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10 Free Tech Tools & Websites Every Teacher Should Know About
Confession: I was a late tech adopter.
I did not have a computer until I started attending college. I struggled with recording on VCRs and did not obtain a smartphone until around 2009. While I was confident using PowerPoint and Word as a new teacher, I did not venture into trying out other technological tools very often.
I felt like I wasn’t as skilled as others when it came to technology, so I believed it was a task better suited for the younger, more knowledgeable members of the staff. However, my perspective shifted as our school acquired more devices, and I began noticing how effortlessly my students could utilize and create on their laptops. They motivated me to explore and experiment more with technology.
In the future, when I am teaching my global studies class and my students are able to explore the world in real-time using their devices, I cannot imagine not being able to utilize this technology. There are user-friendly free resources available, which can be utilized by even those who are not tech-savvy.
I will share my recommendations for the best 10 technology tools and websites that every teacher should be aware of!
- This user-friendly website enables you to adjust the difficulty level of a text. All you have to do is copy the URL of the webpage containing the text you want to modify and paste it into the designated yellow box at the top of the site. Then, click on “Rewordify text.” Rewordify will simplify the text to the reading level that you have chosen in the settings. If you only want to modify specific parts of the text, you can also copy, paste, and Rewordify those excerpts. Additionally, you have the option to change how the text is displayed. One of the features I particularly like about this tool is that simpler words are shown alongside the challenging words found in the original text. Lastly, if you visit the “Print/Learning Activities” page, Rewordify will create vocabulary lists with definitions taken from the text, generate vocabulary quizzes, and provide close activities related to the text. This website allows you to make more difficult texts accessible to all students.
- SMMRY is a useful website that provides summaries of text or webpages based on the number of sentences desired. Similar to Rewordify, one can simply copy and paste the desired text into the designated box on the page, select the desired number of sentences, and click the summarize button. Additionally, one can summarize entire webpages by pasting their URLs or upload files for summarization. An added convenience of this tool is the ability to drag the bookmark widget to the toolbar, allowing users to quickly summarize any webpage they are on without visiting the SMMRY website. I discovered this excellent tool through Eric Curts’ noteworthy blog, which I highly recommend teachers to bookmark.
- I incorporate videos into my classroom on a daily basis, with most of them being accessed through YouTube. However, this can be worrisome for teachers due to the potential appearance of ads, comments, or suggested videos that may not be appropriate. Thankfully, Viewpure eliminates this concern when using YouTube in the classroom. All you have to do is copy the video URL, paste it into the designated box, and click the purify button. The website will then create a new URL that removes all unnecessary elements. Similar to SMMRY, Viewpure offers a toolbar widget as well. By dragging the purify button to the toolbar, you can easily remove unwanted clutter from YouTube pages without needing to visit the Viewpure homepage.
- Being in a global studies class with 1-to-1 access to laptops allows me to quickly show students the places we are studying. One website I often use for this is 360 Cities, which offers 360-degree images from all around the world. Simply search for the location you want, and chances are they have it. I have never been unsuccessful in finding a location. Recently, 360 Cities has even added ambient noise to some of their newer panoramas. Additionally, if students have VR devices, they can use the VR setting to view the images in virtual reality.
- I love using Google Earth with my students and the new and improved version has become one of my go-to websites. It’s amazing because you can explore different locations through Street View by simply clicking the pegman. Recently, we were studying Lagos, Nigeria, and I had my students virtually explore the city streets and document what they saw and any questions they had. This sparked our inquiry into the challenges faced by Lagos. Another great feature is the Voyager tool, which provides detailed information and stories about certain locations. We recently used a Voyager story called “Finding Home” about Nourelhuda Altallaa’s journey from Syria to Germany. It included text, photos, and videos documenting her dangerous trip. Google Earth constantly adds new Voyager tools, making it an incredible resource for any Social Studies teacher.
- Google Tour Builder is a newly discovered tool that I have recently begun using. It enables students to create tours that resemble the ones found in Google Earth Voyager. By simply clicking the “add location” button, students can place a pin on Google Earth at any desired location. They can also include text to provide a description of that particular location’s significance, as well as incorporate photos and videos. Additionally, students have the flexibility to rearrange the order of the tour by rearranging the slides. For examples of what these tours can look like, one can refer to the gallery on the Tour Builder website.
- The Pear Deck Flash Card Factory is a game that makes studying vocabulary fun. In this game, students are partnered up and given a list of words to create flashcards for. One student writes a sentence to define the word while the other draws an illustration on their laptop. After completing their flashcards, they submit them for quality control. The teacher then reviews the cards with the class and decides which ones will be added to the flash card pack. If a team’s card is selected, they earn points. As an added bonus, the completed decks can be uploaded to Quizlet Live. To learn more about starting with Pear Deck Flash Card Factory, follow the directions here. I discovered this game from an edtech blog written by Steve Wick.
- During my time in junior high, I was reserved and did not enjoy speaking up in class. If only we had TodaysMeet back then. TodaysMeet is a useful tool that can enhance discussions in the classroom. I mainly utilize it for Socratic Seminars. Instead of the outer circle students merely taking notes, they can also actively engage in the conversation by typing their reactions to what the inner circle participants are saying, asking questions to those in the inner circle, or sharing links to articles that support or challenge their perspectives. However, TodaysMeet can be utilized in various other scenarios as well, such as during class presentations or while presenting a video. Another noteworthy aspect of TodaysMeet is the ability to print a transcript of the chat, allowing for a thorough review of each student’s contributions.
- The website Edpuzzle offers the opportunity to enhance and engage with videos by making them interactive. It also allows you to turn videos into formative assessments. You have the option to either upload your own video or choose from a collection of Edpuzzle videos created by other teachers. Once you have uploaded a video, you can edit it by selecting specific sections or adding audio narration or comments. The most impressive feature is the ability to include both multiple-choice and open-ended questions throughout the video.
- I really love using text sets, but I not only want to include articles or photos. So, I use Listenwise, which allows me to add fantastic audio elements. Listenwise has gathered public radio broadcasts on various topics. By browsing their collections, I can find relevant stories for my subject. When I find something interesting, I can easily share the audio recording with my students by clicking the share button. Additionally, Listenwise offers discussion questions for each story and pre-made Socrative quizzes.
If I have some spare time before the end of the class, I like to use GeoGuessr, which is a fun website. It puts you in a random location on Google Street View and you have to use clues from your surroundings to guess where you are in the world. After looking around, you drop a pin on a map to mark your guess, and the closer you are to the actual location, the more points you earn. Besides the main world game, GeoGuessr also offers games about famous places or specific countries.
Which tools and websites do you use the most often? I am constantly searching for additional resources to improve my teaching. I can confidently state that I am no longer afraid of technology and have personally experienced the numerous advantages it brings to my classroom.