Common Sense names 20 of the best edtech tools for the classroom

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At Common Sense Education, the education arm of the nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe media consumption for children and families, their edtech reviewers have seen it all. To help teachers navigate the plethora of materials for the digital classroom, Tanner Higgin, director of education editorial strategy at Common Sense Education, recently hosted a webinar for edWeb.net in which he highlighted 50 of the best. Below are some (20, to be exact) of Higgin’s favorite edtech tools:

Free favorites

  • Adobe Spark: This flexible design tool lets teachers and students design everything from a web page to a social media post. The included templates and color palates ensure that student projects are looking good. Higgin said creative educators have found a million different use cases across all subjects and grade levels for this tool. 
  • Google CS First: A computer science curriculum with themed coding projects, this program makes coding less intimidating and more accessible to people from all backgrounds. In addition, the themes and activities motivate students with varying knowledge levels.

Extraordinary ELA

  • ThinkCERCA: Focused on argumentative writing, this research-based tool teaches critical thinking and has well-structured lessons that encourage thoughtful writing.
  • InsertLearning: With this program teachers can take any website and add instructional content. By adding layers to a web page, they can make online research more engaging and encourage students to interact with the content beyond just reading the text.

STEM standouts

  • Mosa Mack Science: Grounded in NGSS, this tool grabs students with mysteries. Students need to design and engineer solutions to solve puzzles.
  • CueThink: This math tool focuses on having students solve math problems, share their solutions, get peer feedback, and then improve their solutions. It makes math more accessible because students can make and learn from mistakes. 

Awesome arts

  • Bandimal: A music app that looks beautiful, has a great sense of humor, and can be used by anyone of any age, it allows students to make music through simple sequencing.
  • DIY.org: According to Higgin, this is the best community in youth media and learning products. Any kid can go and learn how to make things, share what they make and earn badges.

Social studies stunners

  • Newsela: With leveled texts aimed at the classroom, this news platform addresses current events and trending issues. Quizzes, annotations, and writing prompts are available as well.
  • Teaching Tolerance: An amazing professional development resource as well as a classroom tool, this is the place to go to tackle tricky topics like religion and race.

Excellent SEL

  • Amaze: Without being corny, this app teaches students health with a cheeky, quirky tone.
  • Sown to Grow: Focusing on goal setting and assessment, this program scaffolds the setting of goals, the reflection, and the revision of a personal learning plan in an easy, accessible way that makes students more thoughtful about their learning and their learning journeys. 

Ultra-absorbing games

  • Magnus Kingdom of Chess and DragonBox Algebra 5+: Published by the same company, these games teach chess and algebra organically. Users play a game with a set of rules based on those two subjects, and as they progress, the layers of the game disappear and reveal what students have been learning.

Privacy pioneers

  • Edpuzzle: It allows teachers to take a video from the internet, put it into the platform, add assessments, and get students thinking with it rather than just watching it.
  • Zearn: This math tool effectively balances digital learning with classroom learning with peers, station work, and teacher-led lessons. Higgin said the developers clearly studied how classrooms work and created an experience that has a great flow between the digital and classroom environments.

All-time greats

  • Scratch: A coding legend, it has an incredible community of kids teaching and working with other kids.
  • Explain Everything: One of the most flexible tools in edtech, teachers and students can present and create with it even if they don’t have a lot of experience.

Teacher’s pets

  • Tuva Labs: This tool provides amazing, open-source data sets for students to manipulate.
  • Hypothes.is: This program allows teachers to annotate any web page. They can either let students see the public annotations or create a private view for the classroom.

About the presenter

Tanner Higgin is the director of education editorial strategy at Common Sense Education where he leads the editorial team responsible for edtech reviews and resources. Previously, he taught writing and media literacy for six years, and has a Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside. His research on video games and culture has been published in journals, books, and online. Prior to joining Common Sense Education, Tanner worked as a curriculum developer and researcher at GameDesk, helping to design and launch Educade.org and the PlayMaker School. While at GameDesk, he co-designed the United Colonies alternate reality game with Mike Minadeo. This game is one of the most sophisticated to be implemented in a K-12 environment to date. Outside of education, Tanner has been a technical writer-editor for the Department of Defense, a web designer, and co-editor and co-creator of a print literary journal.

About the host

Jennifer Ehehalt is the Pittsburgh regional manager at Common Sense Education. She is responsible for helping school districts build a culture of digital citizenship among educators, students and their families. She designs and delivers professional development for preK-12 educators that focuses on the implementation of Common Sense’s K-12 digital citizenship resources along with how to integrate technology into the classroom. Through her work she had the opportunity to share best practices by presenting at ISTE, ASCD, PETE & C, TRETC, ICE Illinois and GAETC.

Join the community

Digital Learning & Leadership is a free professional learning community on edWeb.net where you can share, learn, and discuss ideas and best practices to enhance teaching with technology.

The edWeb webinar referenced above, hosted by Common Sense Education and sponsored by Symantec, can be found here.

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