Common Sense

TOP PICKS | 30 TOOLS

Resources for Problem-Solving and 21st-Century Skills

So many important school, life, and work skills can be taught through games and other engaging tools. Students can learn how to problem-solve their way through physics games, sharpen their communication skills, and much more. With these picks, you'll find apps, games, and websites that get kids designing and building inventions, strategizing how to best solve a math or language puzzle, and collaborating to make tough ethical decisions. 

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Humanities Tools

ArtsEdge

Impressive cross-curricular resource helps put the A in STEAM

Bottom line: A useful and engaging resource for integrating the arts into a variety of other subject areas.

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.

The Oregon Trail

Strong pioneer-simulation game with secondary emphasis on history

Bottom line: Classic westward expansion game just as fun as ever, but would benefit from some diverse updates.

KidsThinkDesign

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.

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.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Stimulating and creative adventure helps kids grow their vocabularies

Bottom line: This game encourages kids to expand their vocabularies and practice spelling.

Roadtrip Nation

Outstanding site motivates kids to follow dreams, work hard

Bottom line: Incredibly inspirational, fun, and helpful guide for kids trying to figure out a sustainable, happy future.

Storify

Storytelling with Web content teaches critical curation

Bottom line: Storify isn't designed for kids, but it has great potential as a way to help teach them how to be critical, to find and create meaning in the world.

Democracy 3

Nuanced political sim about the balancing act of government

Bottom line: This is a grown-up civics sim, full of tough choices, compelling cause and effect relationships, and controversial issues that will work best for older government students.

Peacemaker

Compelling test of kids' empathy and problem-solving skills

Bottom line: It'll give students an impactful lesson on the complexity of human conflict, and the ongoing tensions in the Middle East that emphasizes empathy and the delicate nature of diplomacy.

STEM Tools

Defined STEM

Stellar collection of STEM resources supports project-based learning

Bottom line: Excellent, well-thought-out resources for developing problem-solving skills in the classroom.

Scratch

Jump-start future programmers with adaptive sandbox tool

Bottom line: With plenty of time and support, Scratch can help kids of all ages learn essential programming concepts.

Workbench

Find and assign STEAM tasks with dynamic project-based learning hub

Bottom line: Dynamic resource for finding, creating, and rating lessons that support STEAM and PBL.

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.

Trainyard

Stump students with innovative train-routing puzzler

Bottom line: Superb combination of logic, real-world learning, and train play.

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.

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.

Algodoo

Sandbox tool enables engaged, conceptual physics inquiry

Bottom line: A robust, free pedagogical tool that's like a digital workbench where kids build and apply conceptual science knowledge.

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.

Metaverse

Ambitious augmented-reality tool engages users, promotes coding skills

Bottom line: This dynamic tool allows users to create and experience augmented-reality activities while learning 21st-century skills.

Mozilla Thimble

Inspiring platform teaches coding through remixing

Bottom line: Thimble is an excellent, free resource for teaching students to code through experimentation.

LearnToMod

Effective springboard to coding for dedicated Minecraft fans

Bottom line: For students who already know and love Minecraft, this is a valuable way to hook students into coding.

FTL: Faster Than Light

Failure is frequent and fun in this strategic starship sim

Bottom line: This starship simulator isn’t easy, but gritty kids will learn from failure and practice systems thinking.

The PocketLab

Gather and analyze live data anywhere

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

Brilliant

Challenge top students with adaptive math and physics problems

Bottom line: This leveled physics and math problem site can be an exciting challenge for passionate students, but may be too much for struggling 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.

Google Applied Digital Skills

Practical PBL lessons teach critical computer skills

Bottom line: Thorough digital literacy curriculum offers mix-and-match options to fit any classroom.

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.

Kerbal Space Program

Design and launch a rocket into space in realistic astrophysics sim

Bottom line: This accurate rocket sim encourages trial-and-error learning and makes for great (and often explosive) physics and engineering experiments.

My Experiment

Collaborative scientific social network best for advanced HS students

Bottom line: While not for everyone, this resource can be useful for advanced students conducting their own scientific research.

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