The Five Best Practical Ed Tech Tips of the Year According to Readers

It’s a holiday week for most of us. So rather than present a new tip, I’m sharing the five best tips of the last year as chosen by readers like you.

To pick them I went through analytics for all issues of this newsletter over the last year and chose the most read and shared issues in 2023. A couple of the results were a little surprising to me. Take a look at the tips below and see if any surprise you too.

1. Magic Design

Canva’s Magic Design tool can be used to create a complete slideshow presentation from just one sentence. To be clear, it doesn’t just design the layout of the slides. It populates the slides with text and graphics to support the presentation topic!

Watch this video to see how Canva’s Magic Design tool can create a presentation for you from just one simple prompt. And watch this video to see how to convert a Canva document into a presentation in minutes.

2. Digital Housekeeping: You Can Take It With You

At the end of every school year I’m asked about moving files out of school-issued Google accounts. The answer is to use Google Takeout. Through Google Takeout you can download the data and files that you have in your Google account. This information can include things in your Google Drive, Google Keep, Google Earth, and all of the other Google services you may have used with a school-issued Google account. In this video I demonstrate how to use Google Takeout.

For my Microsoft-using friends, this video shows you how to download OneDrive folders and OneNote notebooks.

3. Mind Maps vs. Concept Maps

This year a bunch of companies launched AI tools claiming that they were mind mapping tools when really they were concept mapping tools. The difference may seem small, but it is significant.

Mind mapping is a process that students can use to think through and document the connections that they make between a central concept and the terms, phrases, and ideas that they connect to it. AI can’t replace that process because the goal is to get students to record their own thinking and illustrate the connections that they make between concepts and ideas.

Concept mapping is a process that seems similar to mind mapping, but there are a couple of noteworthy differences. First, a concept map often has a hierarchical structure that is used to show the connections and segments of a large concept. Second, when an hierarchical structure is used for a concept map it is possible for there to be incorrect connections created. For example, a student creating a concept map about the seasons of the year would be incorrect to place “leaves change color” as a branch of “winter” instead of as a branch of “autumn.” Concept mapping is a process that AI can accomplish.

Whimsical is an AI-powered concept mapping tool. You can see Whimsical in action in this video.

4. Convert Handwritten Notes Into Digital Notes

Both Google Keep and OneNote can be used to convert handwritten notes into digital, searchable text notes. Here’s a video of how it’s done in Google Keep. This video shows you how it’s done in OneNote.

5. Get to Know AI

I remember teachers telling students that they couldn’t use Internet sources in their research papers. And I remember many raging debates about whether or not students should even look at Wikipedia. Some of these same kinds of debates are now raging about AI in classrooms. Before you jump into the debate, give the two most popular AI tools a try. This video demonstrates Bing with ChatGPT enabled. This video shows you how Google Bard works.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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