With the COVID-19 pandemic and a subsequent boom in online learning tools, many education practices that used to take place in person have now shifted to the internet. What was once learned in a classroom is now discussed in a chat room, and e-books are the new textbooks. As the world of education continues to move further into the online sphere, learning how to use technology to your advantage in this context has never been more important.
EdTech, which refers to education technology, combines IT and software tools with educational practices as a means of enhancing learning. EdTech tools help to create a more engaging and interactive online learning experience for students.
Wondering which EdTech tools are the most beneficial to facilitate online learning? Let’s take a look at the top five, as well as the pros and cons of each.
1. Microsoft OneNote
Note-taking just got much easier. Microsoft OneNote is an easy-to-use digital note-taking program that gathers notes, drawings and audio commentaries. You need a Microsoft account to use the program on Android, iOS, macOS, and/or Windows devices. The program is free to download and use under the Basic membership plan, which is rich with features and offers extensive storage.
However, OneNote can be a bit slow and tricky to navigate. It can take a while for notebooks to load, particularly when the program has just been installed on a new device, which can be frustrating for users. Similarly, while OneNote can clip videos, it does so at a slow rate. Sharing your notes with other users can also be a tedious process; if you want to share a link to a section or a page with someone, you need to give that person permission to the whole notebook in order for them to access it.
If students are working on a group assessment, MindMeister is an ideal platform. Perfect for visual learners, this cloud-based brainstorming tool allows students to create visual brainstorm maps. It greatly facilitates collaboration with helpful features like idea ranking, status tracking, and an activity dashboard. The results are clear and beautiful mind maps that students can easily share and develop with peers.
While the tool offers a free basic plan – which is ideal for a student budget – this plan is somewhat restrictive, offering limited features and only allowing three mind maps on an account at once. The platform also requires an internet connection to operate, making it less convenient for students who prefer to work offline. Lastly, while the platform’s interface is very easy to navigate on desktop, it sometimes glitches on touchscreen devices such as mobile phones.
Video conferencing has revolutionised the world of EdTech, and GoBoard is a perfect example of how. Combining video chatting with an interactive canvas, this online tool is designed for students and teachers to collaborate one-on-one. Whether you’re holding a tutoring session or students are working on a team project, you can simply create a GoBoard on the site, share the link with your peers, and start interacting. The site also offers helpful tools like a graphing calculator, a molecular bonds creator, and a reference library.
Although the platform is free to use and requires no browser download, the free plan does come with certain limitations: you can only have two participants on a call at once and sessions are timed. For a monthly fee, you can upgrade to a premium plan, which offers unlimited session length and up to five participants.
If students are learning English as a second language, Readlang is an excellent EdTech tool that may help. This free web reader makes it easier to read content and learn new words by allowing students to quickly translate words when needed. All they have to do is highlight a word they don’t know and it will be automatically translated. Every word they translate is saved as a flash card they can later refer to on the Flashcards Page. They can also translate full phrases, which can help boost their English language skills even further.
Readlang is available for use on Web, Android, and iOS devices. While there is a free version, which includes unlimited word translations and flash cards but only 10 phrase translations per day, there is also a premium edition that offers unlimited phrase translations. The premium plan is $5 per month – still very affordable for students on a budget.
An important component of holistic learning is financial education. One of the best tools students can use to improve their money skills is Blackbullion, an online financial education tool aimed at post-secondary students. Blackbullion offers online courses, newsletters and tools on personal finance, employability and enterprise skills as a means of empowering students to take control of their financial futures. It’s free to sign up and offers access to lots of useful online resources.
However, the site predominantly targets university students, providing limited recognition to students on alternative study pathways (i.e. college, TAFE). Additionally, because the company is UK-based, certain universities do not appear on the list of options during the registration process, which could cause confusion among users.