Top Tech Teaching Tools

Published: Tues., September 4

Teaching is more than providing information to your students. It's about helping them engage meaningfully with information and other learners to build knowledge and learn more. It's about providing motivation, encouragement and feedback to help them improve, developing skills and insights they need.

Providing information is easy—the meaningful engagement, motivation, and feedback are more difficult. Here are several resources you can explore to help you provide a more effective and fulfilling course experience for both you and your students.

We asked the Instructional Design Team and a few tech-savvy faculty members to provide some of their favorite instructional tools to engage students, make feedback more effective and efficient, and develop good rapport. There's something for everyone here!

  • Padlet is an easy and intuitive way to have all class participants contribute to learning in the classroom or outside it. This tool is especially effective for ideation and presenting group work. The presentations (called padlets) can be saved easily, accept multimedia, does not require login, and they come with no cost to students. There are many other alternatives in this genre of tools for classroom teams.
  • Socrative is a flexible and easy-to-use online quiz or discussion starter. It's effective for quick check-ins, exit tickets, quizzes and opinion meters in real time. There's no cost to students and you can download results to spreadsheet or word processor.
  • Collaborative document creation. There are a lot of options, but Google Docs is the best by consensus. Ability to collaborate in real time on documents is priceless. Commenting feature is superb. Sharing is easy.
  • Zotero - Reference management.  Even though I teach first-year students, I try to introduce them to a reference manager and the idea of viewing their college experience as an opportunity to establish their professional library.
  • UNL Academic Video allows instructors and students to quickly and easily record video presentations and, when needed, allows them to close caption those videos by pressing a single button. It's extremely easy to record a tutorial or part of a lecture for posting in Canvas.
    You can also give feedback with your voice using narrated video! So often, the voice students give us in their minds as they read our feedback is harsh and critical, instead of encouraging and kind as we intend. You can also grade much faster by explaining verbally than by writing, because—admit it—you'll start editing yourself as you write, turning what should take 5 minutes into something that takes 30.
  • Interleaving. To improve students' recall of information, interleave old with the new. With every quiz and exam, save a few items for older material. For example, use question banks in Canvas to make a quiz with 8 questions on current material and 2 questions pulled at random from previous banks. You can do this during class, too. Ask students to write or to discuss an idea from past material and tie it to the current focus.  This practice helps students develop robust recall and make connections. This is foundational to higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy such as analysis, synthesis, and creation.
  • Plickers (paper clickers) is a neat little low-tech/high-tech hybrid that’s pretty delightful. You give your  students QR codes printed on paper. When you ask a question, your students answer simply by holding up their code in a particular orientation. You then scan the class with your smartphone to quickly get a read of student understanding. It’s free and doesn’t require the students to use their phones or other tech. However, it’s not ideal for a large lecture hall.
  • Peer reviews of writing are a great way to encourage students to engage with one another and learn from shared experiences. I’m especially fond of the Intra-Group Peer Review Canvas plug-in developed by James Jones. The Canvas Commons provides some helpful tips to students about how to engage in that process, if they’re new to it.
  • Airtame is one of my favorite technologies. Although wireless screen sharing isn't new, Airtame is compatible with both OS and Windows systems. Throughout the semester I have my students work in groups. Airtame makes it easy for the groups to quickly share their group summary or presentation with the rest of the class quickly and almost seamlessly. Many of the College of Engineering's classrooms are ready for wireless sharing.
  • is an open-source way to take notes, synchronized with videos, which adds another dimension to video-based assignments. For example, your students can take notes as they watch lectures or other videos you assign, and their notes are automatically synchronized with the video. They can then share VideoNotes with you so you can assess how well they were engaged in the assignment and their thoughts on the content. Another option is for you to use it to share your thoughts or guide your students' experience! Watch a thought-provoking video, annotating it with your insights or questions for your students to consider.
  • OER Commons is an expansive library of open educational resources (OER) you can use freely to develop lessons, activities, courses; and contribute back to the community if you desire. Resources are curated by digital librarians into collections organized by discipline.

These are just a few of the tools you can use to improve student learning and your classroom environment. If you have questions about how you might use these or any other technologies in your classroom, sign up for a teaching consultation with the Office of Graduate Studies or reach out to the Instructional Designer in your academic college.