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5 Free Tools to Boost Creativity and Communication

5 Free Tools to Boost Creativity and Communication

By Samantha Burton

We live in a world that promotes communication but lacks community. The classroom is the perfect place to adopt technologies that genuinely connect us with others and ourselves—even if it means using tools that require more than 140 characters or emojis. Creating space for more communication increases collaboration, creativity, and mindfulness in everything your students do.

How this looks for your classroom depends on you and your students. It could mean rediscovering Hamlet with digital annotations or connecting complex plot points with an infographic. Here are my five favorite tools to bringing communication to the classroom to increase creativity, collaboration and engagement.

Owl Eyes

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Owl Eyes’ mission is to help all classrooms—especially those that are economically disadvantaged—better understand literature. On Owl Eyes, teachers and students have access to free, popular etexts (like Shakespeare, Poe, Chaucer, etc.) with pre-written, Common Core-aligned annotations.

Teachers can assign reading, annotation, and quiz assignments directly within the texts, and also provide peer-to-peer and student-to-teacher digital collaboration.

Owl Eyes will help you meet this new generation of readers on their turf. From their favorite devices, students will be able to ask questions about a particular word or quote, discuss themes with classmates, and deeply understand important texts with insightful annotations.

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Additionally, Owl Eyes has free lesson plans (download a sample) for specific texts in its library to help teachers get the most out of these works. These plans use the site’s tools to guide your classroom through a collaborative learning experience.

The reconnection: Student’s can annotate, collaborate and talk about the books they love.

Canva

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Canva is one of those programs that you don’t realize you need until you use it. It’s graphic design software for non-designers, and now an everyday staple for my creative workflow. Where Photoshop is intimidatingly bloated with features, Canva is simplistic—if you can click and drag and format a bit of text, you can Canva.

Canva allows your students to produce images for various creative projects within minutes. Students can use it to reimagine book covers, create a presentation, or build the school paper.

Holly Clark at Disrupt Education has some great resources for using Canva in the classroom.

Bonus: If you sell items on Teachers Pay Teachers, run a teaching blog, and/or promote yourself on Pinterest, Canva’s tools will help give you that visual “oomph” you’ve been wanting.

The reconnection: Student’s creativity is allowed to soar without the barrier of confusing design software.

Piktochart

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Piktochart is Canva for infographics, and infographics are a great way to get students to creatively connect and understand things like timelines, texts, character comparisons, and more. The tool’s simple interface allows students to create digestible, visually interesting infographics about complex concepts or texts—you can use this tool to do the same, creating visually-appealing resources for your students.

If you need help getting started, Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything has tons and tons of resources for infographics as a creative assignment.

The reconnection: Students can creatively communicate ideas or understand complex concepts.

Storybird

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In the realm of beautiful, creative storytelling, Storybird is a must for classrooms. With Storybird, your students can write and design picture books, long-form texts, and visual poems. This program is a perfect way to implement endless group projects and creative collaboration.

It’s always free for educators and provides teachers with ways for schools to raise money for classroom needs.

The reconnection: Students connect peer-to-peer with creative collaboration.

Whooo’s Reading

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Make small reading groups more structured and effective with this tool—free for the first two months. Students log in and access mini-lessons that help them better understand concepts from a reading or literacy lesson. The time is structured, and the tool allows students to work together on lessons that are fun and engaging.

The reconnection: Students work together to learn new literacy concepts.

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1 Comment

  1. Mary Ellen

    September 9, 2016 at 9:46 am

    Excellent advice. I’ve used Canva before and am looking forward to jumping into some of these other tools.

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