate across the globe, and make incredibly artistic and technical creations; you'll even find a couple of tools just for the teacher. As you look down the list and notice how many five-star tools we rated this year, you'll begin to see how thoughtful design that empowers students and uplifts teachers really makes a win-win for all.

Interested in seeing our past winners? Check out the archive of our favorites from 2013-2016.

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Top Picks

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Arts and SEL

Peekapak

Complete social-emotional learning units in a neat and tidy package

Bottom line: These 10 SEL units provide teachers with almost everything they'll need to spark positive character development in their students.

Minecraft: Education Edition

Stellar collaboration tools, controls make Minecraft classroom-ready

Bottom line: An excellent tool to engage students in learning, collaboration, and critical thinking is now more accessible than ever to teachers.

Adobe Photoshop Express

Top-notch photo editor helps perfect pics for creative projects

Bottom line: This is a powerful, free creation tool from the industry leader in photo editing.

Google Arts & Culture

Excellent curation and an unmatched art collection invite exploration

Bottom line: A one-stop shop for a vast amount of compellingly curated and contextualized art, but it's lacking educator supports.

Adobe Spark

Super-flexible design tool for crafting fab images, videos, and sites

Bottom line: This free, one-stop shop for creating sleek graphics, web stories, and animated videos is incredibly easy to use and challenges students to think critically about visual presentation.

ELA

Epic! - Unlimited Books for Kids

Free, expansive digital library unlocks treasure trove of books

Bottom line: This large collection of books and videos on a wide variety of topics is an easy -- and free -- enhancement to any classroom library.

NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program

Wildly engaging contest turns students into novelists in 30 days

Bottom line: A thoughtful adaptation of the famous and fun grown-up novel writing contest, NaNoWriMo Young Writers Program is brimming with advice and encouragement as well as classroom support.

checkology® Virtual Classroom

Go-to news-literacy site is an excellent primer on media issues

Bottom line: With "fake news" a pressing concern, checkology's literacy lessons offer essential, if not totally comprehensive, skills to help students evaluate sources.

Walden, a game

Thoughtfully designed game illuminates Thoreau's writing, philosophy

Bottom line: It's rare to be so moved and permanently transformed by a work of art; that this game manages to (re)create these experiences is a triumph.

Math and Science

Fog Stone Isle

Fun virtual world builds deep understanding of fractions

Bottom line: A 3D world that uses adaptive computer manipulatives and multiple representations to help students retain important fractions concepts.

AMAZE

Quirky, funny videos give thoughtful answers to kids' sex-ed questions

Bottom line: An appealingly down-to-earth way to help kids face tough questions about navigating the challenges of puberty.

Inq-ITS

Virtual labs epitomize the NGSS Science and Engineering Practices

Bottom line: Earth, life, and physical science simulations coach kids through the NGSS Practices.

Niche - a genetics survival game

Immersive genetics sim puts evolution in students' hands

Bottom line: This hands-on genetics game allows students to experiment, explore traits, and come away with a sophisticated understanding of the subject.

BioInteractive

High-quality multimedia brings biological research to life

Bottom line: Superb multimedia tools and lesson plans help kids explore biology through real-world examples.

Social Studies

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Powerful stories and media centralize African-American history

Bottom line: While there aren't ready-to-go curricular materials, this modern, well-curated, and well-contextualized digital collection is sure to inspire compelling lessons.

PenPal Schools

Give students global perspective with pen pal projects in any subject

Bottom line: A thoughtful, ready-to-go platform that facilitates authentic, cross-cultural collaboration.

Expeditions

Fire up the warp drive to bring VR field trips to your classroom

Bottom line: With stunning scenes and a flexible delivery method, your students will thank you for journeying together through space and time.

Beyond the Bubble

Top-quality assessments challenge students to think like historians

Bottom line: A ready-to-go, pedagogically sound route for refocusing formative assessment on critical thinking and literacy rather than memorization.

Political Animals

Charming political campaign sim mixes data analysis and civics

Bottom line: It's a highly entertaining and surprisingly deep way to help students see the strategy -- as well as ethical choices -- involved in elections.

Teacher Tools

Spiral

Provide instant feedback with collaborative, multimedia assessment tool

Bottom line: Engaging, easy-to-use tool that supports both formative and summative assessment while allowing for student collaboration.

Screencastify

Easy screen-recording tool facilitates outside-the-box instruction

Bottom line: If you have access to Chrome, Screencastify is an easy instructional tool that lets teachers and students communicate in new and creative ways.

Tech Skills

EduTyping

Complete and entertaining typing program for all ages

Bottom line: A perfect typing curriculum implementation for schools or districts.

Itch

Full-featured tool makes teaching with Scratch easier than ever

Bottom line: Here you'll find resources for teaching with Scratch and a complete management tool to support student learning.

Adventure Time Game Wizard - Draw Your Own Adventure Time Games

Terrific option to teach basic game design in-app or on paper

Bottom line: A highly engaging hook, along with the ability to design games on paper, make this a great option for STEAM teachers.

Codesters

Differentiated text-based coding makes for truly authentic experiences

Bottom line: The well-designed Python lessons and user interface make this a great choice for serious coding instruction.

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