Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 42 TOOLS

Best Tools for Back-to-School 2019

If you're looking for ways tech can support your teaching in the 2019-2020 school year, this list is here to help. These top-rated apps and sites -- ranging from instructional supports to organizational tools to social networks and beyond -- help make one of the world's toughest jobs a bit easier. Whether you need to streamline parent communication or improve classroom management, you're sure to find a tool or two here to get your year off to the right start. 

Once you've found a few great tools for back to school, head over to our Teaching Strategies page dedicated to helping you Set Up Your Digital Classroom for Success.

Continue reading

Top Picks

RELATED

PrintPrint | Save as PDF

Curriculum and Lesson Planning

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration

Bottom line: Ditch pen-and-paper planning; embrace the flexibility of collaborative lesson planning and calendar design.

Goalbook Toolkit

Set tailored targets with pricey but worth-it kit of tools, strategies

Bottom line: You pay for quality with Goalbook Toolkit, including access to clear, well-crafted learning goals and strategies that allow for far easier differentiation.

OER Commons

Free, easy access to a wealth of resources

Bottom line: Impressive resource opens access to quality materials for all educators.

Planboard

Handy one-stop digital lesson planner saves time

Bottom line: Simplifies lesson planning with an intuitive, easy-to-use interface.

Versal

Slick course creator is full-featured, but lessons remain traditional

Bottom line: A great option for putting your course materials online in a clean, attractive way, but don't rely on it for all your instruction.

Wizer

Digital worksheet builder lets students show learning in multiple ways

Bottom line: Students will appreciate this 21st-century take on worksheets, and teachers will love all the different options for creation and assessment.

Feedback, Assessment, and Portfolios

Classkick

Easy-to-use, real-time monitoring, feedback, and assessment for 1-to-1

Bottom line: It's a great option for teachers who want to go paperless, provide specific feedback, and encourage collaboration among students in 1-to-1 classrooms.

Seesaw: The Learning Journal

Versatile digital portfolio appeals to teachers, students, and parents

Bottom line: A powerful multimedia learning and communication tool that demonstrates student progress over time.

FreshGrade

A fresh way to capture, document, and share student learning

Bottom line: Multimedia documentation tools help communicate learning and expand assessment, and the addition of a gradebook sets this tool apart; still, student experience could use some polish.

Flipgrid

Pose questions, spark thoughtful video responses with stellar tool

Bottom line: A simple way for students and teachers to create online discussion, as long as your classroom culture is mature enough to use it wisely.

Formative

Superb real-time assessment tool a fit for 1-to-1, BYOD classrooms

Bottom line: Cleverly designed for teachers, Formative offers a flexible and attractive solution for gathering a variety of student response types and offering individualized feedback.

Kahoot!

Game-like student-response tool can spark competitive fun

Bottom line: Effortlessly fun quizzing that can lead to productive formative assessment and student reflection if implemented effectively.

Slido

Increase student buy-in with interactive polls and Q&A sessions

Bottom line: Engaging classroom response platform offers teachers and students real-time feedback opportunities.

Kaizena

Nifty add-on enables audio and text feedback in Google Docs

Bottom line: If your classroom relies a lot on Google Docs, this might just be the feedback tool you're looking for.

Organization and Productivity

Google Classroom

Simplify communication, collaboration, and document sharing

Bottom line: Google Classroom is a great way to manage and organize learning, though teachers who need more features may need to look elsewhere.

Turnitin

Encourage original work and give feedback with this valuable tool

Bottom line: Beyond the convenience factor, it's almost a necessity for the teaching of writing in today's digital world.

Kami

Versatile annotation tool helps users critically connect with content

Bottom line: Kami is an effective way to promote student interaction with texts, authentic documents, and pictures.

Evernote

Organize digital content with full-featured web clipper and notebook

Bottom line: Students and teachers can learn to better manage their digital lives via this comprehensive organizational tool.

Microsoft Teams

Collaborative platform helps manage multiple groups and projects

Bottom line: It offers a ton of options for integrating learning; the lack of some typical LMS features may make it a better fit for small groups or nontraditional group configurations.

Notability

Flexible note-taking tool empowers learners of all abilities

Bottom line: An excellent tool that lets students make their notes thorough and useful in the way that best suits their learning styles and abilities.

Notebook - Take Notes, Sync

Curate and organize all kinds of content into customizable notebooks

Bottom line: From the novice to the super-organized student, Notebook's versatility is a rare free find.

Diigo

Social bookmarking encourages discovery, collaboration, and sharing

Bottom line: With a Diigo educator account, teachers and students have a safe space to organize, customize, and share Web content while learning about a variety of subjects.

Parent and Student Communication

ClassDojo

Handy management and portfolio tool can promote student growth

Bottom line: With thoughtful implementation, it can help teachers and parents support students' growth through goal-setting, feedback, and celebration.

Bloomz

Full-featured parent-teacher communication platform

Bottom line: One-stop multi-tool for parents, teachers, and students.

Remind

Teachers' text reminders keep students -- and parents -- up to speed

Bottom line: Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool has the potential to keep students and families connected with their schools.

Skype

Live video communication has potential to open lots of doors

Bottom line: With a bit of work and a measure of patience, Skype can be an excellent classroom tool to expand students' horizons.

Edmodo

Manage classes, content, and communication with social LMS platform

Bottom line: This free platform allows for teacher-monitored classroom communication but lacks excitement.

Google Hangouts

Communication, learning, and fun converge nicely in Google's slick platform

Bottom line: It runs like a dream, works on all devices, and can be used in so many ways to enhance interactive learning.

Backchannel Chat

Real-time, moderated online discussions can engage and encourage

Bottom line: Backchannel Chat offers a fun and safe way to hold real-time online discussions that might just increase engagement, interest, and even learning.

Presentation and Video

Boclips

Safe-for-classroom videos curated by teachers for teachers

Bottom line: It's a pressure-free place to start looking for high-quality videos to supplement existing lessons in traditional, one-to-one, or flipped classroom models.

Nearpod

Interactive slideshow tool engages students, promotes collaboration

Bottom line: This effective tool leverages the capabilities of 1-to-1 environments and offers both teacher- and student-paced learning.

Screencast-O-Matic

Create and share high-quality screencasts without breaking the bank

Bottom line: A well-designed screen and video recorder that lets teachers and students focus on creating engaging content from the get-go.

Edpuzzle

Crop, customize, and remix online video content with interactive tool

Bottom line: As a flipped classroom or student creation tool, there are lots of opportunities for use, but teachers will need to be creative if they want students to engage.

Explain Everything Whiteboard

Powerhouse tool for creating stellar multimedia presentations

Bottom line: Teachers and students can make dynamic presentations that involve different types of media in this innovative, fun app.

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.

ClassFlow

Robust lesson-creation, presentation tool offers built-in assessment

Bottom line: This powerful tool supports connected and blended learning from instruction to assessment, though it's best used to enhance already great instruction.

Professional Growth

BetterLesson

Exemplary lessons, strategies, and coaching from master teachers

Bottom line: Take advantage of the offerings of this professional community to improve the quality of your classroom instruction.

KQED Teach

Super PD resource for making media in the classroom

Bottom line: Stay on top of the trends and take the fear out of media-making in the classroom.

Teaching Channel

See colleagues in action with digital PD for discussion and reflection

Bottom line: This video library of actual classroom teaching offers opportunities for professional educators to watch, share, and improve their craft.

The Current

Engaging space for tech-forward instruction and teacher collaboration

Bottom line: A great resource to share and gather ideas on teaching with technology and media, but there are some bugs that need fixing.

Voxer Walkie Talkie Messenger

Voice- and text-messaging app is a teacher PLN standout

Bottom line: A cool tool for teachers to collaborate with each other (but maybe not with their students).

Twitter

Smart classroom tool if used with care; priceless for PLNs

Bottom line: Twitter offers something for everyone: information, resources, and an easy way to connect with just about anyone.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

See related resources