TCEA – the Texas Computer Education Association is a member based organization founded in 1980 to support the use of technology in education. You may be thinking… it’s a bunch of nerds at a computer convention. Not exactly. As my friend Becky so eloquently put it, we’re not nerds, we are technology super heroes:
She’s right. There is so much out there to do and share… which is exactly why I’m writing this post. I’m bursting at the seams with new exciting ideas that will simplify learning for my students and teaching for me. There are definitely over a hundred apps, websites, extensions, add-ons, and tools I could share from the week long nerd-herd conference, but I’m going to commit to ten. Ten apps, websites, and tools that stuck with me from TCEA that I feel confident in saying I can master within a week or two. So here ya go, my top ten from the #TCEA16 conference:
#1 – Skitch
See that cropped screenshot image up there? What used to take me about five minutes now takes me about 30 seconds. Skitch is my number one game changer because it is going to simplify cropping screenshots and adding graphics to use in lessons.
Raise your hand if you have experienced this in your classroom:
Teacher: Click on the big blue button that says Login.
Students: What big blue button, I don’t see it?
Teacher: The giant blue button in the middle of the screen.
Student: Huh???? What website are we on? Where do I go??
Teacher: (tries not to roll eyes and begins to slowly see sanity packing its bags because there are 7 more hours of repeating these directions)
Skitch allows the user to QUICKLY put together screenshots of websites (or other pictures). Crop a screenshot right on the page, add graphics, text. Create quick and easy to follow step by step instructions to give students when visiting new websites to help answers repeated questions, saving time and sanity. Did I mention it was FREE and QUICK. Game changer for sure.
#2 – Paper Rater
Paper Rater is a free website that all English teachers need to know about. Game changer number two… because it is FREE!!! You’ll need an account, which is somewhat pain-free to set up. After doing so, you or your students can paste in text, and Paper Rater will rate the text for you – checking for plagiarism, grammar, sentence variety, spelling or capitalization errors. And did I mention that it’s free!!!! Here’s a screenshot (thank you Skitch):
And I could retype or copy and paste the features, but I’ll just paste another screenshot since it is so much easier!
Links to get Paper Rater:
#3 – Quizizz
Similar to Kahoot! in its gamifying nature, Quizizz allows the maker to create unique quizes. Different to Kahoot!, Quizizz does not require a projected screen because players see questions and answer choices on their device. Unlike Kahoot!, questions can be randomized, so each screen is different and each player can work at their own pace. You can also search previously made quizes by topic, or pull from a variety to make your own.
Here is a great post about Quizizz and its many features: http://learninginhand.com/blog/quizizz
Link to get Quizizz:
#4 – EdPuzzle
I think EdPuzzle may be my favorite thing I learned about at TCEA. EdPuzzle is a super website that allows you to insert content in almost any video. Grab a video from YouTube (or other places), use EdPuzzles handy slider features to trim or stop the video periodically, add your questions, save, and done! Showing a demo is the best way to describe the many things that EdPuzzle can do. Best of all: it works seamlessly with Google Classroom!
#5 & 6 – Screen casting tools
I’ve always wanted to start screen casting. I think screen casts are a perfect way to flip the classroom. However, I’ve always thought that flipping a language arts classroom is more than difficult, but my philosophy is slowing beginning to change as I learn how to use different tools that aren’t overly complicated to master, like the two I’m about to describe. In combination with some of the previous tools I’ve mentions in this post, screencasts can be an incredibly powerful tool to supplementing lessons, giving complicated multi-step instructions, or reviewing materials previously taught. Here are two screencasting tools that are complete game changers for me when it comes to recording lessons:
Only available on PCs or mobile devices, Touchcast (free) is more like a “TV studio in your hands” than a simple recording device. With so many features, like a teleprompt that allows you to import or type your own script, the ability to import and overlay nearly any graphic on your video including websites, and super cool backgrounds and interactive features, Touchcast is definitely something I want to take the time to get know a little more! Although it may not be super simple to use at first, it won’t take long to become familiar enough with the features to start producing interactive and engaging video lessons to share with your students.
Although not free, Camtasia is a great choice in video making because of the great engaging and interactive features it has available.
From Camtasia’s website:
“Add clickable hotspots (links) to deliver a a custom experience within your lesson. You can also add a table of contents and search options. Pique students’ interest by letting them choose which topics to watch, at their own pace. Tailor instruction for different levels of learners.”
“Add quizzes and comprehension questions to your lessons to see how students are learning. Students can take quizzes on their own devices – desktops, laptops, iPads, Android tablets, and most Android smart phones.”
Here’s a math educator in action using Camtasia:
#7 – Chirp
You’ve heard of tweeting, but have you heard of chirping? It is an app that sends data by using sound. Think audio qr codes that your students don’t have to scan. Simply have your students download the app, and whenever you’d like to send them a picture, a link to a website, or a file, have them open the app. You press one little button and a sound plays. Their devices pick up the sound and bam – the link, image, or file is transmitted to their device. No more wasted time clarifying if it is an I or a 1, an uppercase letter or lower, an 0 or o. Just send them the link via Chirp and be on your merry way…
#8 – Post-it Plus app
How many times have you given your students a Post-it note for an exit ticket or a quick formative assessment, only to have them fall off of the board because they have lost their sticky by 8th period? Or even worse, with 150+ students, they become a disorganized crazy heap of a mess by the end of the day, and instead of going through the notes, you just scrape them in the trash because it’s too much of a hassle to sort them!! Meet the Post-it plus app. Designed for iPhone and/or iPad, this app can scan real life post it notes and import them into draggable, droppable, organizable groups.
#9 – Kaizena
Kaizena is revolutionizing how teachers are giving feedback to students on their digital work. Quick audio commenting, along with a fantastic integration with google docs and a lesson library bank that is simply amazing makes for a fantastic feedback tool you need to get NOW.
#10 – Visual Writing Prompts:
At one of the sessions that I went to, I was introduced to the website Visual Writing Prompts. Although the website seems to be a bit older, I’m certainly adding it to my list of places to turn to when I need writing prompts to give my students! It also inspired me to revamp my list of journal topics that I post on my school website. Take a look at the new version here: http://hcmsbuttler.weebly.com/journal-titles.
#BONUS – Write About This
Write About This can be found at WriteAboutapp.com. It is a $3.99 app that will give your students visual writing prompts. They also have a Pinterest board that is overflowing with writing prompt ideas – Bonus… it is organized by grade levels. **squeeee!**
Now it’s your turn, you technology super hero you!! If you were at TCEA16, I’d love to hear about what stuck with you!! What are you walking away with that you can use in your classroom next week? Be the super hero you were born to be, and leave a comment below! Happy teching!