Common Sense


EdTech That Inspires Interest-Driven Learning

When students are passionate about something, it's essential to create an environment of support that helps them dig deeper. One of the best ways to get students invested in learning is to connect what they're doing in the classroom to what interests them beyond the classroom. These picks help students get inspired, research their interests, connect with mentors and collaborate on projects, and create portfolios. There are also some tools for tailoring assessments to each student’s topic.

Interested in seeing tips on how you might use some of these tools to build curiosity in the classroom? Check out our blog series We All Teach SEL: Inspiring Activities for Every Classroom

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Top Picks


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Exploration and Inspiration


Search, access, and organize podcasts from iTunes' free library

Bottom line: This valuable tool helps teachers and students find educational podcasts that can supplement or replace the use of traditional textbooks.


Cool assessment targets kids' strengths; sprawling content overwhelms

Bottom line: A great starting point for conversations about students' strengths; skip some of the digital content.

News-O-Matic: School 2018-2019

Flexible, interactive daily stories for elementary school students

Bottom line: Engaging, high-quality news stories help students learn about the world.

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.


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.


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.


Projects inspire creativity; a place for kids' sharing would boost fun

Bottom line: A go-to site for teachers looking for well-presented project ideas; kids will need opportunities to share work locally.


Individualized STEM career exploration targets students' values

Bottom line: Students identify career values and use them to evaluate STEM options.

Research and Citation


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.

Simple English Wikipedia

Adapted resource can help some ELLs, with potential for other students

Bottom line: This empowering research tool for more advanced English learners has the potential for wider, more creative applications.


Aging search tool has curated resources and links to credible sites

Bottom line: It can help kids quickly find credible websites for study and schoolwork, but those resources will be a bit out-of-date.


Search engine with filtered results leaves room for critical thinking

Bottom line: SweetSearch supplies valid, reputable websites that can help kids learn about a variety of topics.


Handy storage locker for anything and everything you might create

Bottom line: It's a safe, secure, and always accessible place for students and teachers to store their digital notes and files.

Imagine Easy Academy

Versatile site helps integrate literacy skills into the curriculum

Bottom line: Detailed lessons make information literacy accessible; it's a great resource for teaching research-based units.


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.


Dreamdo Schools

Sleek project-based learning platform encourages global connections

Bottom line: An excellent tool for project-based learning; plan, create, and share learning around the world.


Customizable classroom blogs get students writing and collaborating

Bottom line: This rich and safe blogging tool makes it easy for teachers and students to extend the classroom into a wider community.

Actively Learn

Empowering reader keeps kids actively, independently engaged

Bottom line: Far beyond the average e-reader, this tool helps students connect and stay engaged while teachers easily measure progress.


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.


Powerful tool for creating collaborative websites

Bottom line: is a rare, collaborative Web tool that's both powerful and accessible.

Google Drive

Nifty tool for collaboratively editing and syncing files across devices

Bottom line: Google Drive is a smart choice for budget-conscious schools, with its free productivity tools and file syncing.


Inviting, customizable mobile blog platform with easy-to-use interface

Bottom line: Wordpress's app makes it easy to create and edit blog posts, manage comments, and view friends' blogs, and could be an indispensable tool for communication and collaboration if well-implemented.

Portfolios and Assessment

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.

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.


Digital portfolio and management tool for project-based classrooms

Bottom line: Impressive tool for individualized learning and managing projects is best for 1-to-1 iPad classrooms.


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.


Easy system to submit, review, and store digital assignments

Bottom line: This is a great way to create a paperless classroom, but its potential for enhancing learning depends completely on how teachers use it.

Project Foundry

Helpful, yet complex, management tool for project-based learning

Bottom line: A powerful, though sometimes complex, tool for providing inquiry-based, student-centered learning.

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