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School’s out! Finding teacher tools that finish at the top of the class

…And skipping the teacher tools that earn a failing grade.

Technology delivers plenty of tools to help teachers manage their classroom and transform how they teach–from solutions rolled out by schools and districts, to personal mobile apps and programs. The challenge for teachers is sorting through the possibilities to find what truly works, what can be consolidated into a broader tool—and what should get a failing grade.

Based on our many years of experience as education technologists, here are key items to consider, both good and bad, in choosing technology tools that truly help teachers (and their students) succeed in the classroom.

Focus on Tools that are Easy to Use

The importance of ease of use can’t be overemphasized. Unfortunately, software design hasn’t reached a point at which all or even most tools are easy to use.

A popular product whose user interface is outdated may no longer be worth the time it takes new teachers to master it. With limited time for professional development, and with so many new tools on the scene yearly, teachers need to choose wisely. If online reviews and in-house pilots indicate a useful app but one that is tough to get up and running, keep looking.

For IT departments, one basic way to save teacher training time and guarantee ease of use is to choose tools that easily integrate into the existing learning management system. That means users login once for all their learning tools’ and have only one look and feel to master–as well as the ability to get students up and sharing content relatively seamlessly.

For example, with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) emphasizing the importance of parental engagement, tools that help busy teachers reach out to parents efficiently should be top-of-mind.

In D2L’s Brightspace LMS, that means a secure portal that gives parents and guardians a bird’s-eye view into the classroom, without creating yet another task for teachers. This helps teachers interact with parents more often. Teachers can securely share the class activity feed and each student’s portfolio. Making those features a part of the LMS lets teachers track parental contact and prepare reports, saving them time while helping meet district and state requirements for family engagement.

(Next page: Going mobile, anytime/anywhere, and saving time)

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