What’s the one tech tool you can’t give up?

Educators and administrators tell all on the must-have technologies that make their lives complete

With so many tech tools out there, it’s hard to pick just one, but we convinced a bunch of educators to share their must-haves. Hopefully, their words of praise will help you the next time you’re looking for a new product to check out.

“I’ve been using LanSchool for about four years and I love it. I try not to constantly filter or block my student’s Internet access, but it’s nice to have a program that can keep them focused if they get off task.”—Tom Gilbert, M. Ed., NBCT, business and marketing education/DECA advisor, Apex Friendship High School, N.C.

“Until we found Workbench Programming Canvas, we were struggling with ways to help teachers access lessons that teach coding using Spheros and drones. Now our teachers can easily find these lessons on the Workbench platform, get them out to students, and track student progress.”—Ryan Johnson, former instructional technology coordinator, Enterprise (CA) Elementary School District

Curriculum Associates’ i-Ready has been a wonderful tool to help us build data-driven classrooms. We now use data from the program to have conversations around how students are doing throughout the year, not just at the end of the year after the summative assessments.”—Amy Boles, director of educational services, Oak Grove (CA) School District

“I believe in student-led formative assessment tools and, to that end, my go-to tech tools are ActivEd Walkabouts and Seesaw. With both of these tools, the students are able to work independently and receive immediate feedback on skills and concepts in order to achieve mastery. With Walkabouts, which are on-demand adventures that bring concepts to life through activity, the students are also able to exercise, which we all know leads to better retention, the connections of neurons, and better health. With Seesaw, the students are able to produce and create a digital portfolio of their learning growth while connecting with their families at the same time.”—Suzannah Evans, 1st-grade blended building leader, St. Vrain Valley (CO) School District

“Students in my science and engineering labs used to just think it was fun or cool to see things explode or fly. Since incorporating more Vernier technology, including Go Direct sensors, my students have started seeing the reason why we do the labs through evaluating the data we collect. Using Vernier sensors has created a balance of fun and educational labs!”—Tate Rector, engineering and robotics teacher, Beebe Junior High, AR

cK-12 is the best open educational resource I’ve encountered and used to date, at least for the sciences—which I teach—as well as for math, which I’m also certified in. It contains readings, videos, PLIX (Play, Learn, Interact, eXplore), and, at last count, more than 350,000 practice quiz questions in multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank formats. It’s fully customizable, there’s a training program via webinars, and the opportunity to become a cK-12-certified teacher. It was developed by faculty and staff at Stanford University, which is reputed to have one of the best teacher preparation programs in the world.”—Barry LeClair, high school sciences teacher, Pinellas County (FL) Schools

“The Devereux Student Strengths Assessment (DESSA) from Aperture Education has been an invaluable part of our district’s social-emotional learning (SEL) initiative. The assessment data helped us determine the initiative’s impact and identify students who may need additional SEL support. Our initiative, and the decision to include SEL assessments, has been intentional and deliberate. It has helped us shift from having independent pockets of excellence to meeting the needs of all students and creating better citizens.”—Lisa Micou, intervention and training specialist for SEL, Chesterfield County (VA) Public Schools

“We had Epson projectors in our classrooms that were eight to 10 years old and were still going, so when we decided to replace the projectors in our high schools, we looked to Epson first. While some people think flat panels are cool and offer new advantages over projectors, we haven’t yet seen the benefits for a classroom with 25 to 30 students. Our concern is they don’t provide as large of a viewing area and take up wall space teachers still use and need—even with today’s technology. To get the best bang for our buck, we standardized on the BrightLink ultra-short throw interactive display.”—Victor Valdez, director of technology, Pflugerville (TX) Independent School District

“As a teacher, I only see my perspective. So what I think is funny, what I think is interesting, or what I think are good directions sound completely different from the other end. What’s really great about using Edthena and video coaching is that I can view a video from three months ago. I have a little more time removal from that to say something like, ‘Oh wow, I did not give clear instructions there at all.’”—Amy Henderson, 11th grade English teacher, Wonderful College Prep Academy, CA

“The POWERUP 2.0 Free Flight is a great addition to our fan-favorite paper airplane lesson. Students learn the characteristics of flight, fold different paper airplane designs, and test their flight abilities, but the POWERUP 2.0 Free Flight takes the lesson a step further: It exaggerates the characteristics of flight, so students can ask themselves, ‘How can I make this paper airplane fly as long as possible?’ Using what they learned about the characteristics of flight and their problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, they continue to make reiterations of their designs, which is a big part of design thinking. The POWERUP 2.0 Free Flight is fun, but it is also robust as students can test paper airplane designs over and over again, and they’re only using a piece of paper each time.”—Mark Gerl, innovation director, Fulton Academy of Science and Technology, GA

“For us, it would be the Student Safety Reporting System by PublicSchoolWORKS. If students or parents contact us about bullying or any student safety concern, we immediately direct them to report it via the PublicSchoolWORKS system because if it’s not in the system, I can’t ensure it is being investigated. We’ve had parents and students report bullying and rumors of a fight and because both were reported in the system, our administration was able to intervene.”—Eugene Blalock Jr., superintendent, North College Hill (OH) City School District

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