There are thousands of technological tools out there to help you make your college classroom more dynamic for your students and processes more streamlined for yourself. There are so many, in fact, that the prospect of identifying which tools will help you and be worth your time can be daunting. You’re already busy. You have a million things to do to prepare for and execute your college courses, and dedicating time to the things you love is increasingly difficult.
With your busy life as a college professor in mind, we at Top Hat have put together a list of 10 tools to help you set your class up for success in 2015.
When considering which new tools to adapt in your class, you’ll want to consider which aspect of your class could benefit from technology and what outcome you hope to achieve with it. As many professors and other experts in academic pedagogy know, simply adding more technology to a classroom won’t be effective unless you adapt your course’s structure, culture, and strategy to thrive using technology. It’s important to create guidelines and expectations for your students and for yourself.
According to the National Social Science Association, “[The] uses of technology fall into three broad categories: using the technology to teach and share information, using the technology to foster collaboration, and using the technology for individual learning, information access, and skill demonstration.”
These three branches or applications of technology can leverage an environment in your class that provides you and your students with new resources, is collaborative for projects and peer relationships, and helps students on an individual level in obtaining information and learning new skills.
You’ll also need to consider the logistics and practical applications of having your students use the different technological tools. The following list consists of tools that are available for free or at a low cost to you and your students. You’ll also want to consider the learning curve with a new technology; the good news is that some tools provide excellent customer service and training when you purchase or use them.
So which tools should you consider implementing in your class?
This list of 10 tools can help you re-vamp your courses in collaborative, organizational, and creative aspects.
Tools for creating a collaborative environment
- Google Drive: Google Drive is available for free to any Gmail user or user of email domains that are set up through Google (many colleges and universities are). Within Google Drive, you can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms, which can double as surveys and the data is collected for you! All of these files that you create “live” in the cloud (online), so you can easily access them from anywhere on the web, and you can always download the files to your computer or access the files on the Google Drive mobile app. And the best part – you can use this platform to receive students’ homework. With Google Drive, the days of “I forgot my homework” or “my computer blew up” are over – everything is automatically saved and available online, making grading and “handing back” assignments a breeze.
- Blogs: There are many free blogging sites that you can easily set up for your class or department to create collaborative writing and discourse spaces. CampusPress (WordPress hosting for education) allows you to facilitate discussions and get your colleagues and/or students blogging; create class or departmental newsletters and have your students post written work, podcasts, or videos. You can even create department or class-wide publications for other audiences to view!
- Dropbox: You can use Dropbox to store your important files “in the cloud”- meaning they are safe and accessible from your computer, tablet, and smartphone. You can very simply use Dropbox to share files and content with your students and colleagues, as well as collect assignments and projects.
- Remind: Remind is a texting platform in which professors and teachers can deliver secure messages to students and parents. This is a simple, seamless way for you to deliver reliable announcements to your students, since you know for sure that they check their phones!
Tools to help you stay organized
- Pocket: Pocket’s platform allows you to save anything and view it later (web pages, articles, videos, images) even if you’re offline. The pages you save on it are all placed and streamlined on one screen and in lists. If it’s in “your Pocket” you can access it from your computer, phone, or tablet, even without an internet connection. This is great for doing research, compiling ideas, and catching up on reading as you have time, especially while you are traveling or on-the-go.
- Microsoft OneNote: This is a free organizational tool that can be accessed from anywhere to organize your ideas, notes, emails, tasks, images and files in one place. You can access your OneNote notebook from any device and have others view and collaborate on your notes. This tool is perfect for storing all of your notes in one place, with tabs and labels that help you organize.
- Evernote: Available for free for individuals, Evernote allows you to track notes from brainstorming or idea sessions with colleagues and students. You can record voice memos, write to-do lists, and notes. Evernote can be accessed from your smartphone or your computer.
Tools to increase participation without increasing too much of your prep time
- Top Hat: Okay, shameless plug, but we had to include our incredible platform in this list. Top Hat is the leading classroom engagement tool that helps you increase engagement, interaction, and feedback in your lectures while making your classes more fun for both you and your students. Top Hat can do great things like automate participation and attendance, help you easily launch questions to your students, create Jeopardy-like tournaments in your class, send announcements, and more. The best part — you can use Top Hat on a tablet to free yourself from the podium, and your students can use Top Hat on the devices they already own and bring to class – so neither of you would need to purchase any more hardware!
- Present.Me: This is a video presentation platform that helps professors who do not have enough time for every student to present in class. Present.Me allows students to create presentations (with slides and audio/visual complements such as their voice or face presenting alongside the slides) and they can share them with you (and their peers) to receive feedback!
- SlideBean: This online platform is an (almost) effortless way for you to make visually appealing presentations that are easily shareable live or virtually with others. You can add text clouds, quotes, video and timeline slides, collage and image slides, and much more. SlideBean presentations can be stored in your online account so you don’t need to worry about bringing your files, or you can always export it as a PDF and save it on your computer.
That concludes this list of 10 tools that we know will set your classroom up for success this year. You’ll be amazed at the innovation technology can bring to your office and your classroom as far as simplicity, accessibility, and creativity. Over the past few years, there have been countless innovative ways that entrepreneurs have helped educators create positive and helpful experiences
It’s well known that technology is ubiquitous and only moving forward. In an academic environment, we embrace a life-long commitment to learning. Why not learn something new that can help you?
If you’ve tried some of these tools in your classroom, how did it go? We’d love to hear your comments. If you’ve used something else that others should definitely give a try, please let us know in the comments as well!