Last week I received an email from a reader who asked, “what would you say are some ‘essentials’ that I can recommend to incoming staff at my school?” I get variations on that question fairly frequently at this time of year. So for this week’s newsletter I’ve put together a list of my essential back-to-school tech tools for teachers.
This list assumes that you already have a LMS like Google Classroom or Canvas in place and a productivity suite like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace in place.
A Screencasting Tool
I use the desktop version of Screencast-o-matic for most of my screencast videos. I also regularly use Screencastify when recording on a Chromebook or any computer that I don’t have Screencast-o-matic installed on. Finally, Loom is also a good choice for creating screencast videos without needing to install any software on your computer. A comparison of these tools is available here.
Recording a short video is often the fastest way to explain how a website or piece of software works. A screen recording can also be used to create a short video lesson for your students. You can even use a screencasting tool to make animated videos.
A Screenshot Tool
Much like a screencast video, an annotated image of a screen can be useful in explaining to students what and where to click to access specific settings on a website or piece of software. I did exactly that last week to aid my explanation of how to access the new autosave feature in Google Forms. Taking a screenshot of part of an image can also be helpful in solving image-based search challenges like this one.
Windows, Mac, and Chromebooks all have screenshot tools built into them. On Windows computers the tool is called Snip & Sketch. You’ll find it in the start menu (tip, pin it to your taskbar to keep it handy). On a Mac you can capture your screen by pressing COMMAND, Shift, and 4 at the same time. On a Chromebook press Ctrl and the Show Windows key at the same time to capture your screen.
The native screenshot tools are fine, but I prefer to use Nimbus Screenshot because it has a lot of built-in tools for drawing, highlighting, and writing on my screenshots. In fact, it has far more options than what is built into Snip & Sketch for Windows. Here’s my video demo of Nimbus Screenshot.
An Online Whiteboard Tool
Like every teacher, last year I found myself conducting more online lessons than I ever thought I would. Having an online tool at the ready made my life a little easier when I needed to make an off-the-cuff illustration for my students. I used Google’s Jamboard, but the same thing could have been accomplished in a OneNote notebook. I like both of those tools because it’s easy to save and share my sketches. Here’s a short overview of key Jamboard features.
Email Templates = Time-savers
Create some response templates AKA “canned responses” to the questions that you frequently find yourself addressing in emails from students and parents. This can be a huge time-saver!
Both Gmail (G Suite for Edu mail) and Outlook will let you create message templates that you can quickly use as responses to emails or as the basis of an entirely new email. This video will show you how to use Canned Responses in Gmail.
If you’re an Outlook user, you can create canned responses to use to answer frequently asked questions in your email. Here’s a good video overview of how to create and use canned responses in Outlook.
- Next week I’ll be releasing the 2021-22 version of the Practical Ed Tech Handbook. Those who receive my newsletter will get it before anyone else.
- Later this fall I’ll be releasing some new and updated self-paced courses on a variety of topics. Until then, I do offer this selection of on-demand professional development materials.