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Tools for Online Learning

In some school districts online learning management systems are in place, and theatre educators may tap into these powerful resources to create online content and track student progress.  For others, these systems are not yet in use or are unavailable and you will need to build your own system.  If this is the case in your school district, here is a helpful short list of tools and resources to get you started, sorted by their uses.  These are by far not the only resources available, so we encourage you to seek out tools you like best.  
A word of caution, as you move into online learning please be aware of the importance of protecting student privacy. Whenever possible, avoid using aps or programs which require students to give their contact information.  You will note in our sample lesson plans and nuggets, we have tried to offer resources which have been chosen to be web based, not requiring log in or contact information.   

We recommend the following to protect your students:

-  Try whenever possible to use tools  and aps which offer student privacy agreements.  (check the National Database to be sure)
-  Use web based programs whenever possible so that your students do not have to download anything onto their devices. 
-  Check with your district for additional advice about policies or protections.   

Finally a note about access.  As we move into online learning it is important to strive to make sure that students of all abilities can access tools and materials needed.  Accessible Teaching in the Time of Covid-19 offers tips and advice and reminds us of the importance of thinking about access for all. 

What you will see on this page:

On this page, you will find two sets of lists of tools.  The first set of links guides you through the use of free Google tools to accomplish all of the functions of setting up online learning.  These have been highlighted since this is often already in use in so many schools.   The second set includes links to various other tools from around the web.  

List One: Google Based Tools for Managing Student Online Learning

Google tools for communicating with students. 
The simplest method is to set each of your students up with a free gmail account provided by google. You will need to create a google account to create a gmail account.  Many students may also have email accounts already.  If you intend to collaborate using google tools and your student does not have a gmail account, setting up an account for them will make your life easier.

Google Account Tutorial    Gmail Tutorial

Google tools for meeting with students.   Google Hangouts provides a video and messaging service.  It is available as a Chrome extension here.  Or from the Google Play store for Android devices or as an Apple app for iPhones and iPads.  There are mixed reviews about it's reliability. 

Google Hangouts Tutorial

Google tools for creating online assignments and sharing handouts and resources  Google Drive combines all of the working tools of Google in one place.  In Google drive you can create document files, folders using Google Docs, PowerPoints using Google “Slides”, and excel type spreadsheets using Google “sheets”. Instructors can upload all their course materials to GoogleDrive and “share” the folder with students. Students can access course materials, and if they make a google account, they can create and collaborate on various documents, presentations, and sheets in Google Drive.

Google Drive & Google Docs Tutorial

Google tools for collecting student work.  Students may simply email you their work, or you can create a folder for each student in  Google Drive, then using the “share” button, generate a link to the folder to give to each student so that they may upload their work.  There are size limits to the free version. 

Google Drive Tutorial

Google tools for measuring student learning.  Google Forms is an app connected to Google Drive that allows the easy creation of quizzes for formative assessment of student learning. You can also assess students with a rubric and then share their score by placing it in their Google folder along with the assignment.  

Google Forms Tutorial

Google tools for tracking student progress.  Google Sheets is the perfect format for tracking student progress.  Excel like spreadsheets include embedded formulas for tracking grades, etc.  These may be stored in a private folder on your Google Drive for easy access.  

Google Sheets Tutorial 

List Two: Various Other Online Tools

Some highly rated tools for communicating/meeting with students:

Zoom is a highly rated cyber meeting tool which allows video meetings, sharing screens and more.  The free version allows up to 25 people to meet for 40 minutes max.  During the covid-19 crisis Zoom is offering a more robust free Education version.   Of note is the feature which allows students to call in by phone, a great solution for low bandwidth or internet access difficulties.  This helpful article from the Huffington Post, Game Changing Zoom Hacks, has some great tips for using Zoom.

Please be aware that the popular cyber meeting tool Zoom has been the victim of "Zoombombers"- persons who crash a session uninvited to spread racial slurs or introduce inappropriate or even damaging materials.  In order to prevent this, if you are using Zoom, try the following tips: 

- avoid posting the link to your Zoom gathering on social media
- use the waiting room function to be sure that only invited guests attend
require a password to enter the meeting 
- set screen sharing for "Host Only"

To learn more about in-meeting security options, check out this article from Zoom. Visit Zoom's Security Website for more information.

Zoom tutorials

Freeconferencecall.com - free conference call service which also allows online meetings.  The free version includes a recording feature.  Of note:  joining an online meeting is web based and therefore totally free, however if you are using the conference call function the number is NOT a toll free number, so some phone services which are set up to pay for calls outside of a particular local calling area would see a bill for minutes used on their phone as a long distance call. 

Free Conference Call.com tutorials

Slack is a cloud-based messaging platform for teams and groups. You can set up a Slack “team” and invite your class to join. The platform facilitates class-wide discussion, smaller group discussion in “channels”, and one-on-one in private chats. Students can have class discussions in the general channel, work on a group project in a private channel and turn in assignments and chat with the instructor via direct private messages. Slack works particularly well on mobile and integrates easily with other platforms such as Google Drive. It is possible to set up a Slack team and to email your students an invite that allows them to sign in using their Gmail address.

Slack Tutorial 

Some highly rated tools for sharing resources/collecting student work.

Dropbox is a great tool for sharing documents, pdf files and even large video and audio files.  It makes another easy way to accept student assignments.  Dropbox is very user friendly and allows you to create folders for each of your students then share a link to the folder with each student so that they can upload images, movies, documents or pdf files.  There are size limits to the free version. 

Dropbox Tutorials & FAQ’s

Some highly rated tools for creating lessons and content for student learning.

Screencastomatic is a simple tool for capturing anything that happens on your computer and makes a great way to produce narrated PowerPoint presentations. You can create a basic learning unit by simply creating a PowerPoint, then recording yourself explain the content as you flip through the slides. There is a free education version.  The Screencastomatic site offers tutorials and tips.

Nearpod – is an easy to software for creating interactive lessons in minutes.  Nearpod allows you to make content that students may page through as easily as you create a PowerPoint.  It even offers links to a set of images and animations and offers quiz functions to add interactivity and measure learning along the way.  Plus it tracks student progress towards completion for any given course.  The free version allows most of these features.  The Nearpod site offers tutorials and tips.

Miscellaneous Other Tools from Around the Web 

We have been following several Facebook groups and web pages and have discovered the following lists of tools which may be useful. NOTE:  some of these may require students to give contact information.  Check with your parents and/or district before using if this is the case. 

  • FlipGrid (Interactive Discussion Boards with Short Videos)
  • VoiceThread (Video interactivity for Discussion Boards, etc.)
  • Hypothes.is (Annotate the web, Hold Live Discussions, Read Socially)
  • Panopto (Lecture recording, Livestreaming Software, Quizzing Software)  
  • Dancemaker App for iOS
  • Teachable.com; an online platform to build digital classrooms, free for schools 
  • Loom.com; a free screen recording software that will host videos 

More Resources for Creating Online Learning

Click to Teach/Click to Learn - specially designed lessons for student self paced learning right here on EdTA's Learning Center; these include everything you need to teach standards based content and measure learning