Teachers Pick Their Top 5 Back-To-School Tech Tools

American consumers will shell out an estimated $2.6 billion for back-to-school supplies this fall. That’s up 1.7% over last year, incidentally, an indication that even in tough economic times, there’s no escaping the lure of the 64-box of Crayons. And as parents and students are shopping for their back-to-school supplies, educators are preparing a whole other set of tools for the classroom.

We asked educators what is the one new tech tool they are most looking forward to taking into the classroom with them this fall – hardware or software, a new tool, or just one that’s new to their class.

The responses were pretty diverse, but here are the most popular answers:

1. The iPad: Mobile Learning

The iPad and Twitter tied for the number of votes in our back-to-school survey. But if you combine those teachers who listed the iPad with those who voted for tablets, along with the shout-out for the 15 netbook mini-lab, then the educators who responded are most excited about bringing mobile hardware in the classroom. Many teachers noted this will be their first experience with 1-to-1 technologies.

2. Twitter: Real-Time Information

It’s not surprising, perhaps, since requests to complete our survey were passed around via Twitter, that many educators who responded said they were looking forward to incorporating Twitter into their work routines this fall. Teachers said they planned to use Twitter as a microblogging tool in the classroom, as a way to communicate with parents and the community, and as a part of a teacher’s own professional development and personal learning network.

3. Google Apps for Education: Cloud-Based Collaboration

Several teachers who responded said they’re looking forward to using various apps in the Google Apps for Education suite this fall. Some teachers said they’re planning to have students submit their assignments or complete quizzes using Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Forms. Other teachers said they’re looking forward to having students collaborate on projects via Google Apps.

4. Blogs: Student Portfolios

Blogging remains an important and popular classroom tool as blogs can be incorporated into the curriculum at almost every grade level. Indeed, the teachers who mentioned blogs as their most anticipated tool ranged from those working in elementary school to those teaching at the college-level. Several teachers indicated they planned to use blogs for portfolio-based assessments.

5. Sharing and Collaboration Tools: 21st Century Teaching and Learning

Other than the repeated responses of “iPad,” “Twitter,” “Google Apps,” and “blogs,” the answers we received on our back-to-school survey were remarkably varied, and many of the tools only appeared in one answer. But one thing that over twenty of the products teachers mentioned had in common: they were tools for sharing and collaboration, tools like as Wikispaces, VoiceThread, and SlideShare. In general, then, these are the most anticipated tools for the school year. That educators are incorporating these tools into the classroom isn’t a surprise as collaboration is an important part of 21st century teaching and learning.

Despite all the money spent on back-to-school supplies (and all the money spent on equipping school districts with various hardware and software), it is notable that most of the tools that teachers mentioned are available for free (or have a free version).

Thanks to the educators who filled out our survey. If you have another tech tool you’re looking forward to bringing into the classroom with you this fall, please let us know!

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