Teacher toolkit

Note

Here is a selection of online tools that can be used for teaching purposes, to increase productivity or help with professional development.

Browsers

Most PCs come with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer pre-installed. It’s a good idea, however, to have at least one other browser installed on your computer – and you never know you might prefer it once you’ve got used to it!

Search tools

Google search has become ubiquitous over the last few years. This guide with help you get the most out of this powerful tool:

There are, however, still some alternatives. Here are one or two:

  • DuckDuckGo An ad free search engine that concentrates on search and nothing else.
  • Bing This is Microsoft’s answer to Google. You can take a tour here: Bing tour.
  • Yahoo This was the number one search engine before Google. The company is going through difficult times and some are predicting its demise.
  • dogpile This search requests on this site are supposed to return “all the best results from leading search engines including Google, Yahoo! and Bing”
  • factbites  The difference with this site is that it provides, to quote the site itself, “meaningful, relevant sentences from every site in the search results.” Read more here: Why use us?
  • Ask Jeeves This search engine gives answers to everyday questions. Use the Ask Jeeves Search tips to get still better results.
  • Cuil  This straight forward search engine was touted as a Google slayer, but that has obviously not happened!
  • NoodleTools – A very instructive listing of search engines organised according to need
Browser add-ons

There are many features which can be added to your browser which enhance its usefulness. Here are just one or two:

  • Readability Cuts out the distractions and provides a clean text to download in pdf format for classroom purposes. Great for Kindle users as you can send online articles direct to your ebook reader.
  • PDFmyURL Add the bookmarklet to your browser toolbar and you can download a pdf of the web page you are browsing instantly.
  • TinyURL Adding this  URL shortening tool to your browser toolbar allows you to turn sometimes very long, unwieldy web addresses into short easily copied ones that can be read more easily.
  • Bitly This is another URL shortening tool but with the added feature that you can also add your links to ‘Bundles’ which can then be shared. Here are some ‘bundles that might be of interest’:

– Teacher toolkit
– Google for teaching

Keyboard shortcuts

You can speed up your work considerably by learning a few keyboard shortcuts for actions that you find yourself doing often. You can find a list of these on Wikipedia:

Wikis

Use a wiki to quickly create a simple web space or to develop more complex virtual learning environments.

Social bookmarking

Collate organise and share your favourite web pages collectively.

Web content curation

In the words of Wikipedia “Aggregators reduce the time and effort needed to regularly check websites for updates, creating a unique information space or personal newspaper.” These tools can be used to keep up to date on topics of your choice, or if you have students with their own learning blogs, to check for updates without having to visit each blog individually to see if additions have been made. The tool I have used most extensively for this is Feedly.com.

A more recent trend in collecting, organising and sharing online resources are applications that present your saved web pages visually.

Scoop.it is one of the most popular at the moment. Here’s a link to a tutorial on using this tool: How to use Scoop.it. And here are some examples of ‘topics’ that I ‘curate’:

Another still more popular tool of this kind is Pinterest. Here, for example is Pinterest for teachers.

Pulse, which is available in a both a desktop browser and mobile version is another tool which you can use to organise all kinds of ‘feeds’ from the web. I particularly like the mobile version which gives you a quick overview of what’s new on blogs you may be following or particular topics of interest.

Other tools for creating collections of web content that can be stored and read online or on mobile devices.

  • Readability – browser tool
  • Pocket – browser tool with mobile apps for iOS and Android
  • Evernote – web tool with mobile apps for iOS and Android
  • Flipboard – mobile app for iOS, Android, Windows and Blackberry
  • Pulse – mobile app for iOS and Android

For more on content curation see 101 ways of keeping track of it all.

Social media

Whether it’s for personal recreational reasons, professional development or business networking, social networking sites such as Facebook and Linkedin have become phenomenally popular in recent times, and quite a few teachers are experimenting with these sites as platforms for teaching purposes.

Facebook is a very public space and for some teachers this may make it unsuitable for teaching purposes despite the attraction of using a platform that many of their learners are familiar with and enjoy using. As it is possible with both Ning and Edmodo to create private, password protected networks, these platforms offer ways of reproducing the social networking experience for the learners while at the same time maintaining a level of protection. To get going with Edmodo: Teacher Rollout Resources

Online file storage, synching and transfer (the cloud)

There are a number of online file storage and syncing services that will make your data available on as many computers as you like – both your own and others. These services are particularly useful if you work on different computers. So, for example, I can access most of the files I have on my desktop computer at home using apps on my iPad for one or more of the services listed below. Most of the services offer free online storage with the possibility of upgrading to a pay-for service if you would like more space.

These services can also be used for sharing single files or collections of files with learners of colleagues. Some (e.g. Dropbox, Google Drive, SkyDrive and Sugarsync) have desktop clients which means you can work on files on your desktop computer and any changes you make are synched to the version stored online. When you download these applications to your computer they automatically set up a folder on your desktop where you can place the items you want to store online and, if you want share with others. You can read a comparison of some of these services here:

There may be time when you just need to send a large file to someone. There are limits to the size of files you can attach to an email, but there are plenty of ways of getting round this. These tools enable you to send very big files free of charge. Here’s just a selection: Five Best Online File Storage Services.

Discussion forums

Discussion forums can be used in class to elicit feedback, for brainstorming activities, or for collaborative note taking. They’re simple to set up and work with both conventional and mobile browsers.

Screencasting

Take pictures or make videos of what you see on your computer screen. Useful for recording tutorials, for example, to show learners how to use a learning space you have created for them. Most of the following have free versions.

Document sharing

These can be useful for sharing materials with learners. Documents uploaded to Scribd, for example, can be embedded in webpages for ease of use. Slideshare has the same embedding option and is also a marvelous source of materials with slideshows on any number of topics. Just in case you need to convert your files into pdf format and your computer doesn’t have an application for doing this PDF Creator will do the job for you.

Learning management systems

There are now a number of free, easy to use applications that can be used to create online classrooms (virtual learning environments) in which learners can interact and learn asynchronously between their face-to-face lessons. Here are one or two that have been specially designed with teachers in mind:

  • edmodo – Perhaps better suited to younger learners rather than adult corporate clients
  • schoology – The design is less overtly school-like and may be the better option for adult business English learners
  • eliademy – Wonderfully simple to use and a good place to start if creating an online learning environment is new to you

Edmodo and schoology both have very good iOS and Android apps that allow learners to work on their English while on the go.

Quiz makers

There are many tools for making online quizzes. Here below is just a small section of tools you can use to add ‘interactive’ activities to your learning space if you’re not using a content management system such as Moodle which already has a wide range of question types built-in. For surveys Google Form (part of the Google Drive suite of apps) or SurveyMonkey both do a good job and can also be used for quizzes.

Surveys and polls

There are a number of free tools that allow you to produce online surveys which you can use to design online needs analyses or feedback forms to use with your students. Here’s a selection:

And here are some tools for making polls that also work well on mobile devices:

Classroom student response tools

Student or audience response systems using ‘clickers’ have been around for quite a while. Similar results can now be achieved using a BOYD (bring your own device) approach that doesn’t involve any additional expense for institutions or learners. Socrative has proven a particularly popular BOYD classroom application. Here’s the link together with some alternatives:

Synchronous chat tools / Web conferencing

If a student needs distance training, there are a number of ways to set up an online classroom where you can meet, voice and text chat, interact on a whiteboard and share documents in real-time. Here are some of the many possibilities that are spring up.

Free applications

Not so free applications

Note that many teachers are experimenting with web conferencing tools as a way of bring the outside world into the classroom. So, for example, inviting guests to speak “live” to the class from another location. Or hooking up with a partner group in a different school.

Microblogging

Many teachers now are using Twitter as an integral part of their Personal Learning Networks (PLN). This microblogging site has been one of the fastest (if not the fastest) areas of social media. To get going you need to sign up to Twitter itself and get your own page. Next you need to follow people with similar interests to yours. There are applications that make it easier to keep track of activity in Twitter and one or two of these are also listed below. You could start by following BESIG in Twitter – click here or me! – click here.

Some fun stuff

One idea is to take a photo of your whiteboard, upload the image to Jigsaw Planet and embed the resulting jigsaw puzzle in a the course wiki or blog as a fun way of recycling classwork. Padlet and Linoit are digital noticeboards to which notes, images and videos can be pinned – a fun visual way of sharing, brainstorming or gathering feedback.

Further professional development

The aim of the this page has been to help you develop some basic skills and awareness needed to make more of the technology you find appropriate for your own teaching context. Hopefully, the support provided by this page has helped a little with this. And now that you’ve got a better idea of what is available, and you have the confidence to explore on your own, here are one or two more links to help you on your way in your further professional development.

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