13 FREE Tools for Educators to Connect and Communicate
As educators, we need to be the story tellers of our schools and promote the positive in a proactive manner. There are so many wonderful FREE tools available to educators that can be used at the district, building and classroom levels. Joy Kirr recently published “Shift This.” She poignantly writes in her book “It’s not about the tech! It is because of the technology that we can make connections.” Tech can be used to:
- Create Content
- Connect and Network
- Share Resources
- Engage Families and the Community
- Tell Your Story
Smore Pages. Smore has been my go to for parent newsletters and staff weekly memos for the past year. The site allows users to simply create and personalize multimedia newsletters that can be shared via a link to readers. Since using it, I’ve also worked on developing informational pages that include interactive links, images, and videos and continue to seek ways to use them in creative and meaningful ways. I’ve created a summer resource list for parents of camps, websites, and local resources to curb the summer slump. I’ve created a compliation of images celebrating our fifth graders recollections of their grade school years to serve as a digital keepsake. I’ve sent parents updates about state testing information using a smore page that included schedules, links to practice tests, images and more. The possibilities are truly endless!
Twitter: In 140 characters or less, you can paint a picture of your classroom or school by sharing quotes, stories, images, and resources to parents, the community and other educators. Twitter has been my go-to for making connections with other educators and building my PLN (Personal Learning Network). It is because of the connections I’ve made from twitter, that I continue to challenge myself as an educational leader. It’s a powerful hub of individuals seeking and sharing information to better their practices and work with kids. Schools can use twitter to showcase their schools or chronicle their story by establishing a school-wide hashtag or a hashtag for specific events or activities. Schools can embed the feed on their website or link their facebook and twitter feeds using plug-ins or apps.
- Teacher’s Guide to Twitter
- Twitter for Teachers
- 50 Ways to Use Twitter in the Classroom
- Twitter Cheat Sheet for Teachers
Instagram: We live in a time where parents and students are on multiple or varied social media platforms. Instagram’s simplicity allows for users to post single images or short videos to share with their followers using various filters and hashtags. I see educators following other educators as a source of inspiration and professional development. Teachers post ideas, projects, activities or innovative concepts that are then shared with their followers. Communicating with parents and the community by showcasing and highlighting important elements of the school day and learning environment is easily done using Instagram. Some additional ideas for using Instragram in education can be found below:
- Using Instagram in the Classroom: Five Activities
- Using Instagram in an Educational Context
- Instagram in Education
- Ten Ideas for Instagram in the Classroom
Snapchat: Snapchat can be used in many ways. Their website, Snapchat in Education, has a plethora of ideas to engage parents and students. Book Snaps are also a reflective tool for students to create when reading. Tara Martin and Dave Burgess published a blog post describing how you can use Snap Chat to create book snaps and engage students in learning and reflecting! You can also read Tara’s #BookSnaps blog HERE
Facebook: Facebook is probably the largest and most readily available audience for schools to tap into to share news, celebrate success, promote events, and communicate.
- Facebook Live allows followers an inside look at school events or activities when done during the school day.
- Schools and classrooms can tag local businesses, organizations or entities to reach more users and followers. When partnering with the library, holding a fundraiser at a local restaurant, or thanking a business for their donation, Facebook is the perfect avenue for promoting the partnership through tags and check-ins.
- Creating events on Facebook allows followers to share, post, and invite others to attend school events or activities
- School pages can tag or share classroom pages
- School pages can assign staff as ‘admins’ or contributors to the page so that multiple individuals can post throughout the day!
IFTTT: Sharing information across multiple modes of communication doesn’t have to be time consuming or challenging. Using the resources on IFTTT, users can sync their social media accounts to generate posts on multiple accounts and platforms at the same time.
Weebly: Weebly provides teachers a free platform and templates for designing visually appealing websites easily and efficiently.
Edublogs: Edublogs has been my Go To for reflecting and sharing my ideas with other educators. I enjoy the simplicity of editing, posting and sharing my reflections.
Blogger: Blogger is another avenue for blogging and sharing ideas that has similar features as EduBlogs!
Wix: Wix offers a website building set of templates that are free and easy to update, share and maintain.
Google Sites: Google sites easily connect to your Google Drive and allow you to upload images, docs, slides and other google content. Google sites can easily be used by students to showcase their work in digital portfolios or data binders or for educators to build websites to share with families and update with Google Docs.
See Saw: See Saw allows teachers and students to create online digital portfolios and communicate progress using their See Saw platform. See Saw allows students to capture their learning through photos, videos, drawings, notes, and links! Parents will receive updates immediately and provide students feedback and encouragement. Teachers can also apply for the Ambassador program and receive professional development and incentive for becoming proficient in its uses and application.
Canva: Canva allows users to create professional quality graphics and images without being a professional graphic artist! A previous blog post shares how to use Canva and other graphic tools to spice up your communication and posts