Kristal Doolin

Kristal Doolin

By the time this article is posted online, I will have already welcomed my new students, established rules and routines, and set them up in our digital classroom on Edmodo, the first of many technology tools we will use this year. As summer slips away and you make plans for meeting Kentucky Core Academic Standards and Program Review requirements for the new year, you are undoubtedly looking to technology as well.

What tech tools will you include from years past, and what’s new? What will inspire creativity, motivate your students and make your job easier?  In an effort to continue encouraging collaboration across the state, as I mentioned in my last article, I’d like to share a few of the “must have” tech tools in my classroom.


Edmodo is a free social media site currently connecting more than 20 million teachers and students globally in a safe environment where they can collaborate and share. The site allows teachers to setup classes, class discussion and assignments. It’s no secret Edmodo is at the top of my list. I’ve done many presentations across the state introducing it to other educators. The social media aspect of Edmodo motivates my 21st century “community” of learners while also allowing me to communicate with parents, connect with educators around the globe and much more.


Screencast-o-matic is a screen-recording site that simplifies the process of creating videos of lessons or presentations for blended or flipped instruction. With one click it allows you to capture whatever is on your screen with narration or other sound effects for video presentation.  The site will also host your video after it’s completion or you may publish to YouTube or other hosting sites so students can access the videos. While there is a free option that allows you to make perfectly good videos, I recommend paying the nominal $15.00 fee for all features.

Google Docs

Google Docs is an online wonder!  It allows the user to create and store documents, presentations and more without downloading any software. Students are able to collaborate on projects in real time and edit together while teachers can also track all revisions and provide feedback. An added bonus – Google Docs is now automatically available in your Edmodo library. Visit Google in Education and learn how to bring it to your school.


Quizlet is an online study tool that allows teachers to set up flashcard sets for students to work with as needed. Students can access the cards for study, gaming and practice tests. Students love to compete with one another and Quizlet encourages them to learn while competing with games like Space Race and Scatter. The service is free whether you choose for students to play anonymously or with accounts; however, in order to monitor student efforts individual accounts are needed.


If you’ve ever dealt with students constantly misplacing their journal, this is the site for you. Penzu is an online journal site that allows teachers to create their own journal and setup classes to house student journals online. Students are able to personalize their journal and share entries with the class when needed. Teachers are able to not only view student journals, but also to create and grade assignments and comment on individual entries. Try Penzu for free or set up an account for $19 per year.

Today’s Meet

Today’s Meet is a free backchannel discussion site that is extremely simple to use. In a matter of minutes teachers can create a room where students can discuss, ask questions and comment both during the lesson and after. My students love Today’s Meet for making connections and asking questions during whole class reading. Often they answer one another before I have a chance.


Planbookedu is an answer to the prayer of many teachers. This online interactive plan book allows teachers to create lesson plans, connect each day’s plan to Kentucky Core Academic Standards included within the plan book, and link any documents, presentations, videos or other materials required to each day’s plan. Everything is housed in one location instead of many. There are two account options free or premium, which cost $25 per year.

Hopefully, you have loads of resources available at your school or at least a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy in your district so you can take advantage of great tools like those listed above. However, if the accessibility hurdle is creating a roadblock, do not give up. I had great success last year with eight iPhones that were donated to my classroom.

With that said, I’d like to invite you to share your favorite tools or ideas for integrating technology in the classroom this year to meet both our 21st Century learning goals and to improve productivity of teachers and students. I’m always inspired by the creative ways teachers make things happen for their students. As the old saying goes, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” I think there’s a good chance that originated with a teacher.

Kristal Doolin, a language arts teacher at Corbin Middle School in the Corbin Independent school district, was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 17, 2012. During her year-long reign, Doolin will write a monthly column for Kentucky Teacher that chronicles her experience as a classroom teacher. The column runs the second Thursday of each month.