Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 43 TOOLS

Digital Tools for School Libraries and Media Centers

Librarians and media specialists often don't get enough credit for creating safe spaces that inspire students and make them feel part of a community. Libraries have always been places of innovation, and those of you at their helm have been some of the first to embrace technology. We've created a list that can help you sift through all the tech options out there to stay at the forefront of your craft and to make your learning commons a central hub of information and culture in your school. Once you've checked out these apps, games, and websites, take a look at our Digital Citizenship curriculum for lessons that help students use technology responsibly to learn, create, and participate.

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Research and Citation

NowComment

Rich collaboration and discussion site engages students and teachers

Bottom line: It's a versatile discussion platform for teaching, peer reviewing, and fostering active reading, and offers much more than traditional word processors.

Citelighter

Substantial all-in-one tool scaffolds the research and writing process

Bottom line: This smart, intuitive system supports students in every step of the writing process.

Digital Public Library of America

Organized digital library features piles of useful primary resources

Bottom line: DPLA is at the top of the list of high-grade, online primary source collections if teachers make effective use of what's on offer.

ZoteroBib

Fewer clicks and less clutter equal a new go-to site for citing sources

Bottom line: An intuitive site that takes the stress out of citing sources, but students will still need instruction to tweak auto-generated citations.

Hypothes.is

Browser extension adds layer of annotation and discussion to the web

Bottom line: Free, user-friendly tool opens up the web to in-context annotation and discussion.

NoodleTools

Expansive research tool uniquely melds learning and productivity

Bottom line: While the complex, old-school design isn't ideal, NoodleTools gives students specific assistance where they need it the most -- with citations, paraphrasing, elaboration, and organization.

Weava

Chrome extension helps organize web-based research

Bottom line: For Chrome users and mostly digital classrooms, this is a fairly intuitive tool that'll help students wrangle their research.

Makerspaces and 3D Design

3DBear AR

3D design and augmented reality merge in creative, interactive app

Bottom line: A great fit for classroom or makerspace settings as long as students have clear direction and compatible devices.

Makers Empire

Stellar 3D design hub promotes innovation, collaboration, and creation

Bottom line: This is a great design and creation tool that teachers and students can use to be innovative and share ideas with a vibrant community of makers.

Workbench

Find, create, and assign lessons in dynamic project-based learning hub

Bottom line: A dynamic resource for finding, creating, and rating lessons that support STEAM, PBL, and flipped or virtual classrooms.

Gizmos & Gadgets

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.

3D Slash

Minecraft-like 3D modeling (and printing) made super easy for all ages

Bottom line: This may be the fastest, cheapest route from idea to 3D printing out there, if you don't mind low-res, pixelated designs.

3DC

3D modeling tool allows for simple or complex creations

Bottom line: This is a good 3D design and modeling platform, but it might take a bit of exploration to really see the true potential.

DIY

Design, build, and share new things offline and online

Bottom line: DIY motivates kids to tackle a wide range of problems with independent and scientific thinking.

Tinkercad

Amazingly simple yet powerful online CAD tool turns kids into makers

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

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.

Instructables

Endless collection of DIY projects; good for sharing and inspiration

Bottom line: User-generated projects inspire sharing and learning, though more refined navigation would make it easier to sift through all the great ideas.

Reading and Writing

Bookshare

Unique digital library gives access to those with print disabilities

Bottom line: This fantastic digital library service provides a powerful sense of independence for students with print-related disabilities.

Lalilo

K-2 literacy program offers comprehensive, adaptive activities

Bottom line: An easy-to-recommend tool thanks to its broad coverage of key skills and nice balance of student-driven and teacher-differentiated learning.

Skybrary – Kids Books & Videos

Kids can "go anywhere, be anything" with vast book and video library

Bottom line: Wonderful and practical way to get kids excited about learning and reading -- the greatness of the classic TV series, updated for the 21st century.

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.

Read&Write

Useful text-to-speech app and extension unlocks the written word

Bottom line: A valuable tool to make classroom use of websites and digital documents more accessible to all students.

826 Digital

Popular after-school program shares its resources with teachers

Bottom line: This is a worth-bookmarking resource thanks to relatable writing lessons and motivating examples of actual student writing.

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.

Book Creator

Magically easy way to create and publish digital books and multimedia

Bottom line: This is a top-quality creation tool that lets students of many ages and abilities publish their own digital books.

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.

LitPick

Tweens' reviews of YA literature great for classroom use

Bottom line: LitPick is a safe, fun environment for YA lovers to read their favorite books while learning how to discuss literature.

Goodreads

Lively community for bookworms to share their love of lit

Bottom line: Using Goodreads can enhance teens' reading experience and help them become thoughtful, enthusiastic readers.

Robotics and Coding

Blue-Bot

Simple robot ideal for introducing programming to young learners

Bottom line: Students will develop logical and sequential thinking with Blue-Bot, creating a foundation for future coding activities.

Root Coding

First-rate versatile robot for all ages

Bottom line: By encouraging artistic design and creative problem-solving, Root Coding fits right into your STEAM curriculum.

Code.org

Popular games, big names get kids and teachers pumped to program

Bottom line: A well-planned, -produced, and -curated set of free resources bound to get kids hooked on learning to code.

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.

Scratch

Creative sandbox opens the door to coding in any subject area

Bottom line: Scratch draws students of all types into coding and lays a foundation for future learning.

Evo by Ozobot

Versatile mini robot tailor-made for teaching coding

Bottom line: Evo encourages students to be creative, emphasizing that coding is a tool in your pocket, not the end game.

Wonder for Dash and Dot Robots

Serious robotics programming with seriously adorable robots

Bottom line: It's the most challenging and versatile of the Dash and Dot apps and will keep engineering-savvy kids engaged.

KOOV

Robotics kit makes design possibilities virtually limitless

Bottom line: For schools with healthy budgets, KOOV helps kids design and code interactive robots with blocks, sensors, and imagination.

Sphero Edu

Cool robots and creative play make programming irresistible

Bottom line: Hub for Sphero robots draws crafty kids who love making into coding, and it empowers them to be collaborators.

MAD-learn

Create mobile apps with extensive help from start to finish

Bottom line: Intuitive platform encourages students to engage in design thinking and coding with loads of support.

Microsoft MakeCode

Bring code to life with circuits, robots, Minecraft, and more

Bottom line: Once you purchase the hardware, MakeCode opens doors to an incredible diversity of coding applications.

Google CS First

Middle school CS platform offers stellar resources, organizing tools

Bottom line: If your middle school doesn't have a CS program or club, now you do!

Technovation Families

Family-focused site for learning AI well-suited to classrooms, too

Bottom line: Makes artificial intelligence and machine learning accessible to students of many ages and abilities.

Unity Learn

Complete game creation curriculum gives students real-world experience

Bottom line: For any computer science or game design/development course, Unity Learn is a fun and effective way to get students building games right away, with plenty of room for depth.

micro:bit

Code games or fun displays with mini piece of hardware

Bottom line: This versatile tool for learning how to program with blocks or text is a nice fit for STEM classes and clubs.

Get tips for using these tools in the classroom

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