It’s tough to compile a list of the “best” online tools for the classroom: with innumerable apps, cloud-based collaborative tools, and graphic editors, the available resources can overwhelm you.

While it’s both a blessing and a curse, new digital tools can undoubtedly transform your classroom. Numerous studies have proven the importance of making students technologically literate as well as showing that students are more motivated and engaged when they used technology in school. Additionally, it’s exciting for both you and students to find new ways to share ideas, assess knowledge, and learn about topics of interest.

The following are a few great online tools that are changing the way teachers interact with students and the way students collaborate with one another.

Brainstorming: Padlet
Before we begin a unit, we want to find out what students know. Calling on students, having them write and then share, or doing a think-pair-share strategy are all good brainstorming options, but technology can help spark additional thinking. It can also give shy students a chance to contribute.

Padlet (formerly WallWisher) is a great option for online brainstorming. You, as the teacher, make a free account and then use the site to create a “wall” that includes a question or prompt. By giving students the link to the wall, you allow them to contribute: they just double click anywhere on the wall and get a post-it note into which they type a response. You can ask students to include a name or allow them to remain anonymous. As students contribute, others can see their responses, creating a bulletin-board-like system. Walls can be saved indefinitely.

Other brainstorming tools include:

  • TodaysMeet.com: Like Padlet, you post the question or prompt and then give students the link. However, the format is like that of a chatroom– responses are listed one after another.
  • Google Docs: By creating a shared document, you can have students add thoughts, links, or comments. Basic, but useful.

Researching: Internet Public Library
Teaching students good online research skills can be difficult, but providing good starting points can help them learn to recognize reliable sources. It also ensures that they use credible information in reports or projects. The Internet Public Library allows students to search for information on almost any topic, delivering solid sites and articles to their fingertips. It’s essentially a search engine that cuts out the nonsense you get in a regular internet search.

Other good research tools include:

  • Delicious and Diigo: Social bookmarking sites that allow you to collect good resources and share them with others.
  • Google Scholar or News filter: By choosing these filters in Google, students can limit their search results to those that are backed by news agencies or educational institutions.

Presenting and Sharing: Prezi
Powerpoint is out; Prezi is in. If you haven’t already explored this site, it’s time, because it’s becoming the new presentation tool of choice for educators everywhere. While it retains many of the features of Powerpoint, such as including text and images and giving you a variety of formatting options, Prezi does more. You choose how your slides are connected, essentially creating a concept map of ideas, and you can “back up” from your creation to rearrange relationships. With more user interaction, graphics, and online sharing capabilities, Prezi captures students’ attention.

Innumerable sites give students a chance to create and share, but a few other good ones are:

  • Google Docs: Use the ‘presentation’ option to create an online presentation that can be shared.
  • Animoto: Students can create interactive video presentations, using their own footage as well as formats and graphics from the site.
  • Blabberize: One of the stranger ones, but nonetheless a student favorite. Using an image taken by the computer or uploaded from a camera, students add spoken words to the image, then share that with others. Great for short presentations.

Assessing: Socrative
Grading has long been a time-stealer: piles of essays or math problems can eat up all of your free hours. However, using online assessment tools like Socrative can give you an easy way to see how well students understand a concept as well as saving you valuable time.

Through Socrative, you can create a multiple choice test, a true/false question set, or an exit slip with three questions. Once you give students the “room number” of your test, they go to the site and login to that particular assessment. As they answer questions, Socrative creates a spreadsheet showing responses and calculating the percentage correct for each student, which you can download immediately upon students’ completion of the test. You can also choose to have Socrative tell students, as they answer each question, whether they got it right. It’s a great tool for quick understanding checks as well as comprehension quizzes.

Other online assessment tools include:

  • Poll Anywhere: You create the question, and students answer either through the site or by texting from a mobile device. The site generates a graph showing who thought what.
  • Google Forms and Flubaroo: Great for creating longer assessments and constructed response tests. You can create the online test and then “invite” students to take it. Google creates a spreadsheet of responses. If you want it graded for you, insert the “Flubaroo” script and then make a test key (by taking it yourself). Run Flubaroo and Google will create a grade sheet for you.

While you shouldn’t entirely forego essays in choice of time-saving multiple choice tests, these can be good tools if used thoughtfully.

“Best-of” Lists
To continue exploring online tools, see the following websites for collections of resources.