Distance Learning Tools for Educators – Recommendations

As we enter a school year filled with more uncertainly than even we are used to as educators, I believe it is essential to start building an arsenal of distance learning tools. I would like to help fellow educators and parents prepare for any situation that may present itself this coming school year.

This list is not exhaustive, and I will continue to add to it and my resource pages as I come across more useful tools. Please email any suggestions you may have for the list. I am grateful for input.

I.) Pear Deck

Pear Deck is a Google Slides add-on. It has free premium access for 90 days. It will assist teachers with the creation of more interactive Google Slides presentations. (Both Google Slides and Pear Deck allow audio insertion and recording directly into individual slides).

Its updated features and integrations with other chrome extensions are useful, and its subject-specific templates are engaging for students.

Download Pear Deck here.

II.) Kami

Kami is a Chrome extension teachers and students can use to annotate directly onto documents. Then, documents can be uploaded or downloaded from Google Drive.

Kami can also eliminate the need for teachers and students to scan or take pictures of documents they transfer back and forth to each other. (Access to more of Kami’s features are available with a premium).

Download Kami here.

III.) Nimbus

Nimbus is a Chrome extension with a screenshot tool and screen recorder capabilities. It allows the user to make edits directly to the document and has similar features to Kami concerning annotations.

It can be used in conjunction with Kami to capture digital images and then transfer the images to Kami for a wider range of annotations and built in interactions for students. (Access to more of Nimbus’ features are available with a premium).

Download Nimbus here.

IV. Immersive Reader

Immersive Reader is a Microsoft OneNote Learning Tool. Features include: audio reader, text size alteration, and text translation into different languages. It is intergrable with Pear Deck and Nearpod as well.

V. Move It

Move It is a Chrome extension. It breaks up monotony and invigorates lessons. Set the timer, and Move It will present you and your students with brain breaks and exercises to complete. If you’re given a choice you do not wish to complete, you can always skip it.

VI. Speechnotes

Speechnotes is a speech-to-text online notepad. It can be downloaded as a phone app, Chrome extension, or it can be used on its website (https://speechnotes.co). Now has auto backup to Google Drive.

3D Animation

Mini Animation Creations

I’m ecstatic over my mini animation creation! It’s super short, but there were plenty of steps to get those few seconds of animation. 😅

-Character created, motion preset added, and converted to 3D object file using Adobe Fuse Beta and Mixamo
-Imported into and rendered in Blender
-Exported as mkv video file from Blender using FFMPEG
-Background environment and sound coming soon!

First blog post – “How to implement technology to meet students’ needs”


“How to implement technology to meet students’ needs”

Technology use in classrooms is a decidedly precarious choice for instruction. However, through research and precise execution, it can be accomplished. It offers the ability to differentiate instruction through innovative methods. Not only are students able to engage on a more interactive level, but they are also able to engage in a way that suits their individual personalities. For instance, online submission platforms allow introverted students time to collect their thoughts and engage the class in written language rather than verbally. It warms them up, so to speak, and they are more apt to speak with the whole group, as a result.

Listed below are some suggestions for how to implement technology to meet students’ needs, specifically for English, language arts, and reading. (However, the suggestions can be altered to suit other subject areas).

  1. Policies and procedures
    1. To combat some of the pitfalls of technology use during lessons, use signage, so students will know when electronic device use is allowed.
      1. Consider posting a sign on the bulletin board at the front of your class. It should indicate on one side when electronic device use in permissible, preferably on a green background. (i.e. Green is for ‘go’). The other side should indicate when it is not permissible, preferably on a red background. (i.e. Red is for ‘stop’).
    2. Use forms and agreements to ensure students know acceptable behavior during electronic device use in the class. (Remember to clear all electronic device use with the school’s administration as there are districtwide policies and procedures for certain electronic devices). Be sure your students’ parents sign the agreements as well. Provide copies for both parties and post a copy of the agreement in the classroom.
    3. Download or create a graphic organizer for your students’ usernames, passwords, and websites for the platforms you will be using. Have them place the organizer in a planner or another binder/folder they carry with them every day. The organizer will be a huge time saver in the long run, and you will spend less time troubleshooting login issues.
    4. Digital Citizenship
      1. Be aware of the potential for distraction or unethical behavior, physical health concerns, and data privacy issues while using technology in the classroom with your students. Take the initiative and educate your students on internet use, privacy, and cyberbullying. Common Sense Media is a wonderful resource for teaching digital citizenship (http://www.commonsensemedia.org/).
    5. Strategy

To differentiate the amount of electronic device usage, you may want to implement several strategies. The most common is flipped and/or blended learning. (To read up on flipped and blended learning, visit the website: https://elearningindustry.com/blended-learning-vs-flipped-learning-can-tell-difference)

  1. Flipped and/or Blended Learning

Using electronic devices in a flipped and/or blended learning classroom encourages ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning.  They allow students to gather, access, and process information inside and outside of the classroom. They can encourage learning in a real-world context and help bridge school, afterschool, and home environments.

  1. Electronic question and answer submission
    • A platform I utilize is called, Nearpod. Students are able to submit their answers to questions electronically, and I am able to discuss their answers with the whole class. It allows for better feedback from peers as well. This method also works well for monitoring student understanding. It allows the teacher to constantly ‘take the pulse’ of the class.
  2. Platforms and methods to use for interventions and differentiation
    • Google Classrooms
    • Edmodo Snapshot
    • QR codes
      • QR codes work well when performing vocabulary and context clues interventions. Though mobile devices are normally needed, there are computer applications that will allow a QR code to be scanned on a laptop or Chromebook.
    • Test drive the product
      1. Take your time trying out a new platform in the classroom. There are bound to be hiccups, so give yourself (and your students) a learning curve. Choose one platform you would like to implement in your class. Test drive it on your own first and then choose small windows at the beginning and at the end of class to try out the platform with your students. If you have a block schedule, choose a class you feel is most comfortable using technology in the classroom. Before choosing a new tool, wait until students gain confidence in using the current one. (Information overload is real!) Continue this process until all your tools are part of the class structure.
      2. Remember not all platforms will work in your favor. They may seem like a good idea, but for any number of reasons, it may not gel with your class structure. Some platform processes are too intricate and lengthy for the rigor of a classroom setting. Be prepared to fall back on another tried and true platform. You may even need to be prepared for an outage. Always have paper copies on hand and a dry erase board in those situations.

Personally, through technology integration in the classroom, I was able to relate to my students who grew up in a more technology dependent generation. Professionally, I learned to differentiate for my students in order to meet a multitude of needs simultaneously. My students learning achievements also showed a significant change. For instance, their writing skills improved because they were able to receive immediate feedback from me as I toggled through each student’s response. They also received feedback from their peers. The ability to critically evaluate another student’s work based on set criteria helped students examine their own work and develop better review and editing skills.  In addition, students were more open to instruction because they were able to use a form of interaction they were most comfortable with.