50+ Tools For Remote and Distance Learning
Written by Amber Meares, a ReadTheory user, and a high-school English teacher.
Teachers have always been a portion of the population to rise to meet any challenge. The current COVID-19 crisis may prove to be this generation’s great obstacle. What other group has found itself forced to convert to working and instructing others online within the time span of a few days? We adapt. We are flexible. And we will prove our value as we overcome this challenge. This is our time to shine.
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are being required to augment their instructional techniques and convert to remote learning environments, all in a matter of days. This has left teachers scrambling to find resources that are convenient and freely accessible to them and their students. Today we’re going to discuss some of our favorite resources and create a list of our top remote learning tools
Video Conferencing and Communication Tools
Zoom is a video conferencing software typically used by those in the corporate world. The program allows users to schedule conference times then send out invites to others who then log on at the designated time. This gives the teacher the opportunity to schedule class times or office hours. They can be ready when students log on. From the student perspective, they can choose to share video and/or audio as well as being able to type and share.
I have also seen some very creative teachers that have incorporated multiple devices into their Zoom sessions. These involve setting up on their laptops/computers so kids see their faces. Then logging on again with their phone which is positioned to view their work (typically a lapboard or piece of paper). This duality allows the students to see their instructor, something I think we all take for granted. Kids like to see those who care about them. For most of us, we didn’t get to tell our kids goodbye, they left us one day and we’re told not to return the next. For some of these students, we are the only bright spots in their tumultuous lives, and they are being told they can’t see us. Having a zoom session even if it’s just to check in with them, will go a long way.
- Remind — A communication app that allows teachers to securely message students and their parents with important updates without giving out personal information
- ScreenCastify — Google Chrome add-on (extension) that allows teachers to record lessons on their device screens and then share the video to their students
- Pear Deck — Google Slides add-on that allows teachers to make their GoogleSlide presentations interactive. Fantastic for presenting remotely because it gives real-time feedback while you advance through the presentation.
- Class Dojo — Communication and classroom management app geared toward younger students. It allows students to earn points but also creates a feed similar to Facebook that allows teachers to update their students’ guardians.
- Class Craft — Communication and classroom management app similar to ClassDojo geared toward upper-middle and high school students. Graphics compare to World of Warcraft making it a hit with the older age group.
- SeeSaw — Recording website that makes it easy to share videos with students. It allows students to create digital portfolios of their own learning.
- JamBoard — Digital whiteboard app that is shareable through the Google Platform.
- Glide — Create your own app that you can share with your students. Easily done through a spreadsheet. This would be great for uploading assignments.
- Skype — One of the most popular and well-known VOIP (Voice Over IP) solutions. Skype has a video conferencing feature that allows you to contact anyone with the app and a WiFi signal.
- Google Hangouts — Another Google product that allows you to video conference with your students by giving out a specific code.
- Playmeo — Interactive group games database. Groups are assigned by the teacher. This would be great to build class culture even though we are social distancing.
- Post It — An app allows you to post digital sticky notes. This would be a great discussion board type activity.
- Flipgrid — Create short videos that will engage students with their learning. Students can then create videos to reply. You’re able to add stickers so the videos are more fun.
- Insert Learning — An app that allows teachers to insert annotations in any online text. This would be awesome for text-based questions. Math teachers could also use this to insert equation steps.
Progress Monitoring and Data Management
For younger grades, I found EasyCBM to be especially helpful. It gives you data on fluency and lower level math skills. Students can log on from home and take the assessments needed. The teacher then receives the score and it is graphed for easy comparison.
For middle school, try Avenue PM. It takes a few days for accounts to be approved on this website but the program is worth the short wait. For highschool, TeacherEase seems to be the best for upper levels. It is a straight forward LMS system that is free to use.
ReadTheory also has features to track students’ progress and generate reports about the entire class. It also automatically grades every quiz and provides teachers with information about current Lexile levels. Read this article to learn how to ideally use ReadTheory for remote teaching.
Other recommended tools for (or with) progress monitoring and grading:
- Edulastic — Provides assessment feedback and data tracking. They also offer technology-enhanced assessment tools that provide student data for analysis.
- MasteryConnect — Benchmarking and progress monitoring site that integrates with Socrative
- Parlay Ideas — Inspire meaningful discussions and access usable data
- nearpod — Formative assessment coupled with digital media
Mangahigh is a mathematics specific tool that is offering free access for schools affected by the Coronavirus outbreak. As an English teacher, I have never used this program, however, from what I have researched, it is targeted for all age groups (K-12). Teachers can dictate which activities their students need the most. Then Mangahigh tracks and incorporates into a variety of data charts and tables. They support standards from around the globe making the program usable in various countries.
- ReadTheory — an online, adaptive reading comprehension program.
- Green Brothers — Green brothers, John and Hank, make short videos on a variety of topics for each subject area. Quick videos that are engaging and informative.
- The Smithsonian Museums — The US Smithsonian Museums offer various interactive features from their exhibits. This would be great as a virtual field trip opportunity.
- PBS Learning — Public Television offers various digital activities for the arts. Music and visual arts lessons that are accessible.
- Jumpstart — Geared for preschool-aged children, this offers activities to help build foundational skills. This would also be great for special education.
- Energize Schools — Curricula developed to center around the sciences. It offers interactive experiments to help engage.
- Great Minds — Free resources for all subject areas available for download for non-commercial use.
- Experiments With Google — Digital experiments using art, music, ect. Highly engaging activities that cross curricularize.
- TED under 20 or ED-TED — Videos on various topics. These are very thought-provoking and would be great as a choose your own activity, let students decide which topic they are interested in and then respond.
- OER Commons — Open Educational Resources compiled in a central location. Free to use in most cases. Check the Creative Content license to verify usage stipulations.
- Khan Academy — Curricula for all age groups (currently offering schedules for each level for homeschooling). Amazing review activities that are engaging.
- BrainPop — Videos and activities uniquely targeted for various age groups and subjects. Highly informative and engaging especially for younger students.
Homework Management and Online LMS
The best homework management tool is Google Classroom. This free platform for Google districts allows teachers to create virtual classrooms and share curriculum while also assigning work. Google Classroom is great because it not only timestamps when it is submitted but you can also view when the assignment was edited by the student.
- Edmodo — Online program similar to Google Classroom, allows teachers to post and grade assignments. A bit more basic in design but still effective.
- Moodle — Online program similar to Google Classroom, allows teachers to post and grade assignments via modules. This is used by a lot of higher education institutions so it’s geared to older students.
- StartMe — Collective organization for students and teachers to keep websites saved for quick and easy access.
- Webjets — Curate collections that fit and focus on your content. Allows students to produce their own documents and share with the teacher.
- Equity Maps — Visual representation of who does the most talking. This is especially important when video chatting with students because you can’t “see” who dominates as easily.
- McGraw Hill — Online textbooks and remote learning resources for all grade levels and subjects.
- Discovery Education — Videos and supplemental materials on a variety of subjects. These activities are great and can be assigned to classes.
- Clever — Single sign-on access to a variety of sites (including ReadTheory), eliminates the need for multiple passwords.
- Wakelet — Can be used as a custom curricular curator that allows teachers and students to save videos, articles, and other web files to a central location in a collection.
- Alice Keeler — Alice Keeler is the Queen of Google, anything you need to know about the platform you can find on her site. She has documents and videos with instructions as well as unique assignments.
- CommonSense — Central location to search for EdTec apps and tools. If you need something specific that’s not listed here check out this site.
During this trying time, it’s important to remember that our students’ lives have been turned upside down. They have lost their routine and some have lost their only safe haven. Seniors have lost one of the most pivotal times in their lives. The final semester of high school, prom, graduation, the biggest events in their lives so far. Personally, I have students who would have been the first in their families to walk across the stage and graduate from high school. Now they may not have that chance. Use these tools to post content, but remember to ask how your kids are, see how they are coping. Just hearing your voice and being reminded of your care will help them get through this especially difficult time.
We’re here if you need us
As always, but even more so now, our team is here for any questions or concerns that you might have.
We will keep posting new content on a weekly basis on how to simplify the transition to remote teaching and ease the lives of both teachers and students, so stay tuned. And stay healthy!
Amber holds a BA in English with teacher licensure. She is certified to teach grades 6-12 but currently teaches high school students in an alternative setting. She is Google Levels 1-2 certified, SmartBoard certified, and Newsela certified. In her free time, she mostly enjoys playing with her dogs or plan for her upcoming wedding.