Something I’ve found during my time as an English teacher is this: English teachers know a lot of other English teachers. I know I do. And I have noticed that, among our ranks, there are surely some trends in the types of people that this career attracts. Two of those trends are embodied in this delightful image (see above) from a not-so-long-ago time when it was still a novelty to have internet access and edible treats in the same location. Fact 1: Most English teachers spend a lot of time in coffee shops. (Come on, where else are you going to grade/plan/work on your novel?)  Fact 2: Most English teachers love the internet. And I am no exception to either of those rules.

In my reflections on what I’ve accomplished during 2013, I’ve found the blend of teaching and technology to be a recurring theme. In my first year at a school where the student to laptop ratio is one-to-one, I’ve been pushing harder than ever before to incorporate online components into my teaching. The bulk of this work happens on Google Drive–nobody has revolutionized the collaborative capabilities of the classroom more than Google–and much of it also happens on my webpages run through Haiku, our school’s adopted LMS. Both of those things are pretty standard in most classrooms these days. But I wanted to share some more specialized web tools here on the blog, for those who, like me, thirst for more teachable internet! 🙂 Not all of my discoveries premiered this year, but they are all highly engaging teaching tools that are 100% new to me.

Without further ado, here’s my 2013 Best of the Teachable Web:

For live, in-class learning – Poll Everywhere and Padlet

Poll Everywhere has been around for a while, but after seeing the chuckle-worthy video below at an app share meeting, I was reminded of its capabilities.

As the website reminds us, Poll Everywhere allows you to create a live online poll that students can respond to. It takes 30 seconds. You don’t have to sign up. It is free. Amazing, right? I’ve used this gadgetry for opening questions that spark interest in the content to come, or for formative assessment as kids submit a rating for their own ability on a certain skill. Their answers pop up right on the screen as they are submitted. Pretty slick.

Padlet is another app that allows for collaborative content submission in real time. With Padlet, you create “walls,” which are accessible, sharable, and embed-able via a simple link. Every student can post… essentially ANYTHING on the wall. This might be written commentary, pictures, videos, full documents, etc. which are part of a response. These pop up on the wall as students share them. The wall can also be saved to return to later. Privacy permissions are also available, to protect student identity and work. It’s also a very visually appealing app.

For exploring the humanities – Google Cultural Institute

When I learned about this one, it completely blew my mind. Google Cultural Institute is, like Google Earth before it, a window to worlds that most of us may otherwise never have a chance to see. It’s essentially an internet portal to the most renowned collections of art and historical artifacts in the world, but packed with supplementary information and the freedom to zoom in down to the very paintstrokes of a Van Gogh. This is truly astounding–see the video below for a clearer idea of what GCI entails. I can imagine so many applications for integrated humanities learning here–as the teaching of English intersects with both art and history in major ways.

For online annotation – diigo

Many thanks go out to my colleague Mrs. U for introducing me to the many wonders of diigo, an online bookmarking and annotation tool. Have you ever had the wish that you could invent something that would let you highlight, post-it, and annotate the heck out of your online reading like you’ve always done on paper? And it would somehow be permanent and you’d be able to come back and find it again, just as you left it? GUESS WHAT–IT EXISTS ALREADY. And it’s diigo. Follow the link to learn how to get yourself and your students involved with this beautiful wizardry.

For YouTube learning – PBS Off Book

PBS Off Book is a YouTube channel and branch of the Public Broadcast System that has been really interesting to watch since it bounced onto the web-series scene in March of 2012. The series predominantly features topics surrounding cutting-edge art associated with pop culture, design, and technology. When it comes to teaching students about branding, creativity, and new forms of composition/publication, Off Book is the best source out there–this collection of videos is refreshing, colorful, up-to-the-moment, and intriguing. In particular, I’ve found the titles “Art in the Era of the Internet” and “How to Be Creative” useful in prompting class discussion. There’s a lot to be investigated here, if you’re interested in bringing new, visual, or multimedia forms of text into your teaching.

For flipping and presenting – MoveNote

How to put this simply? Well, MoveNote allows you (or your students) to make presentations, which turn into videos. The content is a combination of (1) Slides or a document, (2) Video/audio narration as the slides/document go by, and (3) The ability to also draw on the screen to highlight or point out certain elements. This is an amazing way to flip your classroom material–when students can see and hear you explaining the resource they’ve been given, it adds a human touch that results in more responsive learning. It’s also a tool with much potential for student presentations. This is another one I’m looking forward to experimenting with in new ways as we look to the new year.

What new tools have you discovered this year? As always, let me know in the comments or on Facebook! Now, about that coffee… 😉