Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 40 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.

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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.

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 in the long run

Bottom line: Although it requires a lot of setup time, this snappy tool centralizes the essential components of lesson planning.

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

Classkick

Easy-to-use, real-time monitoring, feedback, and assessment for 1-to-1

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

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.

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.

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.

Formative

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

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

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.

Organization and Productivity

Google Classroom

Simplify communication, collaboration, and document sharing

Bottom line: Google Classroom is a great way to manage and organize learning, though teachers who need more features may need to look elsewhere.

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.

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

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.

Bloomz

Full-featured parent-teacher communication platform

Bottom line: Provided all parents have access, Bloomz can be a great way to get them involved.

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.

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 video content with interactive tool

Bottom line: As a flipped classroom or student creation tool, there are lots of opportunities for use, but teachers will need to be creative if they want students to engage.

Explain Everything

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.

Loom

Create, present, and assess with free, effortless screencasting

Bottom line: This intuitive tool is excellent for recording and responding to screencasts of any length.

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.

Check123

Free online video library keeps it short and sweet

Bottom line: Quickly search quality videos and create video quizzes to engage students and enhance learning.

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.

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.

Voxer Walkie Talkie Messenger

Voice- and text-messaging app is a teacher PLN 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.

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