Information technology has become so tightly woven into our workday and personal lives that it's hard to imagine life without it. We get directions from GPS, read books on our e-readers, collaborate with colleagues on documents in the cloud, connect with friends on social media and more, and we do it all from our smartphones and tablets.
Technology is also driving the way teachers teach and students learn. The National Education Technology Plan 2010 calls for revolutionary changes in education using tech. "Technology-based learning and assessment systems will be pivotal in improving student learning and generating data that can be used to continuously improve the education system at all levels," the plan says. "Technology will help us execute collaborative teaching strategies combined with professional learning that better prepare and enhance educators' competencies and expertise over the course of their careers. To shorten our learning curve, we should look to other kinds of enterprises, such as business and entertainment, that have used technology to improve outcomes while increasing productivity."
In other words, what works for the business world should work in the classroom.
This is true now more than ever as the Common Core State Standards are adopted across the country. Focusing on college and career readiness and replacing state-specific -- and wildly varying -- existing guidelines, the standards mandate not only what students should learn from kindergarten through high school, but how teaching and learning should happen. Technology promises to drive this new way of teaching and learning.
The Common Core State Standards are vague about what technology should be used, and that is more than likely intentional: Any specific technologies recommended today are sure to be outdated five years or even a year from now, as new and intriguing technologies pop up.
The good news is that there are many options to choose from. Blogging platforms, electronic whiteboards, tablets, smartphones -- the list goes on and on. The bad news is that many schools and school districts aren't equipped to evaluate and implement new technologies. And, while several options today are free, there is still a general skittishness about the use of things like social media in the classroom, especially at the elementary school level. These fears seem to be abating, however, as schools look to and learn from models in the business world, including bring-your-own-device (BYOD).
In this slideshow, take a tour of 10 tools that can help you create an engaging learning environment, as well as accommodate tight education budgets. Some of the tools, such as Twitter and Facebook, will require especially keen oversight by teachers. Look at these sites as an opportunity to teach students not only the curriculum at hand, but also safe and effective use of technology.