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Holiday Goodie Rerun VIIII: 8 tech tools that encourage literacy skills

our story screenshot

I’m sure most of you are doing the same thing I’m doing right now. Spending time with family and friends, watching football, catching up on that book you’ve been dying to read, eating too much, and enjoying the occasional nap.

Between now and the first week in January, you’ll get a chance to re-read some of the top posts of 2014. I may decide to jump in with something current but if I don’t, enjoy this Holiday Goodie rerun.


Some of them are low tech. Some are more sophisticated. Some are mobile apps. Some are not. Some are completely free. Some start free and allow for upgrades. None of them are silver bullets. None of them are going to save the world.

But I think we need to be using them more. These eight tools, and others like them, can change how we teach and how students learn. And I think any tool that does that – whether it’s paper and pencil or a mobile app – is a good thing.

In a recent article over at Huffinton Post, Dylan Arena, Ph.D., co-founder and chief learning scientist at Kidaptive states that

Technology by itself will almost never change education. The only way to change educational practices is to change the beliefs and values of teachers, administrators, parents and other educational stakeholders–and that’s a cultural issue, not a technological one . . . It’s about processes and people rather than bits and bytes.

These eight tools seem particularly effective at encouraging and supporting literacy skills. I’ve talked about many of these before but I think when they are clumped together, they become especially powerful in helping kids read and write in new and impactful ways.

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of conversation about reading, writing, and communicating skills. When I get to be a part of those conversations, I share the following lists with social studies folks. Pretty sure they’ll work across a lot of other content areas as well.

Reading so it’s possible to

  • evaluate an argument or claim
  • determine the main idea, identifying and analyzing evidence, relationships, and supporting details
  • comprehend complex and difficult text
  • identify and evaluate critical information communicated in multiple forms of media

Writing clearly and coherently

  • to make an argument using evidence, logic, and reasoning
  • to tell a story
  • by applying the appropriate technologies for the purpose and audience
  • by gathering multiple sources of information and integrating them into short and long term 

Communicating effectively by

  • preparing and collaborating with diverse partners
  • designing and delivering a presentation on a specific topic
  • presenting information and evaluation to others in a manner that is not totally written text
  • using multiple modes of communication

I know that these lists don’t include the entire package of skills that some states and districts are asking us to check off. But they cover a lot of ground. And the following tools can help you and your kids develop the skills highlighted on the lists.

  • Our Story
    Great digital story telling mobile app for younger kids
  • Storehouse
    A sweet mobile app that forces kids to focus on content rather than just bells and whistles
  • Adobe Voice
    Mobile app that encourages oral communication skills
  • Newsela
    Online leveled reading site that uses current events as content
  • ReadWriteThink
    The title says it all. Tons of lessons / digital activities searchable by grade, content area, and learning objective
  • Zaption
    My new fav. Lets you create interactive videos that are perfect as writing prompts
  • Padlet
    Collaborative online tool that supports using evidence to make claims
  • Kahoot
    Online student response tool

A couple of extras:

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