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Common Sense Education's Best EdTech Winners

Over the years, Common Sense Education editors and reviewers have rated and reviewed hundreds of learning tools, using our research-backed rubric and rigorous evaluative process. Since 2013, we've compiled annual lists of the top-rated tools that stood out as some of the most innovative, effective, and enjoyable. They're rated highly for engagement, pedagogy, and support, and they're available across platforms as mobile apps, Chrome apps, and online resources. Check out our lists for 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 below -- these tools span grades and content areas, so you're sure to find something new to try!

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Best EdTech of 2016

Gracie & Friends Lemonade Stand

Interactive games thoroughly address small, focused learning goal

Bottom line: Games do a nice job of providing practice with a very specific early math principle; they work even better as part of a whole teaching unit.

HangArt: Play Hangman, Draw Pictures, Tell Stories

Games, creative activities give 360-degree view of common sight words

Bottom line: Combination of guided games and open-ended activities give kids a great opportunity for digging deep into words.

Zearn

Innovative combo of live instruction and adaptive online math lessons

Bottom line: If you're looking for the perfect balance of online lessons and in-person support, at home or in school, look no further.

Redbird Mathematics

Excellent adaptive math for flipped or blended classrooms

Bottom line: If you're looking for courseware for your nontraditional classroom, this is based on solid research and proven technology.

Lifeliqe

Impressive, interactive 3D models augment classroom learning

Bottom line: While some models are lower resolution and less appealing, Lifeliqe is still a no-brainer for supplying mostly clear, professional 3D models for deep investigation.

DragonBox Big Numbers

Carrot-and-stick arithmetic app makes students fluent in regrouping

Bottom line: Hopelessly addictive addition/subtraction app keeps students learning and learning.

MetKids

Whimsical, kid-friendly intro to the wide world of art

Bottom line: A wonderful, endlessly detailed way to get kids engaged in the world of art.

The Infinite Arcade by TinyBop

Simple game-design app has endless creative potential

Bottom line: Design, play, and improve your own arcade games.

littleBits Invent

Top-notch tool empowers kids to invent, build, and control wirelessly

Bottom line: Easy-to-use, versatile electronic invention set that works wirelessly with your hand-held device.

Canva - Photo Editor & Design

Create snazzy designs in seconds with flexible, cloud-based tool

Bottom line: A flexible, accessible way to get kids -- especially design novices -- creating digitally in your classroom if you have stable internet and time to get students set up to be successful.

Smithsonian Learning Lab

Discover, create, remix, and share Smithsonian resources

Bottom line: This thoughtfully crafted, open-ended curation and creation tool has a place in most classrooms.

CommonLit

Feature-rich literacy resource offers superb support for readers

Bottom line: Access a hefty collection of reliable, ready-to-print, leveled passages that allow you to tailor lessons, assign online reading, and track progress.

Autodesk Design Academy

Outstanding project-based tutorials for popular engineering software

Bottom line: The projects found here are a great way to teach and learn digital design; all are truly fantastic (and free!), with everything you need ready to go.

InsertLearning

Useful Chrome extension lets teachers add interactivity to websites

Bottom line: A potential go-to tool for teachers focused on building critical reading skills, especially those in Chromebook classrooms.

Ken Burns

Dynamic video clips explore cultural themes throughout U.S. history

Bottom line: A huge time-saver and an effective way to share Ken Burns' brilliant documentaries with students.

Lab4Physics

Bring physics to life using lab sensors built right into your smartphone

Bottom line: Use your smartphone to gather data and study speed, gravity, waves, and other physics concepts.

NASA Global Climate Change - Vital Signs of the Planet

Tons of climate change info from expert sources in one easy place

Bottom line: This is a one-stop shop for climate change info, from basic intro content to practical guides and raw data; good for middle schoolers and up.

Pathbrite

Create, organize, assess sleek digital portfolios

Bottom line: A simple PBL tool that promotes digital literacy and lets kids create flexible, accessible digital portfolios.

The PocketLab

Gather and analyze live data anywhere

Bottom line: A science sensor that pairs with your mobile device to gather and analyze data is perfect for inquiry-based learning.

Code School

Awesome interactive coding lessons can make anyone a programmer

Bottom line: These lessons will keep learners engaged as they grow from novice to beginning programmer, ready to tackle small projects in only a few days.

Gone Home

Compelling narrative game fosters empathy, self-reflection

Bottom line: If you’re searching for a unique way to analyze storytelling from a social and emotional angle, look no further.

Best EdTech of 2015

Endless Wordplay: School Edition

Rhymes, phonetic approach, silly animations help kids construct words

Bottom line: Good, holistic approach to the nitty gritty of constructing words.

Metamorphabet

Explore an animated alphabet with this magical interactive gem

Bottom line: A great, high-tech and interactive way to get kids thinking about letters and how their sounds form words.

DragonBox Numbers

Explore the concept of numbers through puzzles and fun gameplay

Bottom line: Though there are a few kinks, kids experience fun gameplay while internalizing fundamental number concepts.

Thinkrolls 2

Young learners roll through mazes, discover rigorous physics concepts

Bottom line: Game-like approach to physics teaches kids critical thinking, too.

MarcoPolo Weather

Adorable sandbox tool lets kids safely explore, experiment, observe

Bottom line: A fun, cheerful way for kids to explore weather while appropriately touching on more serious issues like safety.

Easy Studio Stop-Motion Studio

Ideal, easy-to-use way to help kids learn basic animation

Bottom line: This introduction to digital animation offers lots of opportunities for creativity for young students.

Ocean Forests

Young learners explore biodiversity in gorgeous undersea world

Bottom line: Ocean Forests is a great resource for introducing ecosystems to young learners, and would be even better with a few additional games and interactives to apply learning.

Crazy Gears

Highly applicable STEM-themed free play; easy appeal for wide audience

Bottom line: A clear, simple, and fun introduction to science and engineering topics that may otherwise feel unapproachable for some kids.

Mystery Science

Big questions, kids' curiosity drive impressive science curriculum

Bottom line: These powerful science units capitalize on elementary school students' natural curiosity.

Seesaw: The Learning Journal

Versatile digital portfolio appeals to teachers, students, and parents

Bottom line: Students can showcase their work in text, pictures, videos, and more.

Simple Machines by Tinybop

Excellent elementary NGSS engineering practices embedded in fun games

Bottom line: Fun gameplay lets kids explore important physics concepts in a solid standards-aligned context.

The Robot Factory by Tinybop

Improve designs, collect favorites in robot creation sandbox

Bottom line: A well-made and enjoyable STEM app that leverages what's great about play -- experimentation -- to spark engineering interest.

Fruity Fractions

Stellar tool builds rock-solid foundational understanding

Bottom line: A stellar way to dig deep and give kids an excellent intro to fractions.

Mystery Word Town - Sight Word Spelling

Old West crime-fighting takes kids on a spelling adventure

Bottom line: A challenging and really fun way for kids to practice spelling.

Words for Osmo

Versatile word game challenges across content areas and abilities

Bottom line: Fun game-like way to review spelling patterns or content vocabulary.

Inventioneers Full Version

Budding engineers create design solutions with fun physics puzzler

Bottom line: A fun, engaging way to boost critical-thinking and problem-solving skills while learning about important science and engineering practices.

Wizard School

Curated videos and creative challenges ignite active learning

Bottom line: There's plenty of material to inspire kids to embark on learning adventures that get them to explore, create, and share safely on the screen and off.

Curiosity Machine

Kids build, share, receive pro feedback with awesome engineering site

Bottom line: Though it may not be an instant fit for your classroom, the exceptional quality of the site’s projects and processes makes it worth any problem solving.

Earth Primer

Earth comes alive with interactive textbook; some content lacks depth

Bottom line: Though it's pricey and its progress tracking is limited, these interactive graphics will spark curiosity while teaching kids about a variety of Earth Science concepts.

Monster Heart Medic

Brilliant medical sim engages kids, promotes heart-healthy lifestyle

Bottom line: Fun, engaging adventure teaches kids about the cardiovascular system, medical diagnostics, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.

Woot Math

Woot! Woot! Truly adaptive lessons support concept building

Bottom line: A top choice for stand-alone instruction or remediation on fractions, ratios, and decimals.

Zoombinis

Classic logic puzzler gets a beautiful new look

Bottom line: Promote powerful thinking skills, resilience, and decision making through purely fun gameplay that will keep students begging for more.

iBiome -- Wetland

Smartly designed environmental sim great for learning about ecosystems

Bottom line: iBiome -- Wetland is a fun, interactive way to learn about ecosystems without the hassle of getting wet.

Hopscotch For Schools: Learn to code, make cool things, have fun.

Programming blocks give good balance of freedom vs. constraint

Bottom line: With a pinch of patience and a lot of passion, this introduction to computer science and its underlying principles is highly accessible.

CueThink

Social approach to problem-solving promotes deep math learning

Bottom line: CueThink is an innovative, community-based platform that helps students plan, strategize, and collaborate.

Elegy for a Dead World

Compelling sci-fi world imagined -- and written -- by its players

Bottom line: With some teacher guidance, Elegy offers an opportunity unlike anything else to get students to write stories and stretch their creative muscles.

The Waste Land

Stellar performances, great media bring Eliot's masterpiece to life

Bottom line: Makes studying The Waste Land engaging and accessible for students and easier for teachers.

Mosa Mack Science

Engaging design challenges turn kids into actual science detectives

Bottom line: An engaging way to weave some engineering into your middle school science lessons.

Motion Force

Thrilling projectile puzzle game features solid physics principles

Bottom line: This fun, gentle introduction to projectile motion will stick with students.

GameMaker Studio 2

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Bottom line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna)

Illuminating native Alaskan folktale supports SEL skills

Bottom line: A beautiful achievement developed in cooperation with indigenous folk that offers players valuable SEL skill building and a respectful window into Inupiat culture, ways of life, traditions, and stories.

Chalkup

Elegant LMS tool keeps classroom conversation, collaboration going

Bottom line: The rare LMS designed for ease of use, and it doesn't sacrifice functionality with tons of opportunities to maximize learning, collaboration, and organization.

NOVA Labs

Online science, mastered: exceptional content within meaningful tasks

Bottom line: Serious, sophisticated science engagement -- but be prepared to take some prep time to connect these labs with your classroom.

The Orchestra

Stellar interactive features bring classical music vibrantly to life

Bottom line: A terrifically designed tool that invites students into the often unwelcoming world of classical music in a way that deepens appreciation and understanding of the complexities and beauties of the art form.

SketchUp

Make learning meaningful through 3D design

Bottom line: SketchUp is a fantastic, subject-agnostic tool that does take time to learn but helps students gain truly useful, transferable skills.

Tinkercad

Amazingly simple yet powerful and flexible online CAD tool

Bottom line: A big step forward in making 3-D design more accessible and social.

Zygote Body

Control, create, and explore stunning 3-D human body visuals

Bottom line: A great way for students to test themselves as they manipulate 3-D images of the human body.

Project Ed

Aspiring filmmakers converge to create video content for the classroom

Bottom line: The site provides the most authentic learning opportunities when students and teachers go beyond watching videos to become creators.

Construct 2

Standout, pro-caliber game dev tool still great for novices

Bottom line: Robust enough for commercial games yet simple enough for a classroom with proper support, this is a stellar tool for game creation that lowers the barrier of entry without sacrificing depth.

Extrasolar

Immersive exoplanet exploration game makes sleuths out of rover drivers

Bottom line: An absorbing alternate reality game that uses an authentic context to build valuable skills and offers ample opportunity for extension activities in science or ELA classrooms.

Genius

Collaborative tool lets users annotate songs, literature, web content

Bottom line: Students can collaboratively engage in the process of annotation and analysis with various texts -- both within the forum and on the web.

Kaizena

Multi-modal add-on enables digital audio and text feedback in Google Docs

Bottom line: The combination of Google Docs integration, ease of use with audio and text feedback, and the teacher web app for management makes a powerful tool for writing instruction.

Schoology

Top-tier LMS for digital classrooms

Bottom line: To make the most of Schoology, you'll need some ramp-up time and great tasks and assessments, but it can offer rich learning and collaboration experiences.

Vidcode

Cool coding tool tuned to teen girls' passions aids creativity

Bottom line: Learn-to-code programs for youths often too narrowly define what can be done with code; Vidcode expands the options, helping girls see code's value in culture and express themselves.

A.D.A.M. Interactive Anatomy

Explore detailed images with powerful, customizable anatomy curriculum

Bottom line: A stellar tool that tops other 3-D interactive anatomy sites with its extensive curriculum-building capabilities.

Global Oneness Project

Dynamic multimedia resources explore life experiences around the world

Bottom line: Unique approach to incorporating global issues into the curriculum; monthly stories capture interdisciplinary topics.

Parable of the Polygons

Dynamic interactive helps classrooms explore topics of bias, diversity

Bottom line: A fascinating way to address how communities become segregated due to individual bias.

Schoology

Top-tier LMS for digital classrooms

Bottom line: To make the most of Schoology, you'll need some ramp-up time and great tasks and assessments, but it can offer rich learning and collaboration experiences.

Romeo and Juliet (Enhanced Edition)

Excellent side-by-side dramatization and text bring the Bard to life

Bottom line: High-quality production and seamless multimedia integration allow students to read and watch simultaneously, boosting engagement and learning potential.

Best EdTech of 2014

Gracie & Friends Birthday Cafe

Numbers-and-quantity game has precise focus and superb scaffolding

Bottom line: Super approach to teaching a very specific topic: Help kids develop an easy familiarity with quantities under five.

Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition

Research-based curriculum adapts beautifully to fun, easy-to-use app

Bottom line: Thorough, high-quality phonics program offers impressive benefits for emerging readers.

TinyTap, Create & Play Educational Games

Book-and-game builder empowers creativity, boasts vast content library

Bottom line: With some patience and planning, this game maker can be a classroom game changer.

ReadWorks

Differentiate reading instruction with high-quality texts and lessons

Bottom line: The quality and scope of texts, lesson plans, assessments, and supports on this platform can help facilitate targeted reading instruction in any classroom.

Nearpod

Interactive slide show tool engages students and promotes collaboration

Bottom line: This effective tool leverages the capabilities of 1-to-1 environments and brings slide shows into the 21st century.

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.

Teaching Tolerance

Thought-provoking classroom resources support diversity education

Bottom line: It's an invaluable teacher tool to help reduce prejudice and encourage tolerance in schools, as well as within society as a whole.

The Land of Venn - Geometric Defense

Brilliant, wacky adventure game seamlessly integrates geometry

Bottom line: This captivating game is a great way to introduce or reinforce early geometry concepts.

Prodigy

Adaptive math practice wrapped in role-playing adventure

Bottom line: Sometimes kids just need some math practice to get things to stick, and Prodigy delivers in a fun format with great teacher support.

LightSail

Robust, full-featured reading app measures meaningful literacy gains

Bottom line: A powerful, well-designed literacy platform for developing engaged readers.

Newsela

Absorbing daily news stories offer kids just-right learning content

Bottom line: Up-to-date, high-interest articles meet students right at their level: Use this robust tool to bolster students' nonfiction reading practice.

PlayPosit

Simple design makes it easy to jump into interactive video

Bottom line: With features that are both basic and useful, it's an easy tool to learn; adding interactivity to video is a snap.

Shadow Puppet Edu

Resource-rich video slide-show maker a gem for a variety of classrooms

Bottom line: Easy-to-use free tool is a must-have for elementary classrooms; just keep an eye on sharing and privacy.

Contraption Maker

Solve problems, puzzles, brain teasers while creating wacky machines

Bottom line: Hands-on problem-solving leads to great fun and independent learning with the right curricular wraparound to connect what kids are doing with what they need to know.

Imagine Math

Great adaptive learning comes with live teacher support, unique rewards

Bottom line: A fantastic, comprehensive program where teachers can track progress and motivate using meaningful rewards.

EdPuzzle

Crop, customize, and remix online videos for your classroom

Bottom line: If you're using online video in your classroom, you'll want to look into EDpuzzle as a way to layer in more learning opportunities while students watch.

Twelve a Dozen

Engrossing math platformer puts problem-solving skills to the test

Bottom line: This absorbing game challenges kids' math and thinking skills as much as it entertains.

Classcraft

Track behavior, motivate students with clever, cooperative game

Bottom line: Classcraft is a fantastic game for encouraging positive behavior while students build knowledge and develop communication and collaboration skills.

LittleBigPlanet 2

Accessible yet deep game creator will dazzle and challenge

Bottom line: A deeply charming experience for teachers and students interested in pushing boundaries, making things, and participating in a healthy community focused on boundless creativity.

Possible Worlds

Entertaining, well-researched games correct scientific misconceptions

Bottom line: Offers a helpful supplement to teacher-led instruction backed by an expert understanding of how kids learn and the key scientific concepts they need to know but often misunderstand.

Rezzly

Leveling and quests turn classes into personalized adventures

Bottom line: A ready-to-go platform for introducing game-based learning principles into assessment and class structure, but success and engagement depend on solid class content.

ThinkCERCA

Well-structured lessons encourage deep analysis, thoughtful writing

Bottom line: This is a ready-to-go, research-backed resource that focuses intently on CCSS-aligned and AP-level critical reading and writing skills.

GameMaker Studio 2

One of the best creation tools available for aspiring game developers

Bottom line: Provides teachers with the best choice for a full unit or class on game design, and gives students a tool to help them realize their game-making dreams.

Journey

Gorgeous, moving adventure -- a jewel of social and emotional learning

Bottom line: Journey is a must-play experience and a shining beacon of the good that games can do.

Facing History and Ourselves

A wealth of resources explore racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism

Bottom line: These valuable materials empower students to understand and address difficult ethical choices -- past and present.

Papo & Yo

Powerful tale of alcoholism uses puzzles and metaphor to build empathy

Bottom line: A beautiful game that's sure to build students' empathy skills and provoke deep conversations about alcoholism and abuse as well as metaphor.

Portal 2 Puzzle Maker

Mind-bending level editor for beloved physics game

Bottom line: For STEAM educators with the right tech and know-how, it'd be puzzling not to use this tool.

Big History Project

Fascinating look at life's bigger questions with a fresh perspective

Bottom line: A wonderfully innovative and divergent way to teach foundational concepts in history, humanities, critical thinking, and science.

Best EdTech of 2013

AlphaTots

Clever interactive games introduce letter sounds, action words

Bottom line: A great way to introduce letters to beginning readers, but plan on providing outside help to emphasize connections between letters and target words.

LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: Jake and the Never Land Pirates

Ahoy! Pirate game chock full of math treasures

Bottom line: Fantastic math game for young kids who are just learning their numbers and shapes, with the added bonus of having plenty of interactive spots that will delight even toddlers.

SesameStreet.org

Everything you love about the TV show, customizable and on demand

Bottom line: In an online version of the TV show, Sesamestreet.org offers on-demand and personalized access to its marvelous video content.

Kinect Sesame Street TV

Sesame Street goes digital to get kids counting and reading

Bottom line: This interactive version of the show gets kids moving and talking to their favorite furry characters as they learn about counting, spelling, science, and family relationships.

Love to Count by Pirate Trio

Hundreds of tasks and swashbuckling fun for new math learners

Bottom line: By blending simple math skills into pirate games, Love to Count by Pirate Trio helps kids understand why math matters.

Montessori Letter Sounds - Phonics in English, Spanish, French & Italian

Thoughtfully designed, self-paced games bring letters, sounds to life

Bottom line: A warm, wonderful tool for teaching prereaders and young language learners solid literacy skills.

PBS KIDS Lab

Explore outstanding new math and language additions to PBS KIDS family

Bottom line: With PBS-pedigree content that's up to its usual standards of excellence, this is a great, fun resource that ensures high learning potential.

Starfall.com

Well-designed literacy site with great activities for new readers

Bottom line: This fantastic learn-to-read site has valuable extension materials for classwork or homework.

Curiosityville

Highly engaging, age-appropriate site with delightful games

Bottom line: Curiosityville is a great online learning tool for kids that addresses a range of topics.

Feel Electric!

Express and identify emotions with hip Electric Company hosts

Bottom line: A fun way to get kids using emotion vocabulary and practicing expressing and identifying emotions.

Starfall Learn to Read

Delight emergent readers with lively phonics lessons

Bottom line: Easy-to-use, plentiful phonics activities keep emergent readers engaged.

BrainPOP Jr.

Top-notch educational videos a boon for elementary school teachers

Bottom line: BrainPOP Jr. sets the bar for top-quality online learning supplements.

Marble Math Junior

Sticky math practice encourages kids to keep playing, maze after maze

Bottom line: Students will enjoy practicing math skills with word problems in fun mazes.

Oh Noah!

Comforting character makes second-language mistakes no big deal

Bottom line: Oh Noah! provides a solid start in Spanish while building self-confidence and relaxing kids through humor.

Lawrence Hall of Science: 24/7 Science

First-class site for science games and investigations

Bottom line: These well-designed and highly educational activities challenge and engage kids in all the right ways.

DreamBox Learning Math

Individualized, game-based math adapts to kids' needs

Bottom line: This is a pretty nice all-in-one solution for extra math support and practice with solid adaptive tech, but students might need help with the interface.

Khan Academy

Missions boost learning with balance of focus, freedom to explore

Bottom line: A solid resource for Common Core math instruction as well as foundational knowledge in a number of other subjects.

LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game: The Magic School Bus: Oceans

Dive deep into the ocean and learn about the creatures that live there

Bottom line: Ms. Frizzle packs tons of fun learning into this underwater game, which can help build excitement around marine study in the classroom.

Numbers League

Beat bad guys with math in super-fun, super-powerful practice app

Bottom line: Cool superheroes, a great story, and lots of ways to personalize the learning make this math app a blast to play either solo or with others.

National Geographic Kids

Stunning photos and in-depth stories of Earth's peoples and wildlife

Bottom line: This amazing collection of multimedia resources teaches kids about animals, habitats, countries, and cultures.

Britannica Kids: Solar System

Blast off to learning with articles, puzzles, games, and more

Bottom line: Britannica Kids: Solar System is a good reference tool for supplementing a solar system unit.

Marble Math

Marvelous mazes make for engaging math practice

Bottom line: Marble Math offers students absorbing gameplay and customizable math skills practice.

DragonBox Algebra 5+

Mesmerizing step-by-step puzzler sets the foundation for algebra

Bottom line: This innovative game-changer teaches algebra, changes the way kids learn it, and even changes how they feel about it.

Gamestar Mechanic

Captivating manga romp teaches kids game design

Bottom line: This terrific and affordable toolset teaches kids how to design games and shows teachers how to use games to teach.

Geo Walk HD - 3D World Fact Book

Dazzling look at the world via an interactive atlas

Bottom line: Credible resource for introducing students to the world, which is likely to encourage them to research areas of interest further.

Roman Town

Puzzles and mini-games make Roman history come alive

Bottom line: Roman Empire learning game transports kids back in time for a rich, interactive experience.

iCivics

Exceptionally well-designed games, lesson plans demystify government

Bottom line: This excellent addition to a civics classroom simplifies complex topics.

Codecademy

Terrific hands-on coding practice with live feedback

Bottom line: In this excellent coding application, in-game practice and real-time guidance crack open the world of programming and turn your students into whiz kids.

SAT Word Slam

Creative SAT prep mixes humor with well-researched word lists

Bottom line: Laughing while learning proves effective for learning words in this witty vocab app.

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