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The Best Tech Tools
For Teachers


Members of the Education World Tech Team reveal the best technology tools for teachers. Included: Suggestions for using those tools in and out of the classroom.


We asked members of the Education World Tech Team to tell us about the technology tools they find most useful in their professional lives and about the technology -- hardware, software, programs, applications, Web sites-- they use most often and most successfully with their students. This is what they said.


"Interactive whiteboards (SMART Boards) are rapidly transforming our entire language department," Howard Levin told Education World, "by making board lessons much more dynamic, multimodal, and interactive. Teachers archive and share all their SMART Board lessons. They also can instantaneously re-visit and review lessons from yesterday, last week, and last month to help reinforce learning in a way that was never possible in the past.

"Outside the classroom," Levin added, "my laptop goes with me everywhere. It's my source of production, communication, information and organization. It's my 'everything.'"

According to Jennifer Wagner, "My absolute favorite software to use with students are Kidspiration and Inspiration. They both are 'must have' software.

"I introduce Kidspiration with my students by creating an image map using information about Disneyland. Since Disneyland is only 30 minutes away from us, most of the kids have been there and can recall information from their visits. We create symbols for each "land" at Disneyland (Adventureland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland,) and then add bubbles/symbols for rides you can go on in that part of the park. We color code each group and also import a title image from an image I found on the Internet. Students quickly learn how to use Kidspiration in a fun, yet educational, way.

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"Students use Inspiration to assist them with their annual science-fair project outlines," Wagner said. "They type the scientific method into the 'Outline View 'of Inspiration, and then add data as they work on their projects. It really helps students put together their projects.

"We also use the software for character studies, book/movie comparisons, history lessons, grammar lessons (color coding symbols for parts of speech is a great tool), current events, game shows (You can make an easy jeopardy board), and more.

"Inspiration Software also debuted new software at the last NECC: InspireData is a great data collecting and data graphing tool!

"During the summer," Wagner added, "I found these tools I hope I will never again have to live without:

  • Skype: I have found Skype to be a wonderful tool. I am able to attend 'Skypecasts' of weekly educational conversations, and also collaborate with people all over the world. Skye allows me to speak with participants of my JenuineTech projects and also work on additional activities with people I never could have worked with in the past. I cannot explain the wealth of knowledge I have been able to gain since I've added Skype to my computer.
  • Wikispaces: Wiki's are an amazing tool, both for a teacher personally and for his or her class. The ability to share information and grow information with a wiki is truly wonderful. And since a wiki can be sorted by page topic -- rather than by date (as with a blog) -- it makes it a very powerful tool to use. (Note: Wikispaces is giving away free wikihosting for teachers. )


"The most used Web site for our 7th grade classes is FunBrain," Wally Fuller told Education World. Teachers use the site's interactive games to help students hone their math and language arts skills. Last year, we read Diary of a Wimpy Kid every day during computer lab time. At the end of the week, teachers made up questions to help with reading comprehension."

"Hmmmm.... it's difficult to choose just one tool," said computer science teacher Lucy Gray. "I'd have to say that the best utilized application in my classes is iMovie. My students use it to produce a multimedia project called 'All About Me,' in which they build components over the course of the year. They do portraits in Art Rage, record audio files in Garageband, and create movies in iMovie. All of those pieces are put into a multimedia presentation using eZedia MX. When they are finished, students burn the projects and a free eZedia MX player to a CD to take home. Although that might change a bit this year; because eZedia MX is not currently compatible with Intel based Macs."

Sandra Bauer shared her lesson plan for "Finding your dream car! Can you pay for it?," a Microsoft Excel activity she likes to do with her 8th graders.

"After explaining spreadsheet basics," Bauer told Education World, "I have students look for three cars on the Internet. The first is their dream car -- a Lamborghini, Bentley, Ford GT; the second is the car they realistically might own in the next few years; the third car can be anything. After finding the cars online, students enter into a spreadsheet the make, model, price, and picture of each car. Then they must compute the amount of a 3-year monthly car payment with a $5,000 down payment using the PMT function option." (See worksheet for an explanation of the formulas.)

"The 8th grade students really enjoy looking at cars, especially since they will be driving soon. Sometimes it is eye opening when they realize how much they might have to pay for one."


"E-mail," said Bernie Poole, "is my lifeline -- to friends, family, colleagues, and students. I use Notepad in conjunction with e-mail to save different paragraphs of text that I find myself frequently repeating. When I want to include something -- such as instructions to students or colleagues -- I chisel the text in stone in a Notepad doc and then copy and paste it each time I need to include it in an e-mail.

"I use Microsoft Word constantly to prepare, update, and edit materials I use in the classroom, and for correspondence.

"I prepare PowerPoint presentations for all my lectures.

"My USB flash drive is now indispensable for transporting files back and forth between computers that I use in and out of the classroom.

" Blackboard CourseWeb," Poole added, "has become an indispensable tool for managing the courses I teach. I post my syllabi, schedules, PowerPoints, handouts, announcements, and other course materials -- such as grades -- on CourseWeb. My students (all Education majors) appreciate the access that gives them to everything involved with a course. I appreciate the fact that I can so easily communicate 24/7 with my students via CourseWeb.

"I maintain a significant Web site that allows me to share with teachers and students around the world my ideas about education, my books, and my collection of educational Web links.

"I have my students learn beyond the basics in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Access, including mail merge, drawing tools, and outlining (in PowerPoint)," Poole noted. "They complete projects using Inspiration, Easy Test Maker, and RubiStar. Each student must prepare a PowerPoint learning module that teaches some aspect of the elementary or secondary school curriculum. Students also prepare an extensive, 40-50 page personal Web site (using Yahoo!/geocities free Web space service), which includes a professional e-portfolio and a rudimentary class management system.

Most assignments and directions about assignments are communicated using Blackboard's CourseWeb. I am available to my students 24/7 using e-mail. Students now hand in most of their completed assignments via e-mail.

As a result of the ubiquitous access that my students have to online technology," Poole concluded, "my courses have evolved to where they are now taught in a 'hybrid' mode - in which teaching and learning take place both face-to-face and online."

Who Are They?

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:

* Sandra Bauer, middle-school computer teacher, White House Middle School, White House, Tennessee
* Wally Fuller, Technology Teacher, Upper Lake Middle School, Upper Lake, California
* Lucy Gray, middle school computer science teacher, The University of Chicago Lab Schools, Chicago, Illinois
* Howard Levin, director of technology, The Urban School, San Francisco, California
* Bernie Poole, associate professor of education and instructional technology, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania
* Jennifer Wagner, technology educator,

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Updated 07/18/2011