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Sunday, January 7, 2018

Three Classic Ed Tech Tools to Try in 2018

Over the last decade I've reviewed thousands of free educational technology tools. Some have been a hit, some haven't, and some have stood the test of time to become "classics" in the world of educational technology. Here are three classics with which every educational technology specialist should be familiar. 

Scratch
Scratch is a is a free program designed to introduce students to programming concepts. Through Scratch students can create animations, games, and videos. Students program in Scratch through a process of dragging and dropping blocks into sequences. Each block represents a command. Student assemble sequences and in turn programs by arranging command blocks. 

When I first used Scratch more than ten years ago when it was only available as a desktop application. Today, you can still do that or you can use Scratch's online version. ScratchJr, a program based on Scratch, is designed for students under the age of eight to learn programming basics on an iPad, an Android tablet, or on a Chromebook. 

Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site.

GeoGebra
GeoGebra is a free program that math teachers and students can use to build interactive models of problems and concepts.

I am not a math teacher and I have never taught math beyond basic addition and subtraction of fractions therefore I am not an expert on GeoGebra's capabilities. That said, over the years I have had friends and colleagues who do teach mathematics rave about the capabilities of GeoGebra for modeling functions and graphing equations.

GeoGebra has a huge community of users who share ideas and tutorials for using GeoGebra in a wide variety of settings. You can join that community here. The GeoGebra YouTube channel is probably the best place to find tutorials to help you get started using GeoGebra on your laptop, tablet, or Chromebook.

EduBlogs or Blogger
Edublogs and Blogger have been available for free for as long as I have been blogging. Over the last decade I have used both platforms with students and helped countless teachers get started using both platforms. Edublogs has lasted because it offers fantastic support for teachers. That support comes in the forms of staff members active on Twitter, super responsive email support, and on-going blog posts designed to help teachers engage their students through blogging activities. Blogger's longevity is due in large part to being owned by Google. Blogger is also very easy to start using. In a manner of minutes you can get your blog up and running.

Even as social media exploded in the forms of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and services that came and went quickly (remember Plurk, FriendFeed, and Pownce?) Edublogs and Blogger endured. In all of my workshops and webinars about blogging I say that a blog is your online hub for activity. A blog gives your students a place to fully express their thoughts through words, images, and videos in a manner that can't be done through social media. A blog also provides you with an easy-to-search archive of the work that you and your students publish. Have you ever tried to find a three month old Tweet or Facebook post? It's not easy to do. But it is easy to do that on a blog.

g(Math) Has Been Deleted - Try These Three Alternatives

For years g(Math) was one of my most frequently recommended Add-ons for Google Forms, Docs, and Sheets. Last week it was shut down by its own, TextHelp. As a replacement for g(Math) TextHelp recommends their newer product called EquatIO. Unfortunately, while all of EquatIO's features are free for teachers, students need to have a subscription in order to access all of the features within EquatIO. Here are a couple of other Add-ons that you might consider using for inserting graphs and equations into your Google Documents and Google Forms.

Yob Graph Editor allows you to plot data and insert graphs into a Google Doc. It provides plotting and regression functionality inside of your documents. A convenient feature for teachers is that Yob Graph will store your work in Google Drive and let you insert the same graph into multiple documents without having to manually recreate it for each document. This could be helpful when you are trying to make multiple variations of an assignment for students.

Wizkids CAS is another Google Docs Add-on that offers a graphing calculator feature. Wizkids CAS offers tools for solve=ing equations and plotting graphs, finding numerical and exact solutions, and simplifying and factoring expressions with variables. The video embedded below provides an overview of the features in Wizkids CAS.