FETC 2013 | Feature

Tech Smackdown: 10 Cool Teacher Tools

This year's FETC's technology smackdown offered plenty of free and cheap gadgets and services that imaginative teachers will have fun with in the classroom.

Education technology conference FETC 2013, taking place in Orlando this week, opened as it always does, with a lively round of favorite software and services for teachers , demonstrated on the fly by four well known education technology presenters: Adam Bellow, Leslie Fisher, John Kuglin, and Kathy Schrock. Here are 10 worth trying.


1. Instacube. Fans of photo-sharing site Instagram fans will love this one. Design To Matter (D2M) has come up with a little Android-based digital photo frame that streams photos fed to Instagram from groups of picture takers. This Kickstarter project far surpassed its $250,000 pledge goal and is expected to surface in March 2013. How will it serve teachers? Imagine an assignment where your students are sent out on campus to take photos and upload them online for sharing, then come back to the classroom to stream them through your Instacube while you discuss the results.

2. Leap Motion. This iPod-sized motion controller uses high-fidelity infrared LEDs to enable the user to control the computer from up to eight feet away. It senses hand movements and lets you interact with your computer without the mouse, touchpad, or keyboard on either Windows or Mac computers. The company, which expects to ship in early 2013, is taking pre-orders, and the price is $69.99. How can you use it in the classroom? Imagine performing activities on that interactive whiteboard without having to touch a stylus to a tablet or a touchpad. The video demonstrates this one best.

3. iStopMotion for iPad. This $4.99 app is intended to help with stop-motion animation, but Schrock especially said she appreciates how it addresses a single pernicious problem: taking the next shot without moving the camera. You simply set up your camera (say, that iPhone) for the shot and then control it through the iPad, so that you never have to touch the camera doing the recording.

4. Photon Flash Video Player. Tired of anti-flash attitude of your iPad? This $4.99 app allows you to run those Flash videos without a hitch.


5. Go!Animate lets you create animation video. You pick a couple of characters and write a brief script, and then the online service converts that dialog from text to speech and shows the characters moving and talking with each other. As Kuglin noted, "You can now put these small tutorials together," which will be especially popular among young learners.

6. SoundCloud and ThingLink. SoundCloud is social platform that allows users to create sounds--music and voice--and share them with others. ThingLink lets you integrate audio, video, and text into images. Kuglin demonstrated the site by bringing up an image he'd saved to ThingLink, which had multiple "hotspots" on it that shared brief narration clips, a video, and text. How is this useful for teachers? Imagine creating your own multimedia diagram of the human body with hotspots to explain to students the function of organs or share brief videos about each.

7. Fisher said she's given up on Google Forms since discovering free service Wufoo, owned by SurveyMonkey. This online form builder allows you to build forms on the fly with drag-and-drop fields and send a link out to others. It can be embedded into other sources and run from a mobile device. The free service is limited to three forms and 150 entries; but, as Fisher noted, you can delete a form you're done with "and start a new form."

 Celluon Magic Cube
Celluon Magic Cube

8. Celluon Magic Cube is a little $150 box that beams down a "keyboard of light for any Bluetooth device in its vicinity. It also plugs and plays with Windows and Mac computers.

9. Remind101. Perhaps the most complex but also most useful service of the session, the free Remind101 lets you create texting distribution groups without obtaining anybody's mobile number or handing out your own number. As Kuglin noted, teachers can use this to set up messaging with students or their parents in order to send out notifications, and nobody has to share their personal details. "This is a wonderful, wonderful service," he said.

10. InfuseLearning provides teachers with the ability to create free quick assessment quizzes with multiple types of questions--including questions that ask students to draw out their responses. The teacher can monitor responses as they come in and know who has and hasn't answered the question yet. It's Web-based (as long as you're not on Internet Explorer). The analytics are beefy, and it automatically translates text into a number of languages.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.