An Earth Day Approach to Classroom Technology Use

Classroom Tools on April 22 2014

earth_dayIt’s hard to believe that Earth Day will be 44 years old this year. Back then, we couldn’t have envisioned the types of technology that we have now at our fingertips and in our pockets or the access we have to a growing number of people and resources that support the instructional use of technology.

Earth Day is a day for us “to demonstrate support for environmental protection.”  In our classrooms, we can protect the environment and implement the familiar Reduce, Reuse, Recycle slogan through the technologies we use.


  • The amount of paper used in your classroom
  • The amount of time that students wait for your feedback
  • The amount of time you wait to get feedback from your students

Tools to Reduce


Edmodo and other Learning Management Systems provide teachers with the tools to create classroom communities.  Paper is saved since students no longer need to print their reports and work to be handed in.  Students can post notes and attach digital documents, turn in assignments digitally or connect their Google Drive account to Edmodo to access cloud storage of documents. Teachers can use Edmodo to reduce the time it takes to gather feedback from students by making use of Polls to get quick responses to questions or Quizzes to get feedback about students understanding of the content they’re learning.


Save important content from the web by creating a PDF. CleanPrint is a browser tool that allows you to save any web article as a PDF.  Now you’ll have access to those important news articles, current events, or topics that connect with instructional content.  Teachers can add a note to the topic of an article before converting it to PDF.  This might be used to ask a question or provide a prompt for learning while reading the article.  Once you’ve saved a PDF, distribute it to your class via Google Docs or attach it to a Note or Assignment in Edmodo.

Quick Key, Infuse Learning, Socrative, Google Forms, Poll Everywhere

Each of these provide teachers with a way to get quick feedback from students.  Quick Key scans a pre-printed testing sheet (that could be laminated and reused), InfuseLearning, Socrative and Google Forms can be used for formative or summative assessments and Poll Everywhere can be used to access or assess prior knowledge before beginning a lesson. (A new feature in Poll Everywhere allows responses to instantly begin creating a word cloud.  What a great visual to represent student responses!)


  • Use content already available on the web to support and assess learning
  • Organize web content for students

Tools to Reuse


Newsela is a great service that provides students with current news articles that have already been published on the web. Articles come  from reputable sources such as the LA Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and the Associated Press and are written at various Lexile levels. Teachers can create classes, assign articles and view data about students usage and performance on quizzes already created for many of the articles.


“Make the web tell a story.”  With Storify, you can create a “story” about anything that’s on the web. There are built in search tools to help you find resources for any topic via social media, Google, Instagram and more. This is a good tool for students to organize web content in a story sequence fashion. For example, use current events to tell the “story” of the recent missing Malaysian airliner, the dispute over Crimea; or to tell a story about current trends in education such as the flipped classroom.


Symbaloo’s webmixes allow users to curate any content from anywhere on the web.  It has a built in Google Search box to assist you in finding more resources about any topic you’re working on without having to leave the site.  Webmixes can be shared or embedded in Edmodo or your classroom website. Teachers might find this method of reusing content an easy way to provide students with just the right content for classroom topics or research projects.  In Edmodo, a webmix link can be attached to a Note or Assignment.  Embed codes pasted into an attached link will display the webmix making it viewable inside the Edmodo group.


  • Add to the content on the web to customize and personalize learning for your students.


Lesson Paths (aka MentorMob)

In Lesson Paths, users can create and share playlists of resources to support any topic being addressed in the classroom.  As you add a new step in the playlist, you’ll be able to choose from adding links (to any content that has a web address including sites, videos, Google Forms, shared Google Docs, etc), uploading files from your computer (formats include Word, Powerpoint, PDF and images), writing your own article (a text editor is provided for this), or inserting a pop quiz to check for understanding using either multiple choice questions or True/False.  As you think about all the resources available on the web or stored on your computer  that can be brought into a playlist, Lesson Paths can be a great tool for enriching any content area.


A Curriculet is any content to which you’ve added your own word definitions, questions, quizzes or annotations to support your students’ learning as they read and think about the text.  The Store contains a number of already created curriculets to help you get started. In addition, you can add your own content using a website address or use Word and PDF documents stored on your computer, in Google Drive or in your Dropbox account. After creating a class and providing students with a login URL, teachers can assign curriculets to students.  Once the work has been done, the results can be reviewed either by the individual student or by the questions.

Edmodo users may enjoy the ability to use Curriculet within the groups they’ve created there.  Curriculet recently announced the addition of their app to the Edmodo store.  Teachers who have an account can add the app to any group for free and easily assign curriculets to students.

Actively Learn

After teaching students skills to help them read and understand text more effectively, it would be great to continue to offer the coaching needed for them to continually improve their use of those skills even when they’re not in class. Actively Learn can be used as a coaching tool for students.  Actively Learn makes use of public domain content such as stories, poetry, or current events as well as articles from the web or PDF documents stored on a computer. Questions, notes and links can be inserted into the text to prompt students to stop and think about what they’re reading. These can be used to check for understanding, provide prompts for using previously learned skills or link students to additional information to help them better understand the content.  The teacher can be notified any time a student submits a response for grading or replies to a note.

Actively Learn can also be found as a free app in the Edmodo store.  This option for both Actively Learn and Curriculet brings our Earth Day approach to technology use full circle providing us with one more way to reduce our use of paper and improve the ways that we interact with students to get and receive feedback about learning.

What other web resources would you use to reduce, reuse and recycle in your classroom?