Top 10 online learning tools for teachers
A list of the top 10 online learning tools that can be implemented by teachers has been developed by academics at Macquarie University.
The Typology of Free Web-based Learning Technologies, created by Associate Professor Matt Bower and Jodie Torrington from Macquarie University’s School of Education, is a categorised guide to online learning tools, enabling teachers to pinpoint the right technology for their students’ needs.
“There are a huge number of free, browser-based, interactive tools that can be used in the classroom to foster creativity and sharing, and facilitate constructive and collaborative learning,” Torrington said.
“By exploring the various categories, teachers may recognise clusters of tools that they perhaps are not including in their planning and design, and gain confidence in exploring web-based options in each category.
“As a teacher, I prefer tools that are versatile and offer the ability to be used in a multitude of learning contexts. This ensures that you are familiar with the tool and you reduce the time students spend learning to use new tools instead of using the tool for learning.”
Bower said to fully capitalise on the pedagogical potentials of free online technologies, educators need to do more than simply understand the nature of the tools.
“Teachers must also understand how the technology can help achieve the requirements of the learning tasks they are designing, along with the specific needs of their students,” he said.
“It’s also vital that teachers carefully select web-based tools and how they will be used to uphold the privacy and safety of students while still maximising their creativity and interaction.”
The top 10 online tools for school teachers are as follows:
- Popplet is a versatile, engaging mindmapping tool that allows images, text and freestyle drawing to be organised and linked. It is a simple, user-friendly tool that students can use to brainstorm or pre-test a topic, sequence a story, unpack language features of text, list key ideas or use as a reflective tool.
- Padlet is a multimodal digital pinboard. It is a handy collaborative tool for brainstorming ideas, pre-testing knowledge and understanding, or summarising concepts and reflecting on the learning. It facilitates collaborative as well as vicarious learning and allows all learners (particularly the quiet, shy ones) to have an equal voice.
- WordClouds.com is a handy tool that students can use to arrange keywords in a visually appealing way. For example, they can be used to identify characteristics of a character in a novel, describe a setting, as a pre-test or reflective tool, or to ensure students have identified keywords after studying a topic.
- Nearpod is a lesson authoring tool for teachers to create learning and assessment sequences. Teachers can add multimedia and embed specifically designed quizzes, polls, open-ended questions — facilitating both lower- and higher-order thinking and assessment. Students only need the lesson code to join.
- Powtoon is an animated video creation site that uses a drag-and-drop interface and a wide variety of templates, styles and elements. Students can demonstrate their understanding of a topic through their creation of an animated video, yet have the creative freedom to design the product (student-centred learning).
- TikiToki allows users to make timelines in three dimensions so that different themes can be seen alongside one another. This tool is more suited to high school, but it is engaging and visually appealing for students. It could be used in a variety of subject areas (for example English, History, Geography, Music or Visual Arts).
- Google Tours enables text, images and videos to be integrated to build a 3D virtual excursion experience. Students could identify and describe specific places or sites around the world, applicable to their study.
- Tinkercad provides browser-based CAD design, which supports import and has a socially formed gallery of creations. Students are able to design, build, view and share their 3D creations.
- Scratch is a popular visual programming tool, which enables students to create and share stories, animations and games by dragging and dropping blocks of code.
- Quizlet is an assessment tool that facilitates the creation of flashcards and various forms of testing (for instance, multiple choice, true false, matching, written answer) as well as memorisation tasks and games, with a public repository of user creations. It presents an interesting possibility for students as designers to use the site to consolidate knowledge and test understanding.
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