Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 35 TOOLS

Essential Back-to-School Tools for Teachers

If you're looking for ways tech can boost your teaching, 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 list

Curriculum and Lesson Planning

BetterLesson

Exemplary Common Core-aligned lessons from rock star peers at large

Bottom line: Get a head start on the Common Core transition with this professional community for great classroom-ready lessons.

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.

Metria Master Teacher Edition

All-in-one standards planning, assessment tool supports quality instruction

Bottom line: With adequate time and resources, the tool can be a fantastic organizational support to those transitioning to standards-aligned planning and assessment.

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.

Feedback, Assessment, and Portfolios

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.

Recap: Video Response and Reflection for Education

Multimedia reflection app puts a new spin on class discussion

Bottom line: By promoting regular self-reflection and inquiry through Recap, teachers can support more authentic learning and self-assessment among their students.

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.

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.

Formative

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

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!

Gamelike 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.

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.

Organization and Productivity

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

Impressive organizational tool has limitless uses

Bottom line: This free information-management tool can help kids become tech-savvy and learn to better organize their digital lives.

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.

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.

Parent and Student Communication

ClassDojo

Handy management and messaging tool helps recognize, reward students

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

Remind

Teachers' text reminders give students -- and parents -- a reason to check their phones

Bottom line: Well-designed, widespread messaging tool can keep students and families connected with their schools -- provided they have access.

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.

TodaysMeet

Easy online conversations supplement and extend the classroom

Bottom line: TodaysMeet is super simple, highly functional, and can be a flipped-classroom stepping stone with the help of careful monitoring.

Presentation and Video

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.

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.

Screencastify

Easy screen-recording tool facilitates outside-the-box instruction

Bottom line: If you have access to Chrome, Screencastify is an easy instructional tool that lets teachers and students communicate in new and creative ways.

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.

Explain Everything Classic

Classic version of dynamic presentation tool still excites

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

Office Mix

Transformative PPT add-on gives a personal touch to flipped lessons

Bottom line: These engaging, interactive digital lessons can take on a personal, human touch that offers the potential for great learning.

Explain Everything Classic

Classic version of dynamic presentation tool still excites

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

Professional Growth

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.

Voxer Walkie Talkie Messenger

Voice- and text-messaging app is a teacher PD 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