101 Practical Ways to Ditch That Textbook: Get Matt’s free ebook with lots of great ideas (including two FULL pages of Google stuff!). Sign up for his e-mail updates in the right sidebar of this page.
Matt Miller has taught for more than a decade, integrating technology to engage students and create unique learning experiences. He created the Ditch That Textbook blog, is a Google Certified Innovator and presents to teachers all over the United States on technology, creativity and innovation.
Matt’s book, Ditch That Textbook, was recently published. It’s all about upgrading your classroom with powerful technology and innovative mindsets to meet students in the 21st-century world where they live.
Buy a copy of Ditch That Textbook on Amazon, or don’t wait — get a copy from Matt for $20, cheaper than the Amazon price. He’ll sign it and throw in a Ditch That Textbook laptop sticker for free!
Matt travels around Indiana and the United States to present at schools, workshops, conferences or any other professional development event. Ask him about it in person or email him at matt@DitchThatTextbook.com.
Gamify your class with your own questions! Create questions and deliver them to students in a Quizizz. It keeps track of their scores on a leaderboard and shows fun memes after you answer your questions!
By now, you probably already know about Kahoot! and its magical powers as a gameshow-style assessment tool. But did you know that you can teach new material using Kahoot!? It’s called the Blind Kahoot!. It’s a great way to keep kids engaged and using a tool they already love!
Formative lets teachers ask students questions and then give them instant feedback. Ask multiple choice, true-false, fill-in-the-blank and draw-your-answer questions. Then give students comments and a grade that they can see instantly.
Collect real-time formative assessment data in a flash — without students needing technology! Print student answer cards and, after asking a question, students respond by holding up a card. Use the Plickers app on your phone or tablet to scan the room’s responses and see how students did. It’s like magic!
You may already know about Quizlet, which lets teachers and students create digital flash cards to study on practically any device. Quizlet now boasts Quizlet Live — a competitive review game students can play together in groups in class! Choose a Quizlet flashcard set. The Quizlet Live game assigns students to small groups. They work together to answer questions to win the game!
— Quizlet site: http://quizlet.com
— Quizlet app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quizlet/id546473125
— Quizlet Live: https://quizlet.com/features/live
One of the most overlooked but most powerful Google Apps for Education! Gives students a blank sheet to design on. Add text, images, shapes, lines, arrows, etc. Create digital posters, graphics for reports, graphic organizers and more!
— http://drive.google.com (use red “CREATE” button and choose “Google Drawings”)
Google Keep is like sticky notes attached to your Google account that go with you wherever you go. It lets you jot text, doodle drawings and capture websites. Save notes on your computer, smartphone or tablet and access them anywhere you go. Students can use this to gather notes or research — and then they can pull their Google Keep notes directly into Google Docs!
— Google Keep: http://keep.google.com
— Google Keep Chrome extension: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/google-keep-chrome-extens/lpcaedmchfhocbbapmcbpinfpgnhiddi?hl=en
— Google Keep mobile app: iTunes and Google Play
Go on virtual tours to amazing places around the world. See them first person. Interact and move around. Click on boxes and buttons with more information. It’s immersive, first-person learning at its best.
With a Google Cardboard viewer and a smartphone, you have access to virtual reality at a relatively inexpensive price. (Viewers start around $15.) Google Cardboard turns your phone into VR goggles. Using various Carboard-compatible apps, you can tour the globe, ride roller coasters, journey through the brain, get an interactive look at the solar system, and more.
OK, this one isn’t exactly a digital tool, but it’s one of the best ways to stay on top of your Google game! The podcast, hosted by Matt Miller (your presenter) and Shake Up Learning’s Kasey Bell, delivers Google news and updates, tips and tricks, and practical ways to incorporate it in the classroom. It also features educators who are doing great things with Google in the classroom.
Canva makes great graphic design easy and accessible to anyone. Use Canva’s graphics and pre-designed layouts to create presentation slides, graphics for social media and more. Incorporate those graphics into class activities.
Paper is where ideas begin. It’s the easiest and most beautiful way to create on iPad. Capture your ideas as sketches, diagrams, illustrations, notes or drawings and share them across the web. Try it free—buy additional tools from the in-App Store. Apple App of the Year 2012
If you use Google Slides to do presentations, you may get bored with the same old slide themes every time. Slides Carnival boasts dozens of gorgeous slide templates that you can copy over to your Google Drive. Choose a template and make your own copy of them. Then get to designing good-looking slides!
Want students to be able to add images to their work — but do it responsibly? Photos For Class makes it easy. It lets you search for photos on Flickr that students have rights to use. Then, it adds attribution to images automatically. It models what attribution should look like and makes it easy to follow the rules!
AWW stands for “a web whiteboard.”
Draw on a digital white board. Multiple students can join a single white board and collaborate. When finished, you can save your board as an image file. Let students collaborate on visual ideas and share them with the world!
Seesaw is the hub of classroom creation, conversation and activity. Students can post photos of their work, drawings, notes, videos and more to the class feed. Then, they can interact with each other about their work. Parents can join a Seesaw class to see what their kids are working on, too!
Wait, what?!? Snapchat as a learning tool? Some students who are old enough — and lots of teachers — are using it to reflect on what they’re reading. It’s called Book Snaps (#booksnaps on Twitter). They’ll snap a photo of a page of a book, draw/underline/add Bitmojis/etc. to it and share it. You don’t even have to post photos to a Snapchat account … use the app to create an image and save it to your device!
Remind provides a safe way for teachers to text message students and stay in touch with parents. It is 100% free and is used by over 700,000 teachers, students and parents to send millions of messages every month. FAST, SAFE & EASY!
Parents often crave a glimpse into the classroom to know what their students are up to. Give them a great window into the great learning that’s going on in the classroom. Set up a class Facebook page (not a personal account) and post updates and photos of learning in the classroom. (Have the appropriate social media releases filed and make sure parents know what’s going to happen, of course.)
— About creating a Facebook page (instead of a personal account): https://www.facebook.com/help/282489752085908?helpref=hc_global_nav
Padlet is the digital version of a bulletin board with notes. It’s better, though, because the notes can have links to other websites, images and video embedded in them. Create a great digital space for gathering ideas and information.
Hemingway gives students a quick analysis of writing, providing data on sentences that are too complex, adverbs, places to shorten sentences and more. It also provides a readability score and paragraph/sentence/word/character counts.
Make Beliefs Comix provides comic strip making fun for kids of all ages. Tap into your rich imagination to create your own world and stories with help from our easy-to-use comic strip generator. Then share your comic with the world via email or on any social media channel.
Remember Choose Your Own Adventure books, where the reader decided the fate of the characters by making decisions? Inklewriter is an interactive stories creation tool that lets you make them! Write stories that have multiple endings. Readers choose the ending that they get based on decisions they make while reading.
— Sample Inklewriter story: https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/musgraveritual
Write About gives students fun, fascinating topics to write about AND a platform for publishing them. Choose from the dozens and dozens of writing prompts on the site. Set up a classroom and let students write about them or any other topic. Students can comment on each other’s work and the platform is built for giving students feedback on their writing.
Wait … Google Slides for writing? Yes! Set up your slides to be the size of paper — 8.5″ x 11″ — and design an ebook. Use images, text, links, etc. When finished, go to File > Download as … > PDF to create a custom, full-color ebook that students can easily share.
— Google Slides: http://slides.google.com/
— Guide to creating a Google Slides ebook: Click here (and see #1)
WeVideo lets you edit video projects in ways you never thought a web browser could! Add your own video clips, add music and voiceovers, include visual effects and produce it right to YouTube or other options.
It’s easy to record video of what’s going on on your screen and share it with others. Using the Screencastify extension for Google Chrome, students and teachers can record any combination of: video of your screen, video through your webcam and audio from your microphone. Then, it saves it to your device, to Google Drive or to YouTube.
Want to get a bit silly with video and have some fun? Triller lets you record several video clips, then set them to music in a music video style. The Triller video will automatically switch from clip to clip like a real music video will. It does all the work and then lets you save the video to your camera roll to share it or save it for later.
Flipgrid is a video discussion community for your classroom that supercharges your students’ voices. You add the topics, your students respond with short videos, and everyone engages! It can be used on practically any digital device, and it integrates with lots of learning management systems.
Educreations turns your iPad into a recordable whiteboard. Creating a great video tutorial is as simple as touching, tapping and talking. Explain a math formula… Create an animated lesson… Add commentary to your photos… Diagram a sports play.
You’re on Twitter, right? Twitter is still hands-down the best place to find people, ideas and conversation surrounding everything education-related. Join Twitter. Find some hashtags about topics you love. Scroll and gather ideas. Follow people that interest you. Then join in the conversation … you’ll never be the same!
— Twitter: http://twitter.com
— Ditch That Textbook’s Twitter for Teachers guide: https://ditchthattextbook.com/twitter
— LOTS of education hashtags: http://bit.ly/officialchatlist and http://www.shakeuplearning.com/blog/educational-hashtag-database/
Once you get the hang of Twitter, TweetDeck will be the tool you’ll need next. TweetDeck displays tweets in columns. You can have a column to display all tweets from a certain hashtag, from a certain person on Twitter, with your notifications and more. It’s a great way to stay on top of everything that matters to you on Twitter!
Want to keep up with all of the articles that the people you follow are talking about? Nuzzel taps into your list of people you follow on Twitter. Then, it gathers the articles they’re tweeting about. It provides you with a list of the most popular articles of the day. It will even email you a digest of the top stories of the day. This way, you won’t miss a thing.
This one isn’t as much a digital tool as a place to find inspiration and ideas about education. Edutopia is constantly putting out articles, videos and other resources for teachers. It’s supported by the George Lucas Foundation and is a must-follow blog as well as on social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
Get instant voice anytime and anywhere. With Voxer every voice message is live (people can hear you as you talk) and recorded (you can play them back later). You can also send text, photos, and share your location alongside audio messages.
— Voxer app: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/voxer-walkie-talkie-ptt/id377304531?mt=8
— Voxer educator communities: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/18zdaXqMaa5yE8sJiHavp9gG2toMOW53XdFhBzsZX7bs/edit#gid=50015924
Stackup lets students track what they read online — either for class or for pleasure. It runs through a Google Chrome extension that watches what they read. Stackup shows students how many minutes they’ve spent actively reading in a variety of categories (aerospace, tech, education, etc.) and even lets them reach levels/earn badges for their reading.
Hypothesis is an online article discussion tool. With Hypothes.is, you find an article/page on the web. Students can then highlight it, write comments on it and even add sticky notes to it. It’s a great place to have digital discussions about what you read.
— A lightly annotated Hypothesis article: https://via.hypothes.is/http://www.ocala.com/news/20170712/no-homework
Like Hypothes.is, Edji.it an article annotation tool. Students can write notes in Edji.it tied to specific parts of an article. Edji takes it a step further by letting you annotate images, too, creating clickable hot spots on the image and adding notes to that as well.
— An example: https://edji.it/#/project/58be15b2ab0b2900111652ce
Newsela is the best way for students to master nonfiction in any subject. Each Newsela text is offered at multiple tiers, for every student, no matter their level. That’s huge. Now students can study the same content and learn at their own pace—while teachers save time and headaches. It’s the definition of working smarter.
Search engines weren’t really made for younger students. They also weren’t made to be very visual. Instead of a page of search results that’s very text-heavy, what if you could see your text results in a word web (semantic map)? That’s what Instagrok does. It displays information from a web search in a word web, and you can click on the bubbles to extend the search. Customize what you find and share it.
Make coloring sheets come alive! Print off official Quiver coloring sheets and let kids color them. Use the app on your device and the character they just colored leaps off the page — looking exactly like it does on the coloring sheet!
— iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/quiver-3d-coloring-app/id650645305?mt=8
— Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.puteko.colarmix&hl=en
— Quiver video trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGMjsYHD7Ak
Give students a simulation of how the parts of blood interact. The Blood Typing Game tests students’ understanding of blood types and educates them on how it all works. Hosted by the official website of the Nobel Prize.
How good are you at using context clues to make an educated guess? GeoGuessr drops you in a randomly-selected place using Google Earth’s street-level view. Look around and make your best guess as to where you are.
This takes the idea of GeoGuessr but puts a more dramatic spin on it. You’ve been kidnapped and you managed to escape. But you only have five minutes to figure out where you are!
Legos have fascinated children for years and years. Now they can take their building skills online. Users can make their own creations with various Lego bricks of different colors. They can place bricks, remove them and rotate them. They can share their masterpieces when they finish.
Google Sites used to be clunky and unintuitive. Then Google gave it an overhaul. Now it’s a REALLY easy way to create a website for just about anything. Everything is drag and drop. Plus, you can add Google Docs, Sheets and Slides to a site in no time flat. Give it a shot. You’ll be impressed.
If you and your students have LOTS of websites that you visit (i.e. articles, blogs, digital tools, etc.), Symbaloo might be the answer to your URL organizational nightmare. Symbaloo creates a grid of icons that you can click to visit sites. Organize them by location on the grid, by color, etc. Use it as your students’ homepage so they can get started right away!
— http://symbalooedu.com (the education side of Symbaloo)
— A Symabloo webmix of digital tools for education: http://www.symbaloo.com/mix/etoolsforeducation?searched=true
If you already use Google Chrome, this one’s already built in! This is the easiest way to get to your most commonly used sites. Running out of room in your bar? Either rename your bookmarks (to initials, or a single letter, or NO LETTERS AT ALL!) or add folders to keep them organized. Ninja tip: Hold CTRL or Command (Mac) while clicking a bookmark bar folder to open all of the bookmarks in separate tabs with ONE CLICK!
Sometimes, it’s just easier to give students (or anyone) a short URL to a website to have them access it. TinyURL is the URL shortener that’s the most friendly in the education space. Have it create random tinyurl.com URLs for you or claim your own custom ones.
Host a digital discussion with one of the simplest-to-use sites you’ll ever encounter. Create a chat room for students to enter. They type comments for others to see. Add URLs to websites in your messages and they’re clickable. Very versatile for use in the classroom.
MailChimp was created for email marketing, but it’s a powerful emailing tool you can use for FREE to keep parents updated on what’s happening in your classroom. Design beautiful email newsletters. Keep your email list updated. Create a new email from scratch or use a previous email as a template.
Brain research tells us about the consequences of sitting too much. The brain hates it! Cognitive activity is much stronger when we get up and move around. GoNoodle has an archive of fun, quick videos to get students up and moving. Best for younger grades, but if motivated properly, older kids can feel young again with GoNoodle videos!
ClassDojo helps teachers improve behavior in their classrooms quickly and easily. It captures and generates data on behavior that teachers can share with parents and administrators. You can message parents back and forth through ClassDojo and even create an online space where students can share their work.
Traditional lesson plan books have their advantages. But when you work in an online lesson plan book, you can move a day’s lessons to a different day without burning through the eraser on your pencil. Plus, your lesson plans become customizable and easily shareable. If all of this sounds great, Planboard may be worth a look!
A silent classroom can be as distracting to some students as a noisy one. White noise — noise in the background that doesn’t distract — can provide a different flavor of work atmosphere. Noisli lets you play productive and relaxing background noises to help students focus, like rain, water, leaves, a crackling fireplace, a coffee shop and more.
This site is packed with resources and games to help students understand civics and how government works. It’s driven by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and is a lot of fun.
Phys 1 is a mobile puzzle adventure game. It lets students play through a story and do actual physics calculations to advance in the game. The game is correlated to academic standards. Its fun story line makes it feel like a real mobile game and not an educational one!
— Website: https://osmosisgames.org/physics/
— Get it on Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.OsmosisGames.FisicalLabyrinth1
Learn Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, Italian, and English. Totally fun. Totally free. Duolingo is Apple’s 2013 App of the Year!
Learn the basics of computer programming with Daisy the Dinosaur! This free, fun app has an easy drag and drop interface that kids of all ages can use to animate Daisy to dance across the screen. Kids will intuitively grasp the basics of objects, sequencing, loops and events by solving this app’s challenges. After playing Daisy, kids can choose to download a kit to program their own computer game.
Computer coding becomes hotter and hotter in the job field and is considered by some to be the next big language to master. Code.org lets students learn about coding without the need for a teacher who is fluent in it. It connects students with fun games and challenges that improve their understanding of logic and the basics of several coding languages.
Are there other tools that didn’t make the list? Add your favorites with a comment below … and be sure to check out tools that others have added before you!
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