Sometimes the best tools have been around awhile. Steve Dembo @teach42 talks about the tried and true tools that teachers should still use.
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Tried and True Edtech Tools to Try in 2018
Link to show: www.coolcatteacher.com/e222
Date: January 2, 2018
Steve, today for Ed Tech Tool Tuesday, what are some things that people need to try in 2018? Do we need to always be doing the new latest and greatest, or are there some things that maybe we might need to dust off?
Why Time-Tested Tried and True Tools Are So Useful
Steve: Well, I think it’s interesting, because a lot of times when people go to conferences, they’re always seeking out, “What are the ones I haven’t heard of before?” They’re looking for something new and shiny and sexy and so on.
But the reality is, the new ones are sometimes the ones that aren’t necessarily well established, that don’t necessarily have a good financial plan in place. They’re the ones that you can’t necessarily depend on still being there Monday when you want to start using it with students.
And yet, there are all of these great tried and true Web 2.0 tools, or online technologies that not only have a firm financial plan in place or they will withstand the test of time, and they’ve actually been well developed over the year, with new features and so on.
I think sometimes people — instead of focusing on what’s new and what they haven’t seen before — they need to be focusing more on making better and more effective use of the ones that are well established.
Vicki: OK, give us some of those well established.
Tool #1 Padlet
Steve: Well, I’ll take Padlet.
I think Padlet is a perfect first example because everybody kind of knows what it does. For a little while, everybody was talking about it because it was the greatest, newest, shiniest thing.
- Read How to Use Padlet
And yet nobody really talks about it much anymore. There’s an entire generation of teachers that aren’t familiar with Padlet because nobody’s evangelizing it anymore.
And, they have done a phenomenal job of upgrading it over time, of adding more educational-friendly features, of adding things like commenting, adding new layouts and columns and so on. So it can function sort of like a Trello, where you can have upvoting ala Reddit, making it a lot more interactive and kind of changing the nature of the way these Padlets can function so that it can fit a lot more needs.
And yet, a lot of people think, “Oh, I’m familiar with Padlet, or I’m familiar with Wallwisher,” (note: Wallwisher is now Padlet) and they don’t take the time to go explore, “What can it do for me NOW?”
Vicki: OH, and it’s such a fantastic tool to use. I don’t know why we keep thinking we have to use what’s new instead of using what absolutely just works, rock solid.
Are there any other rock-solid examples besides Padlet?
Tool #2: VoiceThread
Steve: You know, it’s funny because there are some that are very, very solid and dependable, like VoiceThread that haven’t necessarily evolved all that much,
Tool #3: WeVideo
and then you take others like WeVideo that have just done and an even better job of establishing really great business plans.
You know, they’re making most of their money on the personal accounts, on the business accounts, on the enterprise accounts and so on, which means that they can offer educators even more features for free and they keep on adding things in there, too.
One of the things that they added recently that I love is this “motion graphics” element. It’s basically like an after-effects, in a sense. And you can do some really incredibly brilliant and subtle things in it. If you really want to get creative and push the envelope, you can do some really mind-blowing green screen type things with the motion graphics. It’s one of the most full-featured video editing products out there, and considering that it will work on a Chromebook is just amazing.
Vicki: Yeah. It brings video in the reach of everybody, doesn’t it?
What else do you have?
Tool #4 Kahoot
Steve: Well, let’s see. A lot of times what I like is these ones that are doing consistent development. They're listening to users and really putting in the features that the users are requesting and wanting to see. Kahoot has done a very nice job of that.
Tool #5: Sutori
One of the other ones that has kind of flown under the radar is a site called Sutori. Sutori has now been around for about I think a year and a half, maybe even almost two years. It kind of defies definition. It’s sort of created its own genre.
But what I really love about it is that they’ve got new features that are coming out every two or three months, and they’re all in direct response to the things that educators have been asking. That’s one of the things I demonstrate when I show this in presentations.
A lot of times people don’t really think the developers want to hear from educators, or that it’s going to have much of an impact. What they don’t realize is that a lot of these online ed tech tools — they’re teams of three or four people. The people who are answering the support questions are the same people who are doing the primary development on them.
So when you say to the support person in the chat room, “I’d like to see this feature,” or “If you did this, then I could use it with my students,” you’re talking to the people who can actually make that happen! So that’s another one that I’ve become a huge fan of.
Vicki: So Kahoot obviously helps us do quizzes, and our students can make them, and that’s awesome.
So Sutori… Is that really more for vocabulary? I haven’t used it.
Steve: No, it’s sort of… a way to sort of publish stories but in a sort of linear fashion. It’s sort of like a timeline, but it’s not a timeline because there aren’t necessarily and numbers. It almost defies definition, but it’s a way to publish something almost like a blog except that it is actually interactive. It can be collaborative ala Google Docs style.
If you’re not familiar with it yet, you should definitely — if nothing else — go to the website and look at their gallery. Their gallery has an excellent selection of great examples that would appeal to educators. One of the other nice things about it is that you can take any one of those, copy it to your own account, and use them as templates and just modify them to your heart’s content.
Tool #6: Wordle
Vicki: Now, before the show, you were even talking about Wordle. I mean, how can you explain that? That’s such a powerful tool, and I use it all the time with my students.
Wordle is sort of my litmus test. Now Wordle hasn’t changed one iota from the very beginning, which a lot of people can appreciate because we all know what it’s like when you pull it up on Monday with the students and all of a sudden it looks completely different. Wordle’s not going to.
But what I find ironic — that sort of encapsulates this whole problem of people only evangelizing the newest items in the tech scene — is that as soon as everybody’s familiar with it (and when I say everybody, I mean the people that are hanging out in Twitter chats, the people that go to ISTE, the people that go to the affiliate conferences) as soon as everybody knows about a web tool, most of those people stop talking about it, they stop blogging about it, they stop sharing it in presentations.
The net result is that when I go into schools and I talk to teachers and I talk to educators in general, I would estimate that more than half of them haven’t heard of Wordle. Most of them just have never even seen it, because no one’s taking the time to share it anymore because it’s not new to them.
Tool #7 & 8 WordPress and Edublogs
It’s sort of the reason why it doesn’t seem new and sexy to talk about blogging or to evangelize blogging anymore or show people how to use EduBlog, or how to use WordPress. And yet, you know what? There’s still a need for it.
Steve: It may not be the newest and freshest thing in the world, but there’s still this whole generation of teachers that didn’t get the same exposure to it and haven’t had the same journey that we have.
Vicki: Well, when I do my “Fifty-Plus Tools” presentation, I always show how you can go on Wikitext and you can pull out, say, the Emancipation Proclamation, and you can put it into Wordle, and you really frontload that vocabulary. It’s such an important teaching technique, whatever you’re teaching, particularly if the subject you’re teaching is on public domain, and you can pull the text out and put it in there. It’s just a fantastic method.
So, Steve, as we finish up, what kind of inspiration do you have for educators who feel overwhelmed by all of this ed tech, to get started and try something new?
Inspiration for Overwhelmed Teachers
Well, the first thing to keep in mind is… I love doing this exercise during a presentation… I ask people to just raise their hands if they feel like they’re behind the technology curve. And nearly two-thirds to three-quarters of the audience will raise their hand.
The reality is that every single one of those people — just by being at a tech conference, by listening to podcasts like yours — you’re ahead of the technology curve. You’re far more tech-savvy than most other people, most other educators that are just… I don’t want to say just punching the card and going through the routine… but who aren’t necessarily seeking out new sources of professional development.
So first of all, I strongly urge people not to be so critical of themselves. But then it’s the traditional, “You have to make the time to do it.” There will never be a time when you say, “Boy! What am I going to do with all this extra free time that I have?
Steve: It just doesn’t happen!
Vicki: No, it doesn’t.
Steve: So you have to schedule yourself that time. You have to build it in and say, “For this hour, I’m going to play. Because play is going to make me a better educator.” And not force yourself to feel guilty for not taking the time to play with a new technology.
Vicki: Yes, and as I always say innovate like a turtle. Take tiny little steps forward every day, because it’s about forward progress. We can all learn something new. Now I’m going to be playing with Sutori, so I’ve learned something new today.
Thank you so much, Steve. We will put all of your information in the Shownotes so folks can follow you.
Steve: Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Transcribed by Kymberli Mulford
Steve Dembo Bio as submitted
A pioneer in the field of educational social networking, Dembo was among the first to realize the power of blogging, podcasting, Twitter, and other Web 2.0 technologies in connecting educators and creating professional learning communities.
Steve Dembo served for ten years as Discovery Education’s Director of Learning Communities and led their Innovation and Strategy team. He is the co-author of the book Untangling the Web: 20 Tools to Power Up Your Teaching. The National School Board Association named him one of 2010’s “Twenty to Watch,” a list honoring individuals finding innovative ways to use technology to increase classroom learning. In 2013 he began serving the Skokie/Morton Grove District 69 as a member of the School Board. Dembo is a course designer and adjunct professor for Wilkes University where he serves as class instructor for the Internet Tools for Teaching course within the Instructional Media degree program.
Steve Dembo is also a dynamic speaker on the capabilities of social networking, the power of educational technologies and Web 2.0 tools, and the ability of digital content to empower teachers to improve student achievement. He has delivered keynotes and featured presentations at dozens of conferences globally including ISTE, TCEA, FETC, MACUL, GaETC, METC, CUE, ICE, TEDxCorpus Christi, #140Edu, EduWeb, .EDU and the Social Media Masters Summit. Dembo was also a featured panelist at Nokia Open Labs as an expert on mobile device integration in education.
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