22 August 2012

Digital Backpacks for Teachers

Most of the time, I include sites here for learners, but today, my mind is on the new academic year and what teachers may find useful and of interest - to both themselves and learners.

Planboard is a free tool to help educators plan and keep their lessons. One feature I like is the ability to keep sticky notes for those good ideas that come at random times. As you can log on anytime, you can immediately take note and then go back to reflect on them. 

Mastery Connect is  geared towards keeping track of assessment and for educators who follow the Common Core, there are also links and suggestions to guide/help teachers.


A couple of sites for videos which are of interest for both teachers and learners include the following:

The Periodic Table of Videos

Teaching Videos  (mostly for K12)

Teaching Photos  (for K12)

The 20 Most Watched TED Talks

SkilledUp is still in beta, but very much worth keeping an eye on. You can begin by browsing for a course/topic you are interested in, or simply type it in the search box.

Busy Teacher is a great place to dip into for ideas, and a recent suggestion was how to use Post-It-Notes as an Ice-breaker. Their posters are also great to share in staff rooms and classrooms. Another option for ice-breakers, is to have students to write their own rule for the classroom and post it up on the wall. Students can either use Wallwisher to do this activity or Post-It-Notes again. If they are working in small groups, why not have students create a Glog to embed in their blogs or classroom blog?

Wallwisher is a tool I regularly use as it is useful for so many different kinds of activities; quieter students love using it as well, as it gives them the opportunity to voice their opinions to the group. 

Digital posters are usually a delight for learners but so is creating their own page, if they are not blogging. Striking.ly gives you the opportunity to easily create a webpage, while Over Blog will appeal to teenagers who are involved in social networks. 

These are some tools which I want to bring in my digital toolkit to classrooms this year. How about you? What tools do you suggest to pack in a digital backpack?


  1. I'm so sorry to see you draw a sharp line between "learners" and "teachers" as they are one and the same. Teachers who are not learners are soon worthless as educators and all learners teach whether or not they are conscious of it.

    Because I am continually open to learning, I learn more from my students than they learn from me, not because I am a bad teacher but because there are as many as 30 of them teaching me and only one of me teaching them. They may be young, 11-14 or so, but they know and can do things I don't or can't and they help me grow. I, being much older and having much more life experience in many different fields, have knowledge far beyond the limits of the curriculum and I take every opportunity to show them how the curriculum does (and often doesn't) connect to life outside of the classroom.

    By creating a learning and teaching community in which everyone teaches and everyone learns, we remain excited about learning and open to many, many ideas.

  2. Hi EducationOnThePlate,

    Thank you for visiting and sharing your thoughts. Regrettably, you have not read other blog entries in this blog where I am quite straight forward and open in the necessity for educators to continue learning, sharing and collaborating with others.

    Being a life-long learner is not new nor defined by a Web 2.0. generation. It has been that way for over 30 years and even longer for many people who are aware that not learning leads to stagnation, both professionally and personally.

    As for my decision to use "teachers" and "learners" so distinctively in this post, that was no "mistake" on my part - teachers are busy either preparing their new academic year or may have already begun. The title, I hope, would help them decide whether this post was of interest or not, for them. Teachers and learners have different immediate needs and though most of the entries here are suggestions of digital tools, this particular post was for educators.

    On the hand, there is a clear distinction between the roles of learners and teachers. The moment that distinction stops, then one cannot speak of education as we still know it today. Having said that, it is obvious that roles do change. With the implementation of digital technology in the classroom, by opening classroom walls and doors, classroom roles are affected and in turn, altered. As someone who has done and is interested in classroom research, it would be a hypocrisy to say that all participants in a classroom have the same status and role. They do not.

    Classrooms are spaces of communication and knowledge transfer. I liked how you raise the point of listening and learning with students - a point which all good teachers do, for to teach efficiently, one needs to listen and be sensitive of one's learners.

    I also liked your reference of a learning/teaching community - it is a reference that I have practiced everyday since being involved in classrooms and education.

    Nevertheless, there are specific roles in a classroom and a teacher never abdicates his/her role, no matter how that role is changed and perceived.

    Thank you again for visiting and opening an interesting dialogue!

  3. Hi Ana
    Great article.
    You are right the tools in schools are drastically changing. One of the most overwhelming challenges that face schools today is how to manage the delivery of apps and digital content to new devices like smartphones and tablets as they come into the classroom. Without the right infrastructure and vehicle allowing teachers to manage the flow content and apps I believe that many of these devices will stay in students bags.

    Mike Sommer

  4. Hi Mike,

    Thank you for sharing your views; you are absolutely right! Another issue which weighs heavily is how many schools/educational institutions supply good Wi-Fi to students and staff. In many places there are restrictions. Sometimes these restrictions are based on gender (e.g. a girls' college won't have easy access to Wi-Fi) other times, there is no Wi-Fi. In addition to firewalls, these issues are tremendous hurdles for teachers to overcome when administrators are locked into a pre-Web 2.0 frame of mind.