Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been asking educators to tell me which new technology tool they were most looking forward to bringing with them back-to-school this fall.

These didn’t have to be new tools per se; just new to the survey respondent for this school year. And these didn’t have to be tools that they were teaching with or that they were using with students. They could be tools for administrative purposes or for professional development, for example.

A couple of notes here about my methodology before I dive into the results: I created a survey as a Google Form and tweeted the link a couple of times. I also posted the link to Google Plus. So that makes this a highly un-scientific survey as you had to be connected to my social networks — either through retweets or shares — to have the chance to participate. I didn’t restrict this to a particular grade level, and I invited all educators, regardless of job title, to participate.

Also of interest, each time I tweeted the link to the survey, I had 2 or 3 retweets. When I posted the survey to Google Plus as opposed to Twitter, the link was more than twice as likely to be re-shared. No one on Twitter @-replied with their tech tool of choice. But my post on Google Plus did elicit 14 some-odd comments with people discussing various technologies they’d be bringing back-to-school with them (including, of course, a couple of wry comments from those educators who worked all summer.)

Most Anticipated Tech Tools for the 2011 School Year:

  1. Google Plus
  2. Edmodo
  3. iPad


With that high level of engagement on Google Plus, it’s no surprise then that Google’s nascent social network absolutely dominated the results, with more than double the replies of the next, most popular tool. Many respondents described the promise of Google Plus not so much in terms of their own personal learning networks, but as a way to engage a Facebook-oriented student population. Several noted that they wished that full integration with Google Apps for Education was in place as it would round out the “social” piece of the various collaboration tools (Sites, for example).

That “social” piece seems to be incredibly important as we move into the new school year, as indicated by the second most popular tool in my survey: the education-focused social network Edmodo. Teachers said they looked forward to using Edmodo for handing out and receiving assignments and hoped that the social network would help encourage shy and quiet students to feel like they could have a place to express themselves.

When I conducted the same survey this time last year, the most popular response was the iPad. That wasn’t a surprise, really, as last year would have been the first full academic year with these mobile devices at a teacher’s disposal. Although classrooms have long had 1:1 laptop initiatives, the iPad seems to have rekindled (so to speak) interest in these sorts of programs. The iPad does remain popular this year, although it’s dropped to third place. I don’t think this marks any sort of diminished interest in the iPad, but it’s an indication perhaps that new gadgetry doesn’t always outshine useful, functional software — in this case, focused around social networks.

Rounding out last year’s most anticipated tools were Twitter, Google Apps for Education, and student blogs. None of these garnered more than a vote or two this year. Again, I don’t think this means these tools aren’t in use as widely any more; rather that they’ve been in use already and teachers are trying other new things this school year; tools like document cameras, Evernote, Moodle, cell phones, and Collaborize Classroom.

Readers, we’d still love to hear what new technology tools you plan to bring back-to-school with you this fall. Please let us know in the comments!

The Most Anticipated Tech Tools of Back-to-School 2011 15 August,2011Audrey Watters
  • Jon Orech

    My most anticipated tech tool?  I have 4.  And they are all free:

    1. Designing lessons where students “Create” instead of “Complete.”
    2. Having students create for authentic audiences and purposes (Instead of writing for the “teacher” for a “grade.”)
    3. Having students be more peer reliant in their learning process.
    4. Allowing students to explore their passions.

    To me it’s all about changing classroom structures instead of merely “integrating” technology.  All three of the aforementioned tools WILL make a difference, but first we need to change how we do business in the classroom.

    Jon Orech
    Twitter: @jorech:twitter 

  • Phil Humphreys

    TI-Nspire CX… We (a school in Telford, UK) have a class set ready for use in maths lessons in September along with the wireless Navigator teacher software…

    @PhilHumphreys1 (Twitter)

  • Rafa Oliva

    Let me introduce you http://www.redAlumnos.com, it
    is a free social network for teachers, students, and parents much better than Edmodo, where teachers can:

    > Create groups for their students.> Share documents, videos, links,
    pictures…> Make online tests.> Set timetables.> Create classroom events.> Mini-blogging features.> Manage homework, webquests…

    pupils can:

    > Integrate all subjects, courses
    and activities in a single web.> Download teacher’s documents.> Manage and upload pictures.> Upload an create on-line their own documents.> Create their own groups of
    friends or classmates.> Be teachers and studens at the
    same time.

    Parents can:

    > See what their sons do.
    > Keep in touch with teachers.
    > Manage their own groups.
    > Be students, too.

    don’t need a server, you don’t need to pay, just join and go! It’s free
    and easy, available in english and spanish.


    See you in redAlumnos!!!

  • With ePals’ launch of Learning Space 2.0 this week, I think the social learning network landscape will change dramatically. Lots of exciting things going on at ePals these days.

  • Maggielillian

    I have used the doc cam for the past year and I am hooked. I can’t even think of making overhead’s anymore. I have used the doc cam to film my students and they are thrilled by seeing themselves. Also, doing work is real time and showing them pictures in color really pulls them in.

    I had never heard of Evernote, Moodle, ore Collaborize Classroom before. These sound like things that might work better with upper grades, but I will explore them further.

    I do not use facebook, but I know that most other people in the world do. I am concerned about privacy. I like my e-mail and the phone.

  • Amy Cottle

    I use a document camera and video camera in my classroom. My students have truly enjoyed using the document camera to share their writing. I have a laptop that I can use this year. I am so excited to hook it up to my ELMO and use KQED science videos and many other internet related sites in my classroom.
    I was not familiar with Edmodo or Google Apps ( I use the traditional google). I would like to learn more about these two technology tools.

  • Jocel Fortuno

    This year, my most anticipated tech tools are:

    1. the SmartBoard
    2. the iPad
    3. the FlipCam

    I teach a K-2 SH-Autism class & want to invogorate our science curriculum. The first two gadgets I will request from DonorsChoose, EdFund & Philantopic Ventures Foundation. The third one, I am in the process of getting it through this post. 🙂 I want to use all of these to “Inquirize Teaching” in my classroom (Everett & Moyers, March 2007).

    Thanks to KQED, Nancy & Hilary for the knowledge & skills!

    Jocel F.

  • Eva36

    I would love a Smart Board, a document camera, and/or an Ipad!  No doubt these devices would enrich a student’s experience.  However, as a second year teacher with absolutely no idea how one comes by these awesome tech tools, I am most excited about creating videos with a flipcam.  I think both students and parents will enjoy watching documentation of various activities and lessons.  As not only a new teacher but a (very!) new technology devotee…I have really enjoyed learning how I can use technology to engage and support student learning.  I have not heard of Edmodo or Google apps, Evernote or Moodle before but now that it is on my radar, I will be sure to check them out.  Ah well…better late than never, right?

  • All this tech is great! IF you have the cash for it! Most schools can’t afford it, and most can’t afford the staff development to train everyone how to use it and keep up with the newest uses for it.

  • Jason

    A few years ago, after watching with frustrated amazement when teachers were not efficiently sharing web sites with students, I built http://www.19Pencils.com.

    It’s free service allowing teachers to: search, save, and share web resources with students and other teachers. It’s simple and allows teachers to easily save sites for later use, as well as track the usage of their content.


  • Jamari York


  • Elizab Mccarthy

    What happened to Google+ in schools? I’m still waiting.

  • Shelpike

    I am going to try using a wiki in math class to have students collaboration math problems and build an online visual glossary. PBWorks is the tool I have been working with to develop the wiki this summer.

  • An excellent tool to encourage independent learning is ‘Twiducate’ – 
    Feedback from both students, parents and colleagues has been excellent.

  • Cindy Austin

    I am “flipping’ my classroom using my SMART board. Hoping to use Moodle for classroom management and socrative for formative assessment. I recently purchased a polaroid 7” tablet that included a keyboard – this will allow students to watch pre-recorded video lectures!

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