Updated: Nov 25, 2019
There are so many applications and programs available to use, it’s often hard to know where to start.
As an educator teaching in the tech space, I am constantly looking for new apps and software to use with my learners.
At Tonui Colllab we endeavour to use only free or very low cost programs, this is to enable our learners to continue to use them at home or at school.
Below I’ve compiled a top 4 list of my current favourite teaching tools I’m using with our learners. If you have any comments, questions or feedback please do let us know, we’d love to hear from you.
This one’s an application we use on our ipads, but you can play via a PC and it’s also available on the Google Play Store, and it’s totally free, yay.
We don’t put our learners on ipads to play games, but this one is a great learning tool, I’ve used it a lot when teaching CS Unplugged (coding off the computer in a physical space) to link to their learning of algorithms.
The aim of the game is to write a series of instructions (an algorithm) using simple blocks, like forward, turn, jump and light on. The blocks must be in the correct order and you have a limited number of blocks you can use. As you move through each level it gets harder, you have to really think about the efficiency of your code. It then introduces loops and extra coding blocks.
I’ve used this with 5 year olds to introduce them to coding, it’s amazing to see how they link their learning from the CS unplugged part of the session to LightBot.
I always get students to team up when they play this so they can problem solve together to find solutions.
I keep coming back to this software and finding new applications for it as an educator. It’s a powerful free graphics program you can either download or use online.
I’ve also found some great online tutorials, more recently I was teaching students how to create a digital character of themselves.
It’s a great way to learn a range of tools and understand how graphics use shapes to generate more complex images and icons. Check out this awesome tutorial here.
I’ve also used this software for photo manipulation, logo design and animated gifs.
In my opinion this is the best free alternative to Adobe Illustrator, offering a wide range of tools, user friendly interface and good export options for your final work.
You can get a paid version but I have been using the free version with groups and it does everything I need it to do.
What I love about this software is that It incorporates block based coding to bring your VR spaces and characters alive. What you can create is really only limited by your own imagination.
You can get started for free with Cospaces, we started off with the free version but moved to an annual subscription costing $150, this gives us a teachers account with access for up to 30 students, which is pretty good value. I would suggest trying it for free and if you like it and want to go further then look at investing.
There’s a really great library of characters and objects but you can also upload additional 3D elements. We have used the software to link with school inquiry topics, for example learners creating interactive VR stories, where they can share their knowledge in an engaging and fun way.
Another element I really like is the ‘physics’ button, this allows learners to explore the physics of moving objects, including their mass and friction. An example of this is challenging students to build and code a VR Jenga game, blocks must have a physical element in order to work in the game, it really got me thinking!
This software comes with a huge range of online resources including lesson plans, YouTube Tutorials and a huge Gallery where creators share their work. You can share and even remix other creators code, a bit like reverse engineering a game, it’s a great way to learn.
Check it out right here.
I discovered this little bit of tech at the start of the year, after some research we ordered a box of 10 (cost $235 total).
Now it’s not a free tool but it’s great value and comes with a heap of support and online resources.
It’s basically a micro computer packed full of sensors including a gyroscope, compass, bluetooth and more. It was designed for school children, so it’s robust and you don’t need to worry about the kids having a tutu with it, in fact we highly encourage it. Check out https://microbit.org/ for more details.
This was my number 1 choice because it’s both tactile, letting learners engineer in a physical space, as well as online through the coding of the Micro:Bit.
We encourage collaboration, the Micro:Bit allows students to work in teams on projects with many different aspects, from the code to the build. There are a whole heap of lesson plans and ideas to support teachers and students online, these are all free.
The interface for coding the Micro:Bit is called MakeCode, it’s a simple well set up interface with links to help and ideas for projects. You can also move between block coding and Java Script which is great for advancing learners.
Some of my favourite projects include solar powered irrigation systems, recycled remote controlled cars, magic eight balls and light sensing monsters.
I would highly recommend a school investing in a box of these, test it out in the classroom and challenge your learners to see what they can create. There’s no need to buy lots of expensive additions either, as you can use simple electronic components with this hardware.
Or book into one of our workshops and we can set you a Micro:Bit challenge for you and your students, that way you get to try before you buy!