Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 43 TOOLS

Best Tools for Back-to-School 2021

If you're looking for ways tech can support your teaching in the 2021-2022 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. 

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Curriculum and Lesson Planning

Common Curriculum

Sleek lesson planner replaces bulky binders, promotes collaboration

Bottom line: Flexible and collaborative lesson planning, calendar design, and classroom site creator save teachers precious time.

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.

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

Assign, assist, and assess with real-time, interactive classroom

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

Mentimeter

Call on everybody at once with flexible, interactive presentation tool

Bottom line: You can use this tool to create dynamic presentations that strike a balance between information and interaction.

Common Sense Selection

Seesaw

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 Connect

Multimedia digital portfolios connect students, teachers, and parents

Bottom line: It's designed with student learning in mind, and teachers can encourage students to submit quality content and engage in reflective feedback.

Common Sense Selection

Flipgrid

Pose questions, spark thoughtful video responses with stellar tool

Bottom line: This accessible, approachable tool offers connection, multiple means of expression, and creativity to apply to almost any topic.

Common Sense Selection

Formative

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

Bottom line: This is a cleverly designed tool that can gather a variety of student response types and help teachers offer individualized feedback.

Kahoot!

Game-like student-response tool can spark competitive fun

Bottom line: This is an effortlessly fun and flexible platform, but it shines best with creative implementation that tests its boundaries.

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.

Bulb

Slick portfolio tool has cool features, limited feedback options

Bottom line: A neat tool for publishing online, possibly better suited to teacher content creation than student publishing.

Organization and Productivity

Common Sense Selection

Google Classroom

Exceptional, simple communication, collaboration, and document sharing

Bottom line: Though it doesn't have it all, it's an incredible tool for managing and organizing learning.

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.

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

Common Sense Selection

TalkingPoints

Multilingual texting tool enhances school-to-home communication

Bottom line: Easy-to-use tool for supporting communication and engagement with families in 100+ languages.

Common Sense Selection

ClassDojo

Exemplar bridge between home and school also aids learning

Bottom line: When used thoughtfully, ClassDojo can help teachers and families support students' growth through goal-setting, reflection, and celebration.

Bloomz

Full-featured school-to-home communication platform delivers with style

Bottom line: This multifunctional platform connects families, teachers, and students with a ton of features.

Remind

Messaging platform offers tight focus on school-to-home connection

Bottom line: Well-designed, highly effective messaging tool delivers on its promise to connect home and school.

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 with basic tools.

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: This tools offers a fun, simple, 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

Engage and assess students with media, videos, and interactive slides

Bottom line: This is a great tool with a vast content library, and the teacher- or student-paced learning can unlock the potential of 1-to-1 environments.

Screencast-O-Matic

Create and edit sophisticated screencasts without breaking the bank

Bottom line: This is the most flexible screencasting tool, but it requires patience -- and perhaps a subscription -- to unlock all of its possibilities.

Edpuzzle

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

Bottom line: This is a valuable tool that teachers can use to flip classrooms or support student-led creation.

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.

Common Sense Selection

Pear Deck

Interactive slideshows offer a variety of ways to engage and assess

Bottom line: This is an appealing platform that can really ramp up engagement around formative assessment.

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 and delivery tool helps with assessment

Bottom line: In the hands of a determined teacher, this platform's useful suite of tools can support learning experiences that move from instruction to assessment and back.

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.

Teacherly

Collaborative lesson planning software supports live and asynchronous instruction

Bottom line: This teacher-centric platform may win over some educators, but students might not be as impressed.

Teaching Channel

Quality videos challenge educators to grow within a PD environment

Bottom line: Professional educators can watch, share, and learn in a continually updated environment.

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.

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.

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