13 Digital Tools to Empower Active Use

By Tom 4

Today’s digital world is littered with drill and kill technology, much of it no different than a digital version of the worksheets of years past. Simply digitizing past practice serves little instructional purpose and ultimately leads to low levels of learning. These types of practices have lead to a number of studies that have indicated that purchasing more technology does not increase student learning. While these findings should be obvious, shifting the instructional pedagogy remains the key, and at the same time, a difficult task.

As educators work to shift the instructional pedagogy, technology can be used as an accelerant for student learning. Simply put, “active use” where students are leveraging technology tools to explore, design, and create, can lead to authentic, deep learning experiences. “Passive use,” where technology is used in a consumption-based fashion or as a digital worksheet, leads to low levels of engagement, and ultimately low levels of learning.

With thousands of tools available, educators must decide which tools will best lead to high level learning experiences while weeding through a myriad of choices. Having worked with a few thousand school leaders in the past two years, I’ve compiled a list of favorites; those tools that support teachers in creating authentic, personal learning experiences. Here are 13 of them, in no particular order:

  1. Podcasting ToolsResearch highlighted by Samsung Insights indicates that students who utilize podcasts are more engaged in their coursework. Although it’s been around for almost three decades, podcasts have become incredibly popular again in recent years thanks to ease of use and shows such as Serial. Tools such as SoundCloud, Voice Recorder and Vocaroo can seamlessly be used for creation on Chromebooks and other devices. 
  2. TES Teach with BlendSpace – Whether flipping instruction, designing inquiry-based lessons, or creating digital storytelling, Blendspace can serve as a dynamic design tool or can be used by students to develop their own digital space! An app is available for Chrome as well. 
  3. Kahoot – Create, play, and share. Kahoot gives every student a voice and provides formative feedback for teachers to use for instruction on the fly. 
  4. PlayPosit (formerly EduCannon) – Created specifically to help users move from passive content watching into an active experience, PlayPosit is an online learning environment where users can create and share interactive video lessons. 
  5. Padlet – Whether it’s text, video, or images, Padlet provides a platform for users to collaborate and share. 
  6. AnswerGarden – A collaborative word cloud generator, this tool gives students a voice and enables brainstorming on the fly. Words repeated more often appear larger and thus bring commonalities to the forefront visually. 
  7. EdPuzzle – This tool provides users with the ability to annotate traditional videos, ask questions, and provides analytics. Simply put, it creates a more active experience by raising engagement and accountability when working with digital content. 
  8. Seesaw – A digital portfolio tool, Seesaw empowers students to independently document their learning and provides an audience for their work—their peers, parents, or the world. 
  9. Educreations – Empower students to create videos to show their thinking and share it with the world or leverage this as a teaching tool to help students understand complex tasks. 
  10. Thinglink – Students can create dynamic digital content by bringing images, videos, or VR content to life using over 70 different tagging and creation tools. 
  11. Nearpod – Regardless of device, whether school owned or personal, Nearpod gives educators a free online platform for collaboration. 
  12. Explain Everything – This is an easy-to-use design, screencasting, and interactive whiteboard tool with real-time collaboration that lets users animate, record, annotate, collaborate, and explore ideas, knowledge and understanding. 
  13. Tackk – Students can create and collaborate utilizing a variety of tools on this dynamic platform.

With so many tools available, those that empower students to explore, create, and design through active use will have the greatest impact. So what are your favorite tools that can have such an impact? What would you add to the list above? Leave a comment below to share.

All for the kids we serve,
Screen Shot 2016-03-08 at 12.12.20 PM


This post is sponsored by Samsung. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own. For more content like this, follow Samsung on Insights, EDU Twitter, EDU LinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare.

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Courtney Adams

Wonderful article Tom with many great resources! Recently I came across these STEM tools that also help to engage students in the classroom and I thought they might be useful for other fellow teachers – https://www.stseducation-us.com/sts-services/stem-steam/. Looking forward to testing out these tools and reading more on your blog!

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