I recently picked up Invent to Learn from the Amazon Kindle store, which is free to borrow with an Amazon Prime membership. The authors Sylvia Libow Martinez & Gary Stager argue that “the past few decades have been a dark time in many schools. Emphasis on high-stakes standardized testing, teaching to the test, de-professionalizing teachers, and depending on data rather than teacher expertise has created classrooms that are increasingly devoid of play, rich materials, and time to do projects.” They encourage teachers to join the technological and creative revolution by joining in on the making process because it “lets you take control of your life, be more active, and be responsible for your own learning.” While there are plenty of free online resources available to better help educators teach students how to think rather than teach them what to think, having additional technology in the classroom can always help fuel student passion and drive creativity in a student-centered classroom.
Below are 12 powerful gadgets that will transform your classroom and without a doubt make learning more fun:
The Kindle Paperwhite is one of the greatest additions to your classroom. While they may present a large upfront cost, they could save money in the long run. Many books in the Kindle store allow for downloads onto multiple devices making the cost of purchasing new books cheaper. In fact with Overdrive you can borrow a lot of books or audiobooks from your local library for free. Also there are plenty of free books available to download in the Kindle store if you are looking for Classics or for lesser known authors. The Kindle Paperwhite also allows for children to bookmark and highlight books without damaging the book. The backlight also allows children to read in low light situations and the e-ink allows for reading outdoors. Kindles are also more durable than most tablets because they use e-ink rather than LCD displays and they can hold a charge for up to 6 weeks, yet they still include helpful touch functions making them more accessible to children. You can also get the Kindle for Kids Bundle for $99.00 or the Kindle for $79.00.
I first heard about Arduino from Invent to Learn. According to their official website, Arduino is a tool for making computers that can sense and control more of the physical world than your desktop computer. It’s an open-source physical computing platform based on a simple microcontroller board, and a development environment for writing software for the board.” It essentially allows children to take their programming to the next level from developing software applications to actually doing physical computing. “The boards can be assembled by hand or purchased preassembled; the open-source IDE can be downloaded for free.” So far with the Arduino people have created 3D printers, robots, LED cubes, arcades, etc. You can get the starter kit for only $54.99.
3. 3D Printer
3D Printers allow kids to bring to life their different creations. It gives students extra motivation to create new things by both learning related software on the computer as well as putting together the pieces of whatever they have constructed. You can get the HICTOP Prusa I3 3D Desktop Printer for as little as $363.99 with assembly required. However, as a maker classroom, I’m sure that shouldn’t be a problem to save a few bucks. You can also get the Dremel Idea Builder 3D Printer, which comes pre-assembled for $999.oo. There are also a number of other choices out there, so pick one that is right for your classroom.
Document Cameras are an amazing addition to the classroom. While they may not do much more than you could already do without one, they do allow you to project any documents you are working on to the screen with ease. A magnified image allows you to display smaller documents such as photos, worksheets, or an iPad to the larger screen for an entire classroom to see. The IPEVO Ziggi-HD High-Definition USB Document Camera goes runs at a great price of only $94.00, but if you would prefer an even cheaper option, there is the IPEVO Point 2 View USB Camera for only $69.00.
Recently Google launched Expeditions which allows your class to go on field trips across the globe without ever stepping foot outside of the classroom. In addition to Expeditions, there are also a number of other things that can be done with Google Cardboard (only $16.99, mobile device not include) as seen here.
SmartBoards and Promethean Boards have come to replace our once beloved whiteboards and blackboards. However, not every classroom has access to them. With eBeam you can bring the power of a SmartBoard to your classroom with a small plugin projectable unit. It projects onto a blank space such as a whiteboard and still allows for normal interactivity similar to that of a SmartBoard. eBeam is a bit pricey at $749.00, but IPEVO also sells the IPEVO IS-01 Portable Interactive Whiteboard System at an amazingly low price of $149.00.
Osmo is an iPad accessory that claims to foster “social intelligence and creative thinking by opening up the iPad to the endless possibilities of physical play.” Rated as TIME Magazine’s Best Invention of 2014, Osmo uses the camera as a means to track motion for different games. There are currently four apps available for Osmo, which include Masterpiece, Words, Tangram, and Newton. Osmo goes for a mere $77.72.
Lego Mindstorms have been around for a while but they still appear to be popular in the STEM and robotics communities. Mindstorms allow children to add additional fun to traditional LEGOs by giving them the ability to program them to perform a variety of tasks. Mindstorms give a good introductory experience to robotics and can be programmed to do complex tasks despite their easy to use interfaces.
Chromecast allows you to access movies, music, internet, etc. from your television easily. Along with Chromecast, competitors include Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, and Apple TV. All of them roughly do the same thing and go for roughly the same price, but there are certain advantages to each one such as the ability to mirror your iPad on the Apple TV or the ability to plug your earphones into your Roku remote for private listening.
GoPro may not necessarily be the best option for a video camera in your classroom if you need the full functionality of other video cameras such as zoom features or a good microphone. However, GoPros do have incredibly beautiful picture quality with even the cheapest units being able to record 1080p. They are also incredibly durable and drop proof, as well as waterproof. One boy lost his GoPro in the water while boogie boarding and had it found two years later. Apparently the camera sustained some damage but the video was completely viewable. The original GoPro Hero goes for only $129.99 while the bundle is only an additional $10 and includes a 32GB mini SD card and head strap. You can also get newer versions such as the GoPro Hero 4 Silver Edition for $399.99. The bundle on Amazon is the same price as the camera by itself and includes a 64GB mini SD card, additional batteries and charger, and a head strap mount.
LiveScribe is good for students who are better manual note takers, but lack organization. LiveScribe allows the user to jot down notes and attach audio recordings to those notes. Using special dot paper, the LiveScribe can recognize the writing of the user and save it onto a computer, tablet, or mobile device. Then notes can be clicked on to access certain voice recordings that occurred at the exact moment those notes were taken. Get the Livescribe 3 for $129.95 or get the Livescribe Echo for $116.99.
This is a great tool for scanning multiple documents in a quick fashion. I used to struggle when scanning because I would have to do one page at a time. ScanSnap allows you to scan dozens of pages at a time and it will even allow certain options such as readable text conversions to your PDFs to allow you to highlight and copy text. The ScanSnap runs at about runs at about $419.95.