By Dennis Pierce
One of the great benefits of technology is that it empowers students to unleash their creativity as they produce videos, books, computer programs, and other artifacts to demonstrate their learning. There are countless numbers of high-quality edtech tools that can inspire student creativity, but here are some of my favorites. What are your own personal preferences? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Creativity and Video Editing Tools
Two of my favorite “blank canvas” tools for creating drawings, posters, charts, presentations, or virtually anything you can think of are Google Drawings and Drawp for School.
Google Drawings is a Chrome-based app that combines the word-processing functionality of Google Docs with drawing and painting tools. As with Google Docs, you can also insert comments or images within a Google Drawings file. Your creations are saved automatically to Google Drive, and you can download them as PDF or JPEG files as well. You can also open Google Drawings from a Docs file, and your handiwork will appear within the document you’re working on.
Drawp for School, available as an app for iOS, Android, or Chrome, includes a built-in platform for sharing and asynchronous collaboration. It integrates with Google Drive and Dropbox, and users can record and attach audio files to their creations as “voice stickers,” which is a great way for teachers to give instructions or feedback to their students. Workflow management features enable teachers to distribute and collect student work as easily as with paper worksheets, while automatically storing this work in the private Drawp cloud.
For creating and editing video, WeVideo is a simple tool that makes video projects easy to complete, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro. With WeVideo, students can create and edit their own videos online and can collaborate on group projects.
This browser-based video editing platform is platform agnostic, meaning it works across any device. It includes two different interfaces to accommodate users of varying skill levels. The Storyboard interface is for basic users, while a more advanced interface called Timeline allows you to add transitions and graphics. The tool is free for individual users, but the company sells school-based accounts that include a private, secure “walled garden” feature for sharing videos only among students and their teacher.
Book Creation Tools
Last year, Shutterfly—the popular online service that enables users to create photo books, cards, and stationery and share these with friends and family—launched a new service geared toward schools.
Shutterfly’s Photo Story iPad app gives students a platform to create their own photo books to demonstrate their understanding or for personal self-expression. Users can import and then draw over photos using their finger, and they can record audio narration as well. Since Shutterfly first introduced the service, it has added customization features that let students create new text and photo boxes beyond what the standard templates allow.
The app itself is available free of charge, and Shutterfly charges schools $10 per book to print the books that students create, with volume discounts available.
Another popular book creation tool, Book Creator, is an app for iOS and Android devices—and now it will be available on desktop devices for the first time as well. Its developers are offering the app free of charge on the Windows store for a limited time following its June 23 launch. Book Creator for Windows takes a blank-canvas approach to creativity that makes publishing and sharing e-books simple and intuitive, allowing students of all ages to create their own ePub files.
Robotics and STEM Creation Tools
The “maker” movement is catching on quickly in education, and many educators have designated parts of their classrooms as “makerspaces” where students can tinker and create as they learn by doing. This movement is fueled by advances in technology that allow students to design and build much more complex projects—and with less specialized knowledge—than prior generations.
LittleBits allows students to create electronic devices without having to wire or solder pieces together, while Makey Makey is an “invention kit” that turns almost any object into an input device.
BirdBrain Technologies is in the same vein. Founded by an instructor at the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, the company offers engineering and robotics kits that students of nearly all ages can use.
BirdBrain’s Hummingbird is a kit for middle and high school students to build robots, kinetic sculptures, and animatronics from a combination of kit parts and crafting materials. Students can use simple software environments to program their creations.
Finch is a robot designed for computer science education. It supports more than a dozen programming languages and environments, including several appropriate for students as young as eight years old. Finch includes light, temperature, and obstacle sensors, as well as a pen mount for drawing capability.
Through the company’s new web store, schools can buy these items with education discounts and get free shipping on any orders over $75.