The Best BYOD Tools

Image via Smore

Image via Smore

Bring Your Own Device is becoming a popular option in schools around the country. Students bring their own smart phones or tablets and use them to learn and grow. Now that the kids have the hardware, what are some good apps and websites that students and teachers can both benefit from? Check out this list for everything your classroom needs to be BYOD best!

Content-Sharing Platforms

Your school is bricks and clicks—you have a physical presence in your classroom and a digital podium through your content-sharing platform. You need a way to share your digital instruction, and kids need to know where to look.

  • PowerSchool Learning: This is a full learning management system (LMS) that I’m trying to get our school to adopt. It’s multiplatform and robust, which makes it a great fit for our BYOD environment. It also works on top of Google Classroom, so I have all those features too, plus my grade book.
  • Google Classroom: Teachers are moving in droves to Google Classroom. While it doesn’t have all the features of a full-scale LMS, teachers are giving students assignments and so much more with this awesome tool.
  • Sophia: This is a basic tool to share a few lessons at a time, and is very simple to use.

Screencasting and Capturing What Happens in Class

If you’re going to share and interact with your students in the electronic and physical spaces (as you should), you must learn how to screencast.

In some exciting news, Apple has announced that iOS 11 (out later this year) will include screen recording capabilities and new screenshot features. When it comes out, you’ll want to learn more.

  • Screencast-O-Matic: This is my go-to app. It’s free, but I pay a few dollars for the pro service because I love it, it gives advanced editing features, and I can download to Dropbox. You can see that my YouTube tutorials are recorded with this.
  • Screencastify: Another screencasting tool many people use.
  • Explain Everything: Works on iPads and Chromebooks. Many teachers use this to assess how students are working math problems.
  • Swivl: A robotic stand for your iPad, iPhone, or Android phone. When you use the app, Swivl will film and capture everything. It can also follow you without an app, so you can set another device to record and put it in the stand. Swivl lets you record speeches and helps you evaluate your own teaching. Just put the controller with the mic in your pocket or around your neck to record yourself as you move around the room.

Cloud Syncing

  • Dropbox: If you shoot video and need to get it onto your computer, Dropbox is essential. I also use it to make my classroom as paperless as possible.
  • OneDrive: This tool goes with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. I require my students to sign up for it over the summer. It’s great because they can open their documents in free versions of these Microsoft programs when they’re away from home.
  • Google Drive: This sync tool, underlying Google’s G Suite, is a must for the collaborative classroom.


Students need multiple ways to share and to express themselves, particularly verbally and with pictures. Many teachers who are using tools that capture voice, photos, and videos are also constructing their own DIY soundproof boxes and plenty more.

  • Seesaw: This tool is admittedly a little clunky on Chromebooks and some web browsers, but it’s a must-have for tablet devices. Teachers are using it for portfolios of all kinds and even in PE class. This is the most popular tool these days when I ask teachers about transformative tech.
  • VoiceThread: This incredible tool helps younger students build e-portfolios.
  • Write About This and Tell About This: Using either writing or talking, kids can share their thoughts through this app, and is great for class discussions.
  • ThingLink: Educators who work with special-needs kids swear by this tool. It’s web-based, but comes as an app.


A personal blog is one of many ways for students to have a voice as blogging gives them a chance to interact with an audience and their peers.

  • Ning: Ning looks like a social media site because it is. I have a private Ning network that I use to teach my students blogging because it’s so easy and flexible and feels like Facebook. But the prices have gone up recently, so I may be moving to another option soon.
  • Edmodo: This gives you blogging, sharing, and assessment, plus extensive libraries of assignments that you can join and share with other educators. Even if you don’t use Edmodo with students, it’s worth joining just to be part of the massively useful educator communities. If you’re collaborating between classrooms, Edmodo is one of the easiest ways to do it.
  • Kidblog: This platform lies on top of the familiar, easy-to-use Blogger platform and is set up especially for schools.
  • Edublogs: This blogging platform uses WordPress in a powerful way, with each student linked to the teacher’s blog and to each other. You have lots of privacy settings, and you get a very professional look.

Written Expression

  • Dragon: Has an app on every platform, and some are free. I teach my students to dictate to Dragon and paste into their other apps.
  • Microsoft Word: A perennial favorite. While you’ll need a school-wide subscription to edit on the iPad, you can always use OneDrive for iPad editing if necessary. Students will have to sign up for the free account at home, as Microsoft lets only three people per day sign in at one location.
  • Google Docs/Drive: Students should know how to collaboratively edit. Make sure they understand the difference between commenting and chatting—other collaborators won’t see the chat, and it isn’t saved. Students using Chrome can voice type, and they should also install Read & Write for Google Chrome, which has other features for improving literacy.
  • Wikispaces: Wikis are a vitally important tool for knowledge collection as a group. My favorite is Wikispaces. To see it in action, check out this Gamifi-ed project that my students did with teachers in Alaska.

Special needs: Students with special needs have many tools available in the Google Chrome browser. After you use Chrome’s powerful accessibility features, try out Dyslexia Reader and install the Speech Recognition add-on. Take time to figure out the tools and accessibility options available on your devices for any child who needs them.


  • Haiku Deck: This is one of teachers’ favorite presentation programs for kids because of its tight integration with Creative Commons photos. They’re easy to share. You can try it free for basic presentations.
  • PowerPoint: Integrate with Microsoft OneDrive, and it’s perfect for those kids who will edit on multiple devices. This tool is a plus in a PC-heavy environment.
  • Keynote: Works with iCloud and picked by students who use Mac and iOS devices.
  • Prezi: This online tool also has apps to create very interesting presentations that start off as mind maps.
  • Google Presentations: If we’re presenting online as a class, this is our go-to app. It’s the easiest way to edit together. Just know that once you’re in presentation mode, students can’t change slides. Sometimes students will create in PowerPoint and upload to “Google Prez.”
  • SlideShare: An excellent platform for sharing presentations and embedding them in the class website or wiki.

Electronic Note Taking

  • Evernote: With a school subscription, you can share notes school-wide. Evernote does well at recognizing handwritten and scanned notes.
  • OneNote: If you’re a Microsoft shop and have admins supporting you, they can configure some very cool sharing abilities in this robust note-taking app—the only synchronous note-taking app that works.
  • Google Keep: You can easily link to-do lists to Google Docs or create a Google Doc from a shared note.

Graphic Design, Infographics, and Color Selection

  • Canva: For graphic designs of all kind. 
  • Adobe Spark: Educators love this handy tool so much that I’m including it even though it’s just for iOS devices.
  • Easel.lyInfogramVisme, and Piktochart: infographic makers of choice these days.
  • Storyboard That: You can’t beat it for making quick and simple cartoons and movies.
  • Students can make graphic organizers, vocabulary or math video games, fake Facebook-like profile pages for historical figures or chemical elements, and fake Twitter-like tweets. There are so many things you can create, download, and embed—take some time to tour the site.
  • Paletton: This tool lets you determine whether you’re going with a monochromatic, adjacent, triad, etc. Comparable to a color wheel.

Link Sharing

  • LessonPaths: Think of it as educational playlists.
  • Symbaloo: This is used heavily by elementary teachers, who set it as the start screen for kids. It has large buttons that will take kids to websites.
  • LiveBinders: This can be used to create a study platform for sharing material with other parents.
  • Google Spreadsheets: The simple and easy to learn spreadsheet tool in Google arsenal.
  • Flipboard: While just on the iPad (for now), this platform is a great way to create a list of resources for your staff.

Formative Assessment

  • Socrative:  Students can collaborate on concepts, and the program does not move forward until everyone understands the specific concept. It’s a great tool for lengthy lessons like binary numbers.
  • Formative: This fantastic tool lets you see students work math problems live and more.
  • Kahoot: The fast quiz-game assessment tool people love.
  • Quizizz: It has the advantage of being self-paced even as students play together.
  • Quizlet: This tool has several pieces. Quizlet Live lets teachers have interactive games, while the app Quizlet Learn helps kids develop their own study plan.
  • Smart Lab: Smart Lab runs on the teacher’s computer but lets you run quiz games and activities on your touch-screen projection device at the front of the room. It also works with BYOD. (The assessment portion is BYOD.)
  • Nearpod: This tool works on multiple devices and lets you synchronize lessons across them.
  • Edpuzzle: This gem lets you include questions alongside videos.
  • Recap: This tool lets teachers gather questions from students to share with the whole class, and lets students use video to respond.
  • Google Forms: You can create self-grading Google Forms for formative assessment.
  • Kaizena: This tool integrates with just about any platform. It helps you provide rock-solid, multisensory feedback on student work.

Multiple-Choice Assessment

Quick KeyGradeNinjaZipGrade, and WISE are all available on iTunes and Google Play, and there are more.

Kinesthetic Learning

Some fascinating things are happening with physical motion using BYOD. Perhaps the most widely used tools are video delay apps, which let you set a delayed-start for your video camera so that you have time to get in position and film yourself doing a physical activity. This helps with coaching and improving form but can also be used with performance arts.

  • ReplayIt: This is a video delay app for Chromebooks and laptops.
  • BaM Video Delay: There are other video delay apps for the iPad, but this one comes highly recommended, though it is pricey.
  • Fit Radio: Select the type of activity you want to have students do and the app picks music for that activity. This keeps kids focusing on the workout instead of picking out their music. It can be used for physical motion activities in the classroom.
  • Team Shake: This tool is helpful in any classroom where you want to make teams. Just load your students’ names in and go. You can even put in a few constraints—for example, you might want to make sure two people don’t get put together.

These are just some of the many tools available for a BYOD environment. There are tons of awesome tools to choose from, and it can be daunting seeing what is best, but try them out and see which work best for your classroom. The future is here and making it as easy as possible is a great start to any school year.

(Story via Edutopia)