When I first started out as a teacher (way, way back in the early 2000s) I was considered pretty tech-savvy in my elementary use of PowerPoint, and positively revolutionary in getting my kids to edit their own videos. It was back in the day when every classroom came equipped with an old-fashioned overhead projector, and YouTube was the new kid on the block. However, even then, the radiant future of the EdTech revolution was upon us; within a few years, teaching an entire lesson without drawing on at least one tech tool was near inconceivable. Free ed tech for teachers massively leveled up my lessons, boosted performance outcomes, raised engagement levels, and ultimately saved my sanity as a teacher.
When used with a clear pedagogical raison d’être, free tech for teachers has the power to transform classrooms by empowering learners and democratising education (which is why we become educators in the first place).
Variety and versatility are key. I like to have a suite of complementary super teacher tools to draw on over the scope of a learning sequence—using the right app at the right time, and in the right learning context. The prevalence of free tech tools for teachers available means we now have the luxury of picking and choosing from a vast array of apps to suit different learning scenarios.
In most cases, an app being free is an important non-negotiable as a teacher. The last thing you want to do is put up more barriers to education and further entrench socioeconomic divisions by trying to embed paid apps.
EdApp’s new public microlearning courseware platform Educate All is free for teachers, students and anyone else on the planet who has a desire to learn. Together with UNITAR, EdApp is redefining what we mean by ‘team micro teaching’ by creating a true global village of educators.
EdApp’s authoring tool is an excellent way to effectively educate your learners with vital knowledge and skills. EdApp’s content library is populated with course topics ranging from addressing global challenges, leadership and entrepreneurship to hospitality and physical exercise. Powerful learner metrics are available for learner assessment, and EdApp’s Brain Boost spaced repetition feature is next to none. You can access EdApp’s mobile-based LMS for free!
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Seesaw is an amazing digital portfolio app that captures student work through the use of photos, videos, and audio. It enables students to showcase their work and collaborate with their peers. Using the Seesaw blog platform, students gain an authentic sense of authorship and are able to share ideas and feedback constructively in a safe teacher-moderated space.
The app is also a fantastic way of enhancing parent-school engagement (which we all know is a key factor in positive student outcomes), as they are able to sign in with QR codes. The reflective opportunities Seesaw provides is my favourite feature. By getting students to reflect on teacher feedback, it completes the learning loop—essentially promoting ‘feeding forward’ rather than feedback as an effective learning model.
As a teacher, I always had a stockpile of Kahoot! quizzes in my back pocket. I would use them as a form of face-to-face spaced repetition on a regular basis in order to refresh student understanding, and I would also have them on hand to pull out whenever I needed to inject a bit of competition and energy into the classroom. It is an awesome way to gamify learning and training through play. Word of warning though: students and adults alike LOVE Kahoot! so much they will literally beg for more!
Socrative is an amazing tool for educators to gather end-of-class/training feedback. Long before Socrative came along, I would get students to hand in paper ‘exit tickets’ as they left the classroom (usually brief 1-2 sentence responses on a specific question or a reflection on what they learnt). Exit tickets are a form of formative assessment that enables teachers to adapt the learning roadmap according to student understanding, and zoom in on particular hotspots. Socrative provides a digital version of ‘exit tickets’ along with a host of other gamified features such as the team-based Space Race quizzes.
Padlet, effectively a digital pinboard, was another game-changer in my teaching methods. I used Padlet in two ways; first, to create an anonymous question board where students pin up virtual sticky notes with questions that both the teacher and other students can respond to, and second, to save articles and web content that I have curated for particular topics. So much more engaging than your usual ‘required reading’ list!
6. Google Docs
It is a no-brainer to include Google Docs on any Top 20 list of free tech for teachers. There’s nothing fancy about Google Docs, but once you embrace it, I promise that you’ll never go back to native word processing apps again! It’s collaboration-friendly, allowing students to build off each other’s ideas, and allows teachers to provide real-time feedback on student work.
MindMeister leads the pack of free mind mapping apps that helps students visualise their thinking. It is mobile friendly and allows students to share maps and build them collaboratively in real-time.
Canva is a super-cool drag and drop graphic design tool that is 100% free for teachers and students. Students can play with a huge library of professionally designed infographics and posters to visualise their learning, and for adding a ‘wow factor’ to their presentations. It’s also a super-handy tool for teacher handouts!
If you dream about embracing augmented reality in your classroom, but are just too intimidated to take the first step, Metaverse is the app for you. You don’t need to know a scrap of coding to create your own Metaverse interactive story or game. Guaranteed off the chart engagement!
10. Poll Everywhere
Poll Everywhere is a super simple live polling app that collects participant responses in any context (whether that be a classroom, meeting or corporate training event) using SMS, the web, or Twitter. Poll Everywhere results can then be displayed live in presentations. It’s a quick way to spot-check student understanding as well as gather constructive feedback on lesson effectiveness.
Mentimeter is another app that generates live polls in the form of creative visualisations. It is also a word cloud generator, which is great for brainstorming sessions and pre-discussion prompts.
2. QRCode Monkey
Using QR codes is a surprisingly simple method of gamifying learning. Similar to barcodes, when students scan QR codes with their phones they are directed to files, videos or webpages. You’ll need a free QR generator like QRCode Monkey, and students will need a free reader on their devices. There are dozens of creative ways you can embed QR codes into lessons; going on a QR code scavenger hunt was a hit with my students!
I love using podcasts revision tools and for flipping the classroom. I’ve also had great success engaging students in the actual podcast creation and production process. Audacity is a simple and free cross-platform software that doesn’t require a high-tech studio or complex editing skills.
14. Smiling Mind
15. Random Lists
Random group generators like Random Lists are a godsend when you want to arrange a class into different types of groups— not only do students end up working with different members of the class, but it saves a truckload of time getting students into groups in the first place.
16. Wheel Decide
Spin wheels such as Wheel Decide are another super simple way to gamify learning, either by picking random names to call on class members during group discussions, or to create your own ‘Wheel of Fortune’ style revision games.
17. Online Stopwatch
Using a timer app might seem a seriously low-fi tech tool to include in a Top 20 list, but it can work wonders in helping students focus in deep work. Let’s face it, students find it difficult to ‘get in the zone’ when they are working on tasks; the prospect of wading through assignments can be daunting, and those notification pings are just too enticing… But turn it into a game of working intensely for 10 minutes solid, and then be rewarded with a break? Now that’s doable. No one was more surprised than me when I realised what a game-changer timing apps were in the classroom. Online Stopwatch has a range of fun classroom timers that turn deep work or any timed activity into a game.
The juggle of lesson planning, assessments, marking, report writing, meetings and admin is quite literally never-ending as a teacher. Trello project management boards is a sanity-preserving app for any teacher to help manage the juggle of priorities. It’s also a great way for teams of teachers to collaborate on shared boards. Check out Trello’s free education templates to help you get started!
Edmodo is an educational tool that connects teachers and students. As a global education network, Edmodo is an electronic resource that helps manage your classroom where you can send messages to students or students’ parents, share class material, and keep organised.
Lastly, TED-Ed is a useful resource to share ideas of all kinds. As an arm of TED, TED-Ed is the company’s youth and education initiative, where teachers and students can share ideas and knowledge from all around the world. Ranging in subjects and styles, TED-Ed is a great tool if you’re looking to incorporate media into your lessons.
Zoom is just one of the video conferencing platforms out there (with free basic plans) that has been embraced by classrooms and industry professionals alike. It provides an ideal way to host virtual seminars and lessons and has a whole host of lesser-known features that teachers can take advantage of, such as polling, annotation, breakout rooms, and screen sharing.
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