A Digital Future: K-12 Technology by 2018

Rapidly changing technology continues to make its mark on K-12 learning. The recently-released New Media Consortium Horizon Report details six up-and-coming technologies in the next five years for K-12 classrooms. Let’s take a closer loo

Horizon #1: In the next year, or less.

Mobile learning. Tablets and smartphones in the classroom are no longer a matter of “if,” but “when, and how quickly?” Administrators and educators can tap into the convenience of mobile technology in the classroom and the potential for student learning adaptation. Over half of school administrators say there is some form of mobile technology in their classrooms and that they plan to implement more when it is financially feasible. School districts should keep in mind that the purchase of mobile devices for K-12 use is only one piece in the learning puzzle. There must be funding for teacher training and maintenance of the devices too.

Cloud computing. When it comes to greater educational collaboration, cloud computing has unlimited potential. This is true for teacher-to-teacher, teacher-to-parent and teacher-to-student applications. By using a common location, academic expectations can be better accessed, along with actual student work. Instructors can also share learning materials and experiences through the remote opportunities that cloud computing provides.

Horizon #2: Within two to three years.

Learning analytics. This evolving concept in K-12 classrooms is different from educational data mining in that it focuses on individual students, teachers and schools without direct implications to the government. Learning analytics is the education industry’s response to “big data” that is used in the business world for improvements and redirection of focus. Learning analytics essentially show students what they have achieved and how those goals match up with their peers. If implemented correctly, this technology has the potential to warn teachers early of academic issues while keeping students more accountable. Using the mobile and online technology already in place, students can better track and tailor their academic experiences.

Open content. The rise of MOOCs, or massive open online courses, in terms of college learning is having a trickle-down effect on K-12 education. The idea that all the information that exists on any given topic already exists, and does not need to be re-created or purchased, is gaining steam among K-12 educators. Within the next three years, expect more shared content available to teachers and to students. Open textbooks, resources and curricula are not the only benefit of an open content push; shared experiences and insights are also valuable teaching tools.

Horizon #3: Within four to five years.

3D printing. Also known as prototyping, this technology will allow K-12 students to create tangible models for their ideas. Many fields, like manufacturing, already make use of this technology to determine the effectiveness of ideas on a smaller, printable scale. In education, this technology will bolster creativity and innovation, along with science and math applications. The STEM Academy has already partnered with Stratasys, a leading 3D printing company, to start integration of the technology in programming classes.

Virtual laboratories. These Web applications give students the chance to perform physical science experiments over and over, from anywhere with Internet access. As in a physical lab, the performance of the student will determine the results of the experiment. While not a replacement for all in-lab exercises, the virtual version can provide extra practice and guidance. There is no pressure to “get it right” on the first run, and mistakes are allowable because the technology lends itself to no-cost repetition. It also may prove a smart solution to rekindling the American public’s interest in the scientific.

In coming posts, I will take a closer look at each of these technologies and their implications on K-12 learners. Which do you think will have the greatest impact?


 Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 

Survey: Internet helps education, hurts morality

The Pew Research Center has released results to a poll of relatively new internet users in developing countries that found the internet is viewed pretty favorably, particularly when it comes to education.

Sixty-four percent of the respondents felt that the internet had a positive impact on education and 53 percent said the same for personal relationships. When asked the same thing about the internet’s influence on politics and morality, however, only 36% and 29% had a favorable view, respectively. When you look at the way the internet is utilized in America and other developed nations, I’d say these observations align. There are good and bad aspects — but the potential for increased access to education is great.

I’ve said before that I feel technology can be a great equalizer in P-20 classrooms and this survey adds an international element to that stance. The internet allows access to information in ways that were not even dreamed of a few decades ago. Using internet technology to improve educational access on a worldwide scale is so important to elevating the global economy and knowledge base. Imagine the collaboration that will be possible worldwide between this generation of students because of internet access?

While the internet was considered somewhat of a luxury when it first emerged, I think it is vital that all corners of the world gain access in the coming decade. The internet should not be something elite countries have access to; it should be an educational right for all people. Through this mass adoption, knowledge collaborations will continue to grow and it will benefit all of us as world citizens.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 

20 of the Best Virtual Reality Games in Education

As the edtech market explodes, established companies and startups are scrambling to be the first to take advantage of the “next big thing.” For many, that means entering the virtual reality market, or more specifically creating virtual reality games. With so many companies and startups developing virtual reality games, how can schools and private citizens decide what product to spend their money on? This may seem like a simple choice, but making the wrong decision can cost you a lot of your hard earned money, and stunt the user’s intellectual growth and development. As you can see, the stakes are very high, and the margin for error is minuscule.

Since we have been covering this market for several years, we feel as though we are experts in predicting what virtual reality games will give you the most bang for your buck. That’s why we decided to create a list of the best virtual reality games in education so you can make an informed decision. The games that we chose to feature are either free or low cost, and we tried to stay away from more pricey options unless their value proposition was worth the high price tag. Without further ado, here is our list of the best virtual reality games on the market.

  1. Star Chart – with over 20 million users this app brings the universe a little closer. Students can learn about constellations by aiming their phones at the night sky. There are additional features that allow students to interact with facts about planets and space discovery.
  2. Google Translate – while conventional Google Translate may not sound like a VR app, its new camera feature students can translate 30 languages by aiming their camera at a Students can watch in real time as the text is translated. This additional feature is great for language student
  3. Cleanopolis– Fighting climate change becomes interactive with this app. Students learn about CO2 and battle along with Captain Clean to save the world. Not only is this a fun game but the educational quality would make it great in any science classroom.
  4. Public Speaking VR – practice the skills of public speaking with this immersive VR experience. With photorealistic environments, students can prepare for a job interview of a class presentation.
  5. Quiver – Watch colored in creations come to life with Quiver. Though VR technology, 2D images become 3D and “walk “ off the page. Ideal for younger students.
  6. Boulevard – Art classes can now be supplemented with visits to some of the world’s best art museums. Students can tour six art museums, interact with famous artworks and learn about the art, all thanks to the advancements of VR technology
  7. Unimersiv – History comes alive with the apps developed by Unimersiv. Students can explore ancient Greece, the Titanic or the Egyptian Mysteries.
  8. InMind– Neurons and brain tissue have never looked more realistic. Travel into the brain and learn about anatomy with this great app.
  9. Apollo 11 VR – Be part of one of the most significant space expeditions. Though VR technology, students can have a front seat in this documentary style app. This award winning app is pushing the possibilities of VR as an educational tool
  10. Earth AR – See the globe from new unseen angles. Motion detection and zooming capabilities will make geography more interactive.
  11. Cospaces– creating virtual realities is not as impossible as it sounds. Students are actively involved in the creation and creative process that goes into building a VR world
  12. TiltBrush – Creating 3D paintings is every artist’s dream, and now with TiltBrush, it is a reality. Painting Is done using a handheld “paintbrush,” and the creation possibilities will be awe inspiring for any creative student.
  13. Anatomy 4D – study the human body with clear images that come to life. Ideal for biology students or anyone with interest in the inner workings of the body.
  14. Sites in VR– explore famous landmarks in all their splendor. With an emphasis on Islamic temples, tombs, and ancient cities, students will get to see sites that otherwise would be inaccessible
  15. King Tut VR – Explore the tomb of the legendary Egyptian king and get lost in the secret chambers full of hieroglyphics and treasures
  16. Flashcards- Animal Alphabet – Made for younger students, this immersive flashcard game teaches students words while bringing it all together with some colorful animal friends
  17. Imag-n-o-tron– Stories jump off the page with Imag-n-o-tron. Downloadable content makes this app suitable for any age. Students improve their reading while engaging with complimentary images making the VR world an educational space
  18. EON Experience – This collection of VR lessons encapsulates everything from physics to history. Students or teachers can create their VR lessons from preloaded content.
  19. Titans of Space – This guided tour of space is both informative as it is breathtaking. With voice overs, facts and scored music it is a cutting edge VR product.
  20. Discovery VR Discovery TV channel compiled all the content for this app. Students can explore exotic natural locations and interact with our planet in a futuristic way.

Well, that’s it for our list. Did we miss any?

Edtech’s Ideal User Interface Requires More Than Simplicity

Most discussions regarding the development of educational technology boil down to one key factor: How easy is it to use? Simplicity is often the name of the game when it comes to creating new technologies — any application or tool that doesn’t offer an optimal experience in terms of usability is usually rejected in favor of one that has a better user experience.

While simplicity and usability are undoubtedly important considerations when developing educational technology, educators have other priorities as well. The most well-designed, elegant solution is meaningless in the face of other deficiencies, which means that edtech developers need to consider the entire experience and role of the technology in the classroom if they expect their products to be embraced and successful. Everything from the graphics interface to the page layout must be designed so that it supports the cognitive processes of learning to improve outcomes.

What does this look like? Good user interfaces incorporate any number of features, but the following are among the most important.

Graphics User Interface (GUI)

The look and feel of any educational technology tool, whether an online classroom, an educational game, or a multimedia presentation, is important to the effectiveness of the overall learning experience. All too often, the GUI dominates the experience to the point that the content becomes secondary to the colors, design features, cartoon characters, logos, and more.

This creates a cognitive overload, in which more of the user’s attention and brain power is devoted to processing the graphics than on the subject matter being presented.

Ideally, then, the GUI should play a secondary role to the content, or enhance the presentation. On a more technical level, this means choosing the right technology for the device or product, e.g., 8-bit, 16-bit, or 32-bit graphics processor, as well as the right colors and design. At the same time, the GUI must be responsive, and compatible with a variety of different devices and screen sizes. Consider developing interfaces that borrow characteristics from familiar websites or games, which help make the product more intuitive and comfortable for students to use.

Also, when choosing graphics for the product, avoid adding graphics or photos simply for decoration. Although studies indicate that most learners are more successful with a combination of text and graphics, that doesn’t mean adding random or unrelated graphics just to break up the text. Graphics should always serve a purpose, whether to explain a concept (especially those that would otherwise be invisible), indicate transitions and progress, show relationships, or indicate the structure of the learning. When technology is designed in this way, it has a better chance of being attractive, intuitive, and effective.

Add a Human Element

It almost seems counterintuitive, but some of the most effective educational technology tools are those that include a human element in the instructional. Studies indicate that people learn better when they perceive some type of social presence, rather than a disembodied “other” providing the instruction. This can be accomplished as easily as using a conversational tone, but most edtech developers also include a virtual agent of some type, whether an avatar, cartoon character, or just a human voice providing narration.

However, while virtual agents can have a positive effect on the learning, it can also be distracting when the agent is used for entertainment rather than instruction — or overused. In other words, a cartoon character that provides an occasional hint or guidance is effective. A cartoon character that pops up every two minutes will quickly become annoying. In addition, your virtual agent doesn’t necessarily need human appearance. As long as the agent exhibits human-like behaviors, such as gesturing, it can be effective, especially when accompanied by a human voice.

Offer Feedback and Control

Learning is most effective when it includes feedback and a give and take between the student and the instructor. Effective educational technology includes ample feedback, not only about student performance, but about progress. Design your product so that it responds to user commands; even something as simple as a green light or click sound when the student answers a question can provide assurance that they are on the right track.

And finally, give users some control. While they may not be able to control the sequence of the content or which tasks must be completed, include features like video control, the ability to review older material, or save their progress and exit. This helps learners become active participants, and not simple passive observers.

Educational technology is a growing and expanding field, and developers are still working on the ideal methods of instruction. But understanding how people learn, and using that information to guide product design, will ensure better outcomes in every respect.

Disengaged Students, Part 14: Educational Technology – Intellectual or Anti?

In this 20-part series, I explore the root causes and effects of academic disengagement in K-12 learners and explore the factors driving American society ever closer to being a nation that lacks intellectualism, or the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

Technology penetrates every aspect of society – even our K-12 classrooms. The way knowledge is delivered today takes the shape of tablets, and computer screens, and even in-class projectors. Does all the flash and glamor of the fancy gear take away from the basic pursuit of knowledge, though?

It Starts in Infancy

Early childhood educational technology targets children from infancy and makes it easier for parents to feel good about using media in the early childhood years. Television programs and videos claim to offer the correct answer to the parent’s question “What should my baby be learning?”  Since such programming is developed by experts who certainly know more than the average parent about child development, these marketing ploys are accepted. Programs for infants are promoted as safe in small doses, as long as parents watch them with their little ones and participate too. Instead of reading books aloud, parents put children on their laps and spend a half an hour clapping along to classical music and gazing at bright, swirling colors on a screen.

This contrived form of “bonding” replaces tangible activities like rolling around on the floor, naming objects in the home or letting a baby turn the pages of sturdy board book. The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that children under the age of 2 should be exposed to NO screen time, but parents adjust the recommendation to fit their own family unit and routine, telling themselves that the APA warnings are for “other families” who use television or other media as a babysitter, not families like their own that use it as a form of early education.

Once the two-year mark is passed, it seems that children face a no-holds-barred attitude when it comes to television watching. A University of Michigan study found that television viewing among young children is at an eight-year high. Children between the ages of 2 and 5 watch an average of 32 hours of television every week between regular programs, videos, and programming available through gaming consoles. It is not the actual television shows that are harmful; in fact, the Journal of American Medical Association found that some educational television between the ages of 3 and 5 improves reading skills. It is the overuse of television and technology, and the underuse of basic learning activities like reading a book or playing with a ball, that lends itself to academic disengagement in the school years.

How Technology Warps the Learning Process

Even more active technological engagement, like using a computer or tablet for toddler learning activities, can foster academic disengagement by making the learning process entirely too easy. If a two-year-old child learns that the answer is always the touch of a screen away, how can the same child be expected to search for answers or show his work in his K-12 career? What parents today view as learning improvements are actually modern conveniences that devalue the pursuit of knowledge.

Though the eagerness to let technology replace traditional early childhood learning methods presents large-scale problems, the intent of the parents using that technology is often benign. Why not give children a head start on learning ABCs, colors and numbers that are easily taught through repetitious technology applications? Parents are not deliberately leading their pre-K offspring down the road of academic disengagement or anti-intellectualism for life, but when they allow technology to define early childhood learning, they sow the seeds of both problems. Questions that cannot be answered within a simple application format become too difficult, or too bothersome, for children to try to sort out later on.

Educators have not yet come to grips with the issue of parental dependence on technology. The first children who have had access to mobile applications from infancy are just beginning their K-12 careers and will likely see some of that technology made available in their classrooms. How will these children react when they are given a book to read, or when they receive a returned, marked-up math worksheet that requires editing by hand? Will these children scoff at the idea of non-digital requests, or handle them graciously as part of the learning process?

As with any technological progress in classrooms, mobile technology certainly has its positive place but educators (and parents before them) should also be asking what is being replaced – and how much of K-12 learning should be delegated to technology. Dependency on technology, particularly in relation to educational goals, is planted by parents (often unknowingly), and contributes to academic disengagement by making digitally enhanced learning too convenient and traditional learning pursuits too “boring”.


Disengaged Students, Part 7: Too Much Information Access?

In this 20-part series, I explore the root causes and effects of academic disengagement in K-12 learners and explore the factors driving American society ever closer to being a nation that lacks intellectualism, or the pursuit of knowledge for knowledge’s sake.

It’s no secret that we are living in an information age, one that has lifted data barriers across the world and opened up access to knowledge like never before seen in the history of modern humankind. On the surface, this access to information appears to be a democratization of knowledge – a way that more people can learn about more things in the fastest amount of time. In reality, though, the internet and all its interconnected technology has given rise to less effort put towards the pursuit of knowledge, and more energy focused on simply finding the quickest, easiest answer.

Is Shared Knowledge Best?

This growing challenge to intellectualism in contemporary America is grounded in a rapidly expanding access to information coupled with a complete lack of hierarchy based on expertise. Take sites like Wikipedia, for example. Such Internet sensations are victories for crowd-sourced knowledge that hypothetically offers more than one side to every argument, but they have bolstered the assumption that all knowledge is equal.

Wikipedia is known for allowing anyone, regardless of credentials, to post on its pages for the greater good of shared knowledge. Some other sites are less forthcoming about the credentials of their contributors. Businesses clamoring to improve their search engine rankings commission writing which is disguised as expert information but is actually designed to get consumers to their sites when a certain word or phrase is typed into a search bar.  The writers are more likely to have expertise in sales writing than in areas of knowledge relevant to the products and services they tout. Customer review sites give peers an idea of what to expect from a particular product or company.  In an ideal world these would offer balanced feedback, but in fact they tend to weigh heavy on the negative side; it is in human nature to warn others of danger, not to assure them that the path is safe.

More Info, Less Learning

While attempting to place more power at the fingertips of the people, the digital age is actually distorting the public’s sense of reality, blurring the lines between fact and fiction for many willfully ignorant participants. Just as the removal of limits on religious beliefs spawned many different denominations, some of which led followers completely astray, a limitless online community promotes misinformation on a regular basis. Even the information that is correct comes fraught with anti-intellectual challenges. The information that was once confined to textbooks, library visits or expensive encyclopedia sets is now just a click or brush of a touchscreen away. A child who is given everything from birth and never has to work for any of his possessions will inherently devalue those items. In the same way generations growing up with Internet access devalue knowledge.

While no one would argue against the convenience and knowledge that the Internet has provided on a global scale, ongoing use of its information predecessors is necessary in order to preserve intellectualism. At least some weight has to be given to information in order for the youngest learners to differentiate between well-researched, well-proven facts and the passionate ravings of people with no expertise or training on a particular subject.

If American children are to learn to think for themselves, they need more information than what can be found in a search engine, and they need tools with which to sort out and evaluate the information which they find. But what will make them want to take the long route to data when there are so many convenient shortcuts? That’s the question educators and parents have to broach if there is to be a semblance of any intellectualism when this generation graduates and starts contributing to American society.

Low Tech Lessons to Make Your Class Ready for the High Tech World

By Brian Cleary

Instructional Coach- Hearthwood Elementary

Evergreen School District


Underneath the flash and dazzle flowing into classrooms on the currents that feeds 21st-century technology is a newly important skill.  A singular skill made more important in the digital age but developed independently from the devices and digital tools that define it.  Fake news, media hyperbole, and the seeming end of simple answers have all contributed to the increased importance of all of us to ask better questions.

Questioning is perhaps the single most important skill we can teach our students.  It crosses all curriculum, it plays directly into the real world, and is not reliant on any type of software, or hardware to apply.

In a real sense, much of our history and success as humans has been built strictly on our ability to ask great questions and then search for their answers.  From the first wandering cave dweller to look at a coffee plant and ask his partner, “If we pick those berries, dry them out, cook them, crush them, then soak them in water do you think it will taste good? Or shall we use that tree bark instead?”   To “How do we land a man on the Moon?”  Good questions have moved us forward and rippled into every aspect of our lives. Good questions are what has gotten us where we are today.

Perhaps just as importantly it must be noted that not asking good questions, has also gotten us into many of the problems we face today. That we never bothered to ask if there was a smog we have been putting into the air since the industrial revolution would be bad, or that the brightest minds of the age never questioned if maybe splitting atoms could have complicating going forward does not speak well of us as a species.

Much of Creativity is rooted in questioning old patterns and paths, much more of science is grounded in our endless pursuit of curiosity.

As critical to 21st-century thinking as inquire is, it does not require a one to one classroom, special software or even bandwidth. Below are three example of lesson frames that do a great job of building an inquisitorial skill set, that require no technology at all.

  • Math without numbers:
    • This is simply taking the rich math question and pulling strategic data out of the problem before giving it to the kids in groups. The students’ then work together to figure out what questions will get them than information they need. The result is a demonstration of the student understanding of how the math they are learning applies to a problem they are working to solve. (a link to a web resource with rich math tasks)
  • Linear questions:
    • Some of us remember these as “trip fillers” from our childhood. Those mystery scenarios ask into the back seat during long road trips, (i.e.) A man escapes from a room with no windows or doors, how does he do it?  The back seat gets to ask only yes or no questions to work toward the solution, building off the collection of answers. The result a training session on refining and distilling questions to offer the greatest depth.  ( lists of good linear questions here)
  • 90% stories:
    • A bit more work from the teacher these coming in a varied of forms, but the foundations stay the same; a historical event, scientific discovery, or personal narrative that is “mostly true”, thus the 90%. The students then work, question, or research to find the lie. These stories are told by teachers as often as read.   (Examples of 90% stories here)

Here are 3 ½ more that can be done with one computer in a classroom.

  • Mystery Hangout / Mystery Skype
    • Both Goggle Hangouts and Skype, through Microsoft classroom, offer teachers and their students a chance to play 20 questions with classroom around the world. Just project one screen to the front of a room and have the student ready to try and figure out where their counterparts are from using yes or no questions
  • 3 Act Tasks
    • A small but growing movement in math education started by Dan Meyer, the idea is simple enough, use the classing structure of story to explore or use a mathematical practice. – Act 1 -Hook a class of students with a short video that leaves the audience hanging.      -Act 2- Mead out information to develop the story so that a path from cause to effect can be followed.                                                                                                                                         -Act 3- back to the video for the conclusion of the story to compare its outcome with that of the students.

This last offering is designed for whole class use, where everyone has a device, but with only the slightest of variations, it can be used on a singular machine or even phones.

  • M.I.L.E. Stanford Mobile Inquiry Learning Environment
    • The idea for this site seems too simple have come out of a genius farm like Stanford until you recognize the brilliance within its simplicity. Student go online, to create and answer each other’s questions, then rate the quality of that question. The depth of the questions is a reflection of students’ conceptual understanding of the subject as well as its application.

In his book, A More Beautiful Question Warren Berger says that kids come to us in kindergarten asking 100 questions a day, by middle school that number is down to almost zero.  Humans are curious animals, properly formed that inherent inquiry is the most important piece to our success both collectively and individually.


10 techniques to ensure that your lessons are as dull as dish water

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

By Kelly Walsh

Seriously, it’s our Job to Inspire Learning?

We’ve all heard of or witnessed so many of these tired old approaches to delivering lessons. If you do happen to witness other educators sucking the will to learn out of students, please don’t just sit idly by. Weep openly, gnash your teeth, moan and shake our head, or maybe even wail loudly and pound your fists against the wall.

Here are some of the many unfortunate ways in which students everywhere are being disenchanted, disaffected, discouraged, disavowed, disarmed, disturbed, disgruntled and disingenuously served by some of our colleagues, who apparently feel that it is simply not their job to inspire learning or motivate students …

  1. Frequently lecture endlessly throughout the entire class session, expecting students to learn by scribbling notes as fast as they can.
  2. Don’t provide any activities that allow students to get up and move (a particularly heinous act for younger students).
  3. Have students read or work on problems alone in their chairs for the entire class session (as one of my elementary teachers used to say, “Read, Damn it, Read!” Good times.).
  4. Create online video lessons that basically just repeat what’s in the text book.
  5. Never give any group lessons or collaborative assignments.
  6. Create “digital lessons” in the form of narrated PowerPoint slides, reading verbatim from the text in the slides.
  7. Avoid all forms of formative assessment.
  8. Let Teacher’s Assistants give the bulk of the lectures, during which they frequently just rewrite content from the text on the board and attempt to explain it (not to mention the occasional indiscernible accent, which may not be ‘PC’ to say, but is nevertheless simply not fair to students).
  9. Rarely encourage interaction and dialogue (those *&^# students really should just sit there and listen!).
  10. Never taking a moment to recognize your students as individuals and reward them with gratitude, appreciation, and recognition of effort.

If you do come across this unfortunate situation, you might consider printing this article out and slipping it under that colleague’s door or in their mail box. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll check out some of these resources to try to change their ways (we can all dream can’t we?):

This post originally appeared on Emerging EdTech, and was republished with permission.

Read all of our posts about EdTech and Innovation by clicking here. 


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded As an education and instructional technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, regularly running Flipped Class Workshops online. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Kelly also writes, records, and performs original music … stop by and have a listen!

Should teachers pay for apps?

**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**

A guest post by Maria Constantides

I very often talk to teachers about online apps and great new tools and the standard question always is: “Is it free?’”

And of course it’s natural for teachers – who are amongst the world’s worst paid people for the amount and quality of the work they have to do – to look for free apps and tools.


On a UK pay scale, a colleague recently told me that they make 23 pounds an hour. In Athens, if you  have training and experience, you will be lucky if you make 9 or 10 euros – the average is 6 per hour while the official hourly rate is 4,5 euros per hour  for only 8 months a year; in the summer you can live off the sun and the sea and unemployment benefit of 300 euros per month  (for some people, not even that).

So if most of my better paid colleagues look for free apps, why would the low-paid colleague do anything different? Teachers look for freebies because

  • Their school won’t pay
  • They can’t afford to pay themselves
  • If it’s free, why pay?

So we all flock to the free options and use them, create accounts, create materials, until one day, the company goes bust and we lose everything!

Of course, the paying users lose even more!

A typical example was one of my favourite online animation tools Xtranormal  I loved this app and used the free version along with thousands of other teachers, then started paying to buy more scenes and more characters and to have the option to download and save my videos!  Suddenly the company announced they were closing and loads and loads of teachers lost all their work.

This is what you can now read on their website, written by a team of people trying to resurrect the service: xtranormal

No more losing the movie maker

No more losing the characters that some of you had bought

No more losing the movies that you had made

So what are the going rates?

On the flipside of this, you have your average startup company which creates a great product or serivce and they offer a free plan for a limited range of presentations and one or two templates.

Pricing Slidebean

I believe most start ups think in terms of ‘Well, what’ 29 dollars a month? It’s not that much money!’  Or 19 dollars a month!!!

Well, I tell you that at the end of the day, if you pay for a few services like we do as a school, the bill at the end of each month is quite steep!!!!

Compare this to the infinitely more versatile and original Prezi pricing plan and you will note the difference.

Of the two services, this is the one I would be more likely to pay for for this, and of course, other reasons, such as the versatility of the presentation templates, the desktop variation of a presentation which can be downloaded and played on one’s pc or laptop…

Pricing Prezi

Up to a couple of years ago, I used to pay a 29 euros per month subscription to Survey Monkey – when I calculated the cost of each survey I did using their services, it has cost me more than 300 or 400 euros!!!!

Google does it for free!!!!

One more example – my favourite screencast software – the famous Jing

TechSmith online video sharing Plans and PricingCompare it with my OTHER favourite screencasting software, Screen-cast-0-matic

Go Pro Screencast O Matic Free online screen recorder for instant screen capture video sharing.

Compare two great screencast apps – Jing at about 100 dollars a year and Screen-cast-o-matic for 15 or under 10 if you go for the 3 year discount!


By contrast, most tablet  apps are much lower in price; for example, purchasing Microsoft Powerpoint for my iPad costs nothing, where you would have to pay almost 80 dollars US for the PC version. Keynote is now free but if you purchase an iPhone or iPad and even if you need to buy it is less than 20 dollars US – compare to powerpoint above!


Make the price right!

Make the price right, people! You can’t jump from nothing to 30 dollars a month – bring your prices down and you might get a lot more people paying!

You  let me have dropbox for free but if I want to pay, you ask me for 100 euros per month! 

Why would I pay that when Amazon asks for 70 a year for unlimited storage space!!!! Get real!!!! And OneDrive gives me 50 GB for free – Plus free online use of the latest versions of the Office Suite! 

This has happened to me time and again! I am willing to pay to keep my content safe but prices are too high – so I will keep going for the free versions for as long as I can.


P.S. Just like governments would make more money if they lowered their taxes – but greedy so and so’s that they are, they keep losing more and more money every year!!!!!

This post originally appeared on, and was republished with permission.


Marisa Constantinides runs CELT Athens, a Teacher Development centre based in the capital of Greece, and is a Course Supervisor for all courses, including the DELTA Cambridge/RSA Diploma, the Institute of Linguists Diploma in Translation and off-site seminars and workshops on a variety of topics.

6 Ways Technology Utilization in a Classroom Environment

Technology is increasingly becoming a fundamental part of our lives. Its adoption to the various functionalities of a person’s life from childhood with playing toys to adulthood has made life easier and complex at the same time. Its implementation is being advocated for yet its effects seem to grow with each passing day. However, it is important to understand that its use is diverse and the benefits associated outweigh the limitations and effects.

As a fact, technology utilization in a classroom is now being used in schools for different learning activities. Today, many teachers have taken to issuing exam papers, results, reading materials and other evaluation or learning equipment online. These are just some of the ways that technology revolutionize education. Without the proper technological knowledge, some of the tasks expected of a teacher or student can be difficult to achieve. Therefore, technology is perceived as annoying, irritating and to some extent intimidating. Well, here are seven ways that you can use to implement or use technology in your classroom.

1. Social media

The social media is a major aspect of children in this era. Teachers can use this media or platform to their advantage by becoming friends and sharing essential information through the technological platform. Students, parents and their teachers can sign up for online conferencing and hold meetings, give parents their children’s school progress, share learning materials etc. Teachers, for example, can share unique students write ups with the rest of the class and or solicit their opinion in regards to a topic or subject to be or already covered. For example, through Twitter’s backchannel, teachers can obtain students feedback, share ideas or learning materials. Furthermore, the student’s attention will be with you as all of them are quite fond of the social media.

2. Blogs, Wiki and YouTube

Advanced level students can use these for learning purposes. This includes posting assessments and evaluations and other important such as best write-ups that students have in a certain period. The blogs can also be a strategic learning as well as a support initiative where students are encouraged to be themselves. They can post their hand works online for others to see, evaluate and rate or criticise for better growth. The teacher can also publish the best works by the students on the same platform. This further encourages them and also sharing the information in class is a major way of promoting and showing appreciation to the students.

3. Creating Google and Apple Apps

These are quite essential especially in sharing important and pertinent information with class, parents and other stakeholders. Teachers can create school calendars, an app containing different school materials to assist the students in reading on their own. In addition, the students can use many forums in these apps for their own benefit and learning purposes. For example, an educative and fun app for games is a nice way for the students to be engaged in a class. This is in relation to games that are related to different games that are developed from a topic on the school books or class subjects.

4. Video Streaming

Pictures, images or videos are quite fundamental in forming opinions and learning. It is said that information tends to be imprinted into a person’s mind and are easier to remember for everyone. Furthermore, they capture and entertain the students, which make learning fun. This is an example that is being set by YouTube and other video streaming facilities. With a step by step instruction manual with pictures to illustrate it further, it becomes the most effective means of teaching and for students, the easiest means to grasp and understand what is being taught. In addition, these videos are already there on any subject and therefore, finding one that rhymes with your topic is not that difficult.

5. Mobile devices

This is on an increasing trend especially in use inside the classrooms. It is evident that many students use them for other purposes other than learning. Therefore, introducing class assignments to be shared and distributed through the mobile devices e.g. WhatsApp. You can create students groups and assign them various tasks that they will be required to full fill using their internet or mobile connection. This ensures they pay attention to their learning and education and creates cohesion among the students assigned a specific task. Also encourage them to let others acquire reading materials by sharing them with others.

6. Video conferencing

This is one of the best means of teaching for both students and teachers. For students, it means that their favourite teacher will be present even though he/she is in a different geographical location. Video conferencing offers a platform for interactions between students and their teacher. It can be used to issue the student’s instructions on their daily tasks, offer presentations and much more.


Technology is a useful tool in the development and growth of schools and other educational institutions. Its utilisation for schooling and classroom purposes is an added advantage to the society and specifically to the children.