Enhance Your Classroom Discussions With Power League

Posted on Wed, May 28, 2014 @ 06:05 AM

classroom discussion 01I’m always looking for new ways to enhance classroom discussions and this morning I came across a cool web application called Power League. Here’s how it works:

Power League allows students to cast individual votes in which they choose between two competing people, ideas or things. In a discussion on technology, for example, they could vote for which piece of technology— mobile phones or MP3 players—they thought was more useful. In a discussion on leadership, they could vote for whom ought to lead the world: Mahatma Gandhi or Bono. Each student chooses one out of a series of random pairs.

classroom discussion 02

By casting votes, students create a “league,” ranked in order of the most powerful, important or influential—and the results of the vote is often surprising, which makes an excellent point for discussion.

Although Power League was originally designed as a playful way to explore the nature of power, the creators have adapted the application so that students can vote on any subject: which is the bigger cause of global warming, for example; or which is the more important invention?


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Topics: Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, classroom discussion

5 More Free Image Sites for Students and Teachers

Posted on Wed, May 21, 2014 @ 14:05 PM

Thanks to the Internet, everything is “free”—at least that’s what lots of people think. Whether we intend to or not, most of us have taken some piece of digital property without paying for it. Photos are one of the most tempting pieces of digital property to take. Why? First, because downloading them legally through iStock or Shutterstock is inconvenient and expensive; second, because downloading them illegally is so easy.  

There’s really no excuse for stealing images, especially when quality, copyright-free images are only a few clicks away. In addition to the websites we’ve mentioned before, here are five more places where we regularly find free images.

free imagesFree Images is home to over 350,000 quality stock photos by more than 30,000 photographers!

free imagesEvery photo you’ll find on Upsplash is not only free, but comes in high resolution. The curator for the site adds 10 new photos every 10 days. While photos on Upsplash aren’t categorized, you can browse thumbnails of their entire library by clicking here.

free imagesEvery Stock Photo
houses thousands of free photos. Before using an image, be sure to check out the images licensure policy. These come from many sources and are license-specific. You can view a photo's license by clicking on the license icon, below and left of photos. Membership is free and allows you to rate, tag, collect and comment on photos.

free imagesUsing the “advanced image search” feature on Google images is something Richard Byrne taught us a while ago and we’ve been using it ever since.

Head to Google Images and click on the usage rights filter option. No select "advanced image search" on the main Google Images page. Once in the "advanced image search" page, you will find the usage rights options at the bottom of the page. In the usage rights menu you can select one of four options:

  • "labeled for reuse"
  • "labeled for commercial reuse"
  • "labeled for reuse with modification"
  • "labeled for commercial reuse with modification"

free imagesWorld Images Kiosk is an image database curated by the California State University IMAGE Project. Here you’ll find over 100,000 images that are in the public domain. 

Photo credit: dsevilla / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

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Topics: Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, creative commons images, free images

12 Activities to Help Teachers Wind Down the Academic Year

Posted on Fri, May 16, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

  • academic yearMystery Skype is an educational game, invented by teachers, played by two classrooms on Skype. The aim of the game is to guess the location of the other classroom by asking each other questions. Mystery Skype is suitable for all age groups and can be used to teach subjects like geography, history, languages, mathematics and science.

  • Hand out postcards (stamped and addressed) so that your students can tell you about their summer.

  • Find a picture book without words and write your own story. Not sure where to start? Try The Grey Lady and the Strawberry Snatcher by Molly Bang. It’s a classic.

  • Create travel journals. Even if your students don’t end up traveling, they can still use pictures, drawings, articles, receipts, and brief journal entries to document the things they did and saw when they weren’t in school. Kim Rankin’s blog Catching Foxes offers an excellent travel-journal tutorial.

  • Here’s one we borrowed from Kim Haynes over at Teacher Hub: Split the class into groups and assign each a specific topic you studied this year. Give them time to go over their topic and invent a goodend of year activities review activity, which they have to grade. You assess them on whether they get their facts straight and how effective their review activity is.

  • Read Last Day Blues with your students. You’ll love the ending.

  • Before your outgoing students leave for the summer, have each student write a letter to your incoming students. This will give your current students the opportunity to reflect on their experience in your class and share their best pieces of advice for your new students. 
  • Most of us have fun units that we always wanted to teach, but never had time to get to. Now is the time.

  • end of yearHere’s an idea we grabbed from the Farnsworth Family Blog: Have one person sit in front of a white board while the others write a positive phrase about them. Take a picture to give it to the student (one student a day for the last month of school).

  • Create a summer bucket list.
  • Invite your students’ new teacher to visit your room so that s/he can interact with the students.

  • Or try this: Meet the new teacher’s current class. One way to ease your students’ fears about their transition is by having them each interview one studentin their new teacher’s current class. They might ask questions like:
    • What’s it like having Mr. X for a teacher?
    • Did Mrs. M assign a lot of homework?
    • What was your favorite memory this year in Mr. X’s class?
    • What should I know before starting the new school year?



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Topics: Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, classroom management, end of the year activities

Two Apps to Help Teachers Manage Noisy Classrooms

Posted on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 @ 11:04 AM

Keeping the classroom volume at a reasonable level can be tricky, especially when our classroom sizes continue to increase! Sometimes, the collective classroom volume rises so incrementally that we don't even realize it until we’re shouting to be heard. To help you better manage your classroom volume, we’d like to share two new apps with you.

As Richard Byrne points out in one of his recent posts, both apps are similar to another “decibel manager” called Too Noisy. Unlike Too Noisy, though, both of these apps are completely free!

Bouncy Balls behaves like a popcorn machine that runs on noise. The louder your students are, the higher and more frequently the balls bounce. All you need is a microphone so that the app can register the volume and react appropriately.

We also want to mention that you can choose from four different types of “bouncy balls”: eyeballs, plastic balls, bubbles or emotocons.

apps for teachers
Calmness Counter is a lot like Bouncy Balls with two exceptions: 1) Users can adjust the microphone input sensitivity directly on the computer screen; 2) Rather than bouncing balls, Calmness Counter uses a meter to track volume.

apps for teachers

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Topics: Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, classroom management

Wideo makes creating animated videos as simple as drag & drop

Posted on Tue, Jul 09, 2013 @ 09:07 AM

creating animated videosWe can’t speak for you, but we’ve long since reached our creative threshold with Power Point. There’s no shortage of alternatives to this trusty piece of Microsoft software, but we can say without hesitation that Wideo is our new favorite.

Wideo makes creating animated videos as simple as drag & drop

This free and intuitive app allows you to create sleek presentations and animation videos—you can even upload audio files (voiceover, sound effects, or music) to enhance your animations.

Everything with Wideo is as simple as dragging and dropping. Browse different pieces of animation—thought bubbles, arrows, text, characters, etc.—or upload your own photos onto a customizable canvas. Now you’re free to rotate, resize, move and dictate where you want your images and how you want them to appear.

Wideo is a nice blend of traditional presentation software and video creation software. The movement and segues of your icons, texts and pictures are shown on the timeline below the canvas (as you’ll see in the tutorial video below), but then each individual action is split up for the user into key frames, not slides.

The most obvious use for Wideo is to create animations that accompany your classroom lectures, but we’ve also had our students use it as an alternative to book reports. You can even use it to introduce yourself to your students on the first day of school!



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Topics: Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, apps for teachers, digital storytelling, power point alternatives, creating animated videos

186 of the Best YouTube videos for Teachers

Posted on Thu, Jun 06, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

best youtube videos for teachersWe’ve often wondered where we’d be without YouTube. When words and analogies fail us, we often find ourselves turning to YouTube to find commercials, movie clips and TED-Talks lectures to help us reach students in a way that engages them and elucidates abstract concepts.

As you may know, finding useful videos that have educational applications can be time consuming, so we were elated when we came across Paul Bogush’s list of, as he calls it, “186 videos that will make you go huh, whoah, wow, ahhh, and ha-ha.”

We only had time to view a handful of videos off of his list, but we were impressed with what we saw. We have no idea how in world he found all of these gems! Stop by his site and give him a big thank you.

186 of the Best YouTube videos for Teachers

Videos that make us think:

Mankind is no Island

Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes
Did you Know?
Piano Stairs
Dove Evolution
Kaplan U Desks
Do Schools Kill Creativity?
Just One Girl
Micheal Jordon-Failure
The Deepest Garbage Can
The Years are Short
Stuck on an Elevator
The Money Tree
Dear 16 Year Old me
Staring Contest
Power of Words
Be a Follower
Instant Face Maker
Girl and the Fox
Butterfly Circus (if you are going to watch only one…)
I Can’t Read…
Knock Knock
Dear 16 Year Old Me
Why I Hate School but Love Education
I will not let an exam determine my fate

Videos that inspire us:

I Love Living Life
Try to Do
Be the Change You Want to See in the World
Together We Can Change the World
Blind Painter
Free Hugs
Dustin carter
Pep Talk from Kid President to You
Caines Arcade
K id Speech
Think Different
Everyone needs to wear sunscreen
I Hope You See This
Human Shadows

Videos that amaze us:

LED Sheep Herding
Time Warp
Paul the Opera Singer
Breaking Wine Glass
Boyanka Angelova
One in Million Chance
Human Shadow Puppets
Giant Water Slide
Dominoes in the Kitchen
Greatest Car Advertisement Ever
Test Your Awareness 1
Test Your Awareness 2
Test Your Awareness 3
Test Your Awareness 4
Bruce Lee Table Tennis
Golf Ball Reaches Terminal Velocity`
Optical Illusion Dance
Tractor Trailer Mishap
Largest Glacier Calving Ever
Grinding the Crack
Biggest Surf Wave Ever
Dubstep Beatboxer
Ball Camera
Stop Motion
Top Secret Drum Corp
One Man Band
VW Factory
Hearing for the First Time
Coke and Mentos Car
Time Warp Balloon
Breaking a wineglass
Inspired Bicycles
Free Style Football
Wolf’s Law
60 Seconds in a Skate Park
Chalk Art
Mind Blowing Dance
Painting Reality
Animation on a Bike
Evolution of Music
Sand Art
Google Street View Hyperlapse
View from ISS at night
Dream Music
Moon Walk
Tony vs Paul
Stop Motion
On Top of the Hood
I believe I can Fly
Experience Human Flight
Experience Scootering
I Believe I Can Fly 2
Live Augmented Reality

Videos that make us ask questions:

Steven Levitt: Why do crack dealers still live with their moms?
Gever Tulley: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do
Built to Last
What teachers make
Lost Generation
Don’t Eat the Marshmallow Yet
Vision of Students Today
Vision of K-12 Students Today
The Kid No One Wanted
Power of Simple Words
Behind the scenes at McDonalds Photo Shoot
Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
Why you need to fail
The Majestic Plastic bag
Take My Ball and Go Home

Videos that get us to laugh together:

Cat Herding
Life after Death by Powerpoint

Food Fight

The Invisible Rope
Thou Shalt Laugh
Trouble in Paradise
Ron Lucas and Big Dummy
Electric face Stimulus
Basset Hound Beat Box
Martians Meet a Clock
Everything is Amazing and Nobodys Happy
Mr. Bean-Pool
Bill Cosby-Dentists
Five Minute University
Barking Fish
Football vs Baseball
Charlie the Unicorn
Rabbit (ok, maybe not funny but frightening)
We’re Sinking
Sneak Thief
Why you should think before you text
Pigeon Impossible
Entr Kazoo Man
Introducing the Book
Stupid Terrorist
Slinky on Treadmill
Dramatic Surprise 1
Dramatic Surprise 2
Evian Babies
Bulldog Snorting
Ojai Taxidermy
Lighthouse vs Ship
Gotta Share the Musical
Invisible Drumkit
Flying Fish
Marcel the Shell with shoes on
Worst Ice Skater
Funny Animals
Frozen Grand Central
Spy vs Guy
Kiss Cam
Safer in Groups
Inflated Animals
Baby and Me
Duck Heart
Mouth Open
Marcel with Shoes on Two
Fluffy McCloud
Cumulus and Nimbus
Give it a ponder 1
Give it a ponder 2
Give it a ponder 3
Give it a ponder 4
Parallel Parking
Bless You
Uncle Jack (not for all audiences)


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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, best youtube videos for teachers

Rebecca Black, “Friday,” and your students’ digital footprint

Posted on Tue, May 21, 2013 @ 08:05 AM

digital footprintWhen 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s parents handed ARK Music Factory a $4,000 check to have them cut a single and create an accompanying music video for their daughter, they couldn’t possibly have imagined what would happen.  

Four months after “Friday” was recorded, filmed and posted to YouTube it went viral, receiving 166 million views and 3.2 million “dislikes.” Not long after, comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Steven Colbert lampooned the “so-bad-it’s-good” single and critics unanimously echoed that “Friday” was “the worst song ever written.” The derision must have stung, but it was only further exasperated by bullying at school, ominous phone calls and emails containing death threats.

Browse YouTube and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of videos and songs far worse (“worse” is relative, of course) than Rebecca Black’s. Few of them will ever be noticed; few will ever receive 166 million views and twice as many “dislikes”; few of them will be remembered a decade later and come up in conversation at a cocktail party.

This 13-year-old did absolutely nothing wrong—and as cliché as it is to say it, she was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, odds are that “Friday” is going tag along with Black this Friday, the Friday after next and the one ten years after that. Time will tell.

What does this have to do with our students?
Although Rebecca Black’s experience may be a bit of a hyperbolic way to segue into a conversation about our students’ digital footprint, her experience does give them reason to reflect on the marks they leave behind when they post pictures, comments and videos on the Internet.

Everything we do online leaves a trail; it may wind and evolve as we age, but it will always point back to us. Colleges and universities are increasingly reviewing this footprint when they decide who is going to be receiving a letter of acceptance. Employers, too, are beginning to conduct informal digital background checks on applicants before offering them a position. Showing up for the interview is the second impression, not the first. And thanks to our digital footprint, personas begin to take shape the moment our parents post photos of us as newborns.

A discussion that truly unpacks the impact of our digital footprint deserves a book. We simply wish to get the conversation started so that you can continue it with your students. If you’re looking for a way to get started, we recommend checking out a five-minute, TED-Talks episode featuring Juan Enriquez. In it, Enriquez uses insights from Greek and Latin American mythology to make sense of the surprisingly permanent effects of digital sharing on our personal privacy.

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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, Online Education, digital footprint, Rebecca Black

iAnnotate: A greener, simpler way to provide effective feedback

Posted on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 @ 10:04 AM

effective feedbackProviding our students with effective feedback is a challenge not only due to the sheer volume of essays we have to read, but also because it can be so tedious—and heavy. Like most teachers, we’ve been toting around back-breaking file folders and stacks of student essays for years. But the alternatives weren’t much more appealing. We tried having students email us their work or submit it via Dropbox. Then we’d open the document in MS Word, type up marginal comments, and email it back to the student. This worked, but frankly, we missed being able to physically write out our thoughts. Instead of going back to toting around hardcopies, we decided to give iAnnotate a shot and it hasn’t let us down.

iAnnotate: A greener, simpler way to provide effective feedback

For a mere $9.99, iAnnotate allows users to read and physically annotate Word/PowerPoint files on their iPad. 

Want to provide effective feedback? Simply touch a blank area of a document, choose your tool—pen, highlighter, note, strike through or voice recorder—and go for it. Confused about a student’s word choice? Tap on the word in question and make your note. iAnnotate will also sync documents with Dropbox, which makes it easy to stay organized.

To learn more about iAnnotate, check out the video below.

If you’re looking for a few more tips to help you provide effective feedback, check out three of our recent blog posts:


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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, classroom technology, writing strategies, effective feedback, writing skills, apps for educators

100 Scientists. 140 characters away: Using Twitter in the classroom

Posted on Tue, Apr 02, 2013 @ 16:04 PM

using twitter in the classroomAs many of you already know from reading previous blogs, we’ve long been fans of using Twitter in the classroom. Not only is it a useful tool for sending our students shout-outs and quick reminders, parents are equally enthusiastic about it; all they have to do is follow our Twitter feed and they’ll  always know what’s going on in class, what’s due and when. But we’ve found yet another reason for you to start using Twitter in the classroom: It offers users a window into the lives, work and perfunctory musings of some of the most important contemporary intellectuals in the world.  

In our search for useful technology resources we can pass along to you, we recently came across a comprehensive list of more than 100 scientists who regularly update their Twitter accounts—and everything has been categorized for you. Are you teaching astronomy, environmental science, biology, physics, health or medicine? How about brain science or technology? No problem, this list has you covered.

100 Scientists. 140 characters away: Using Twitter in the classroom

Extraplanetary Sciences
From astronomy to rocket science, these scientists are dedicating their careers to exploring what lies beyond our own planet.

  • @SethShostak: Astronomer Seth Shostak offers up insights into the cosmos through great links to space news in this feed.
  • @astroengine: Here, you’ll find Dr. Ian O’Neill, a solar physicist who now works for Discovery News.
  • @BadAstronomer: If you love this feed, make sure to check out astronomer Phil Plait’s blog, Bad Astronomy.
  • @plutokiller: Dr. Michael Brown teaches planetary astronomy at Caltech. Through his feed, followers can read about new planetary finds, our solar system, and other space-related topics.
  • @DrMRFrancis: Physicist, former planetarium director, and science writer Matthew Francis shares his love of all things astronomy through his Twitter feed.
  • @Earth2larryo: Larry O’Hanlon works for the Keck Observatory in Kamuela, Hawaii, which because of its high altitude and the island’s relative darkness gets some great images of space. Follow his feed to keep up with the latest at the observatory.
  • @DrLucyRogers: Lucy Rogers is a mechanical engineer, but we’ve included her in this grouping because she specializes in helping to protect Earth from space debris.
  • @skyponderer: Astronomer Colin Stuart freelances for the Royal Observatory while writing and speaking about science.
  • @professor_astro: You’ll find some great space-related tweets on this feed courtesy of a UT Austin astronomy professor.
  • @elakdawalla: Former planetary geologist and current writer Emily Lakdawalla shares some amazing photos and commentary on space here.
  • @flyingjenny: Jen Scheer is a former space shuttle technician at the Kennedy Space Center who today is working to teach middle and high school students about mechanical engineering.
  • @apacheman: You’ll find rocket science aplenty in this feed by former space shuttle technician and current NASA employee Andy Scheer.

Zoology, entomology, genetics, and biotech are just a few fields these amazing biologists focus on.

  • @JCVenter: American biologist and entrepreneur John Craig Venter was one of the first to sequence the human genome and to create human cells with synthetic genomes. He’s a superstar in his field, and well worth following whether you’re pursuing a degree in biology or not.
  • @franciscollins9: Dr. Francis Collins is another pioneer in the Human Genome Project. Through his feed, you can learn how he reconciles his strong faith with his dedication to pursuing scientific knowledge.
  • @JaneGoodallInstitute: Few people know chimpanzees as intimately as primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall. Follow this feed to learn about the amazing work her foundation does to preserve primate populations.
  • @RichardDawkins: Many people know Dawkins through his often extreme positions on religion, but he’s also made some amazing contributions to anthropology and zoology as well.
  • @pzmeyers: Biologist P.Z. Meyers posts about biological and science issues from a political perspective.
  • @sciencegoddess: Joanne Manaster is proof that you can be both attractive and smart. This former model now develops science courses at the School of Integrative Biology at the University of Illinois.
  • @phylogenomics: Keep up with biology news, learn a bit about open science, and find great commentary on evolutionary biologist Jonathan Eisen’s feed.
  • @Stephen_Curry: Followers will find a wide range of tweets on structural biologist Stephen Curry’s Twitter feed.
  • @kzelnio: Always dreamed of being a marine biologist? Live vicariously though Kevin Zelnio’s feed.
  • @kejames: Check out Dr. Karen James’ feed for great tweets on topics like genetics, biology, zoology, and even space.
  • @bug_girl: This female entomologist studies natural ways to control insect populations. She shares insights into the insect and academic worlds through her feed.
  • @AFBR: Richard Martyniak is an expert on bees and his feed is full of amazing links and information to help the curious learn more about these insects.
  • @attilacsordas: Here you’ll find tweets from bioinformatician and stem cell biologist Attila Csordas.
  • @BioInfo: Justin H. Johnson is another bioinformatics expert worth following, with tweets that touch on everything from computer science to genetics.
  • @ drbrian: Dr. Brian Degger has a Ph.D. in biotechnology but posts to his feed about a wide range of topics.
  • @alexbortvin: Here you’ll find Dr. Alex Bortvin, an expert on germ cells and epigenetics. He shares great links related to science, but some content is in Russian.

We’d like to thank our friends over at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning for sharing this list with us. To find a complete list, check out their blog post here.


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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Best Apps for Educators, classroom technology, apps for educators, using twitter in the classroom

Effective feedback made easy—or at least easier—with GradeMark

Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 @ 16:03 PM

Providing our seffective feedbacktudents with effective feedback is a challenge not only due to the sheer volume of essays many of us have to read, but also because it can be so tedious. Often there are so many things we want to address that we wonder where or how we should begin. We recently offered a few tips for giving effective feedback and thought a discussion about GradeMark, a new online tool for grading papers, would make a nice companion piece.

Effective feedback made easy—or at least easier—with GradeMark

Instead of submitting hard copies of their work, students simply upload their essay to GradeMark. This not only frees you from having to lug around stacks of essays, you’ll also save printing ink and never again will you chase down hard copy papers (that may or may not have been submitted to your mailbox). “But I can already do this through email and Microsoft Word,” you say.  Not so fast.

Once you open a document in GradeMark, you are free to:

  • Add comments within the body of the paper
  • Point out grammar and punctuation mistakes
  • Evaluate the paper against qualitative or quantitative rubrics
  • Assess the student’s performance within the class
  • Reduce plagiarism by running an originality report
  • Enter a grade for the paper that is automatically saved into GradeBook.

Here’s the best part: Grademark combines several methods of evaluation which makes providing effective feedback infinitely easier than working with hard copies or within Microsoft Word:

  • Drag and drop fully-customizable comments. Say, for example, that your student commonly misuses the comma. Instead of inserting all of the commas for the student, simply drag and drop the “missing comma” icon onto the page and type up a short explanation about why the comma is necessary.
  • Add marginal comments by typing directly on the draft or drag and drop quick marks. You can also attach lengthier comments to the essay.
  • Add voice messages. There are times when it’s easier to just say what you mean instead of writing it. Now you can. 
  • Use rubric scoring. Set up rubrics and attach them to the assignments so you can illustrate what specific improvements need to be made.

We’re sorry to say that we can’t tell you how much the program costs, but GradeMark will provide you with a quote if you fill out their short request form—which will only take you a minute.

If you’re looking for more ways to offer your students’ effective feedback, check out one of our recent blogs, “Are you providing effective feedback? Or are your students just ignoring you?”


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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, writing strategies, effective feedback, writing skills

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