Not long ago, most technology (apart from the overhead projector) was considered a classroom distraction. Now, it’s an educational asset. Kids as young as 10 years old are getting their first cell phones, and it’s not unusual for K-12 students to use tablets, laptops, and mobile devices at school. Digital literacy is essential for success in the 21st century. It’s hardly feasible for modern schools to remain tech-free.
But which tools make good classroom tech? Here’s a roundup of teacher-approved apps that can help engage young digital natives, streamline classroom workflow, and encourage teamwork.
Explain Everything| Download
3.5 million teachers and students around the world use Explain Everything to, well, explain everything. The app enables teachers to create multimedia projects, instructional videos, and activity templates from scratch, offering a fresh, flexible approach to traditional classroom instruction. But the app isn’t just for teachers; students can also create their own tutorials, animations, and presentations to share with peers.
“We wanted to make an app that does not have limits—an app that does not necessarily lead you by the hand or tell you exactly what to do. We know that all human beings are inherently creative!”
-Bartosz Gonczarek, Piotr Sliwinski & Reshan Richards, Explain Everything Co-founders
Quizlet | Download
10 unique gaming and studying modes. 125 million student-generated study sets. 40 million monthly users. Quizlet takes an app-of-all-trades approach to learning, and it’s working: 95% of students that use Quizlet say the app has improved their grades. The company’s latest innovation is Quizlet Live, a classroom competition that encourages accuracy over speed—and teamwork overall.
“With Quizlet Live, we wanted to create an in-classroom game that would get both students and teachers excited to play. Students love that the game requires both collaboration with other students and fierce competition in order to win. [And] teachers love that Quizlet Live makes learning new terms or concepts fun.”
–The Quizlet team
Algebra Touch | Download
Regular Berry’s Algebra Touch app makes advanced arithmetic feel like a game. Interactive equations come to life on screen, offering students a hands-on approach to problem solving. And for bonus points: Algebra Touch equations align with Common Core learning objectives, so the app is easy to integrate into class time.
“Some people feel like they’re just not good at math. Regular Berry helps those people experience what it’s like to be comfortable doing algebra.”
-The Regular Berry team
FocusBooster | Get started
Based on insights from Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique, the FocusBooster desktop app breaks work sessions into manageable 25-minute intervals. This process is thought to improve mental agility, eliminate burnout, and reduce distraction. All in all, FocusBooster establishes good time management skills and helps students work smarter (not harder) on lengthy projects.
“FocusBooster is especially useful for students because the length of a pomodoro is only 25 minutes. This allows a good period of intense learning and focus, with the motivation of knowing you will soon be able to recharge for 5 minutes.”
-The FocusBooster team
Glogster EDU | Download
Glogster’s mobile app provides an intuitive platform for creating interactive multimedia posters, complete with images, graphics, audio/video clips, and text. Glogster’s digital learning tools are used in over 200 countries and have produced incredible results for all kinds of students—from at-risk adolescents to bilingual learners. (They’ve got the case studies to prove it.)
“Glogster enhances ways to use digital stories to strengthen students’ learning experience. We believe that the use of Glogster motivates students to do their work and increases presentation and communication skills.”
-Scott De Castro, Glogster PD & Ambassadors Director
Calendars 5 | Download
Part iOS app, part personal assistant, Calendars 5 keeps teachers on top of their busy schedules. The app integrates events from local calendars, Google calendar, Reminders and more to keep everything in one convenient place. Plus, its task manager feature ensures that to-dos get done.
“Manage your events and tasks easily and be more productive. Calendars 5 is the calendar app you have been looking for.”
-The Calendars 5 team
GoTeach | Download
GoTeach is a virtual planner, lesson book, and smart calendar all wrapped into one. The app was made by teachers, for teachers, and aims to turn daily planning digital. With just a couple taps, users can set reminders, create color-coded events, and share lesson plans with substitutes.
“As a teacher, I know how hectic life can get inside and outside the classroom. Staying on top of things and being organized can sometimes feel impossible. So we created GoTeach to battle this—to put everything you need as a teacher in one, clean, organized place.”
-Makaela Pena, GoTeach Support
Pepi House | Download
For digital natives, the ability to interact with technology is an essential part of navigating the world. The folks at Pepi Play embrace this philosophy by building educational children’s apps to foster curiosity and creativity. The studio’s latest development is Pepi House, a virtual dollhouse that gives users the freedom to make choices and interact with characters. (All with a healthy dose of humor.)
“Our core values are quite simple—quality and attention to detail. We do simple, clean apps without overusing monetization or advertisement models. In other words—honesty “
-The Pepi Play team
Popplet | Download
It’s versatile. It’s easy to use. It’s award-winning. Popplet is an iPad essential. The app allows students to visually map their thoughts with text blurbs, images, and custom drawings. Popplet’s virtual boards are perfect for brainstorming, building diagrams, and taking notes. But it’s not just for students—teachers can use the mind mapping app to organize unit lesson plans and activities, too.
“Students use Popplet to think and learn visually. By capturing facts, thoughts, and images, students learn to create relationships between them and generate new ideas.”
-The Popplet team
News-O-Matic | Get started
The News-O-Matic app connects kids around the globe with current events. Its age-appropriate news articles are published daily, offering engaging, relevant, and timely content at a variety of reading levels (K-8). News-O-Matic’s virtual newsroom gives students access to videos, games, interactive maps, and more. But perhaps its most impactful feature empowers students to submit comments, ask questions, and send in illustrations.
“Each day we get thousands of notes and drawings from kids. We feature many of them, showing kids that their voice is important. Maybe my favorite drawing came from a 12-year-old reader named Lilly. It sums up exactly what we’re trying to achieve: ‘I Can’t Stop Reading!’”
-The News-O-Matic team
School Cubes | Download
School Cubes is a collection of educational apps built on the belief that fun lessons are learned lessons. The Mathcubes: Addition and Subtraction app serves up operations exercises at multiple levels of difficulty. Its intuitive hands-on interface reinforces positive attitudes about learning. But don’t let the bouncing cubes and colorful visual effects fool you—Mathcubes was designed by pedagogy pros.
“A team of experts on children’s learning pedagogues has supervised this app, and it has been designed to encourage learning by experimentation.”
-The School Cubes team
eBackpack | Get started
eBackpack is a simple and effective learning management system that helps teachers spend more time working with students than working out logistics. Users can organize classes, create and collect digital assignments, share feedback with parents, and markup submissions. On top of it all, eBackpack is integrated with many major student information systems, gradebooks and LTI tools.
“eBackpack added the capabilities needed to unlock learning through creative application of technology inside its program, saving time, simplifying steps, and allowing teachers to focus on engaging learning.”
-The eBackpack team
ClassDojo | Get started
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But that was before ClassDojo. The app turns traditional classrooms into tight-knit learning communities by virtually connecting students, teachers, and parents. With ClassDojo, instructors can share student portfolios, class photos, and updates with parents in real time. Plus, the app includes a reward-based system for encouraging student participation and acknowledging stellar work.
“I have been teaching for over 20 years and ClassDojo has got to be the best program I have ever used in my classroom! My students’ successes have increased tremendously. I am able communicate with my parents all day and at any time and the translator allows all of my families to translate what I am sharing into their native language, which they love!”
-Cindy Price, 1st grade teacher
Teacher’s Assistant Pro | Download
Whether it’s a trip to the restroom or the principal’s office, Teacher’s Assistant Pro helps instructors keep tabs on their students’ behavior. The app offers a secure method for digitally documenting data, monitoring trends, and sharing students’ electronic records with parents and administrators. Better relationships. Less paperwork. All from a free app. It’s a win-win-win.
“I designed Teacher’s Assistant Pro to be a tool for me in my own classroom. I would often try to track behaviors of students and specifically things like verbal warnings or lunch detentions, but with 6 classes and nearly 200 students, I simply could not keep up… I find it to be an indispensable tool for tracking behavior and following up with students—as well as communicating with parents.”
– Chris Hoovler, Lesson Portal, LLC CEO
The has dust settled on the great debate. When they’re used the right way, EdTech innovations improve educational outcomes. Integrating technology into the classroom closes learning gaps, helps educators identify areas for improvement and prepares students for life after graduation—all in addition to making life easier for teachers. So, get downloading. It’s time to see what doors technology could open in your classroom.