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The Most Anticipated Tech Tools of Back-to-School 2011

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Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been asking educators to tell me which new technology tool they were most looking forward to bringing with them back-to-school this fall.

These didn't have to be new tools per se; just new to the survey respondent for this school year. And these didn't have to be tools that they were teaching with or that they were using with students. They could be tools for administrative purposes or for professional development, for example.

A couple of notes here about my methodology before I dive into the results: I created a survey as a Google Form and tweeted the link a couple of times. I also posted the link to Google Plus. So that makes this a highly un-scientific survey as you had to be connected to my social networks -- either through retweets or shares -- to have the chance to participate. I didn't restrict this to a particular grade level, and I invited all educators, regardless of job title, to participate.

Also of interest, each time I tweeted the link to the survey, I had 2 or 3 retweets. When I posted the survey to Google Plus as opposed to Twitter, the link was more than twice as likely to be re-shared. No one on Twitter @-replied with their tech tool of choice. But my post on Google Plus did elicit 14 some-odd comments with people discussing various technologies they'd be bringing back-to-school with them (including, of course, a couple of wry comments from those educators who worked all summer.)


Most Anticipated Tech Tools for the 2011 School Year:

  1. Google Plus
  2. Edmodo
  3. iPad


With that high level of engagement on Google Plus, it's no surprise then that Google's nascent social network absolutely dominated the results, with more than double the replies of the next, most popular tool. Many respondents described the promise of Google Plus not so much in terms of their own personal learning networks, but as a way to engage a Facebook-oriented student population. Several noted that they wished that full integration with Google Apps for Education was in place as it would round out the "social" piece of the various collaboration tools (Sites, for example).

That "social" piece seems to be incredibly important as we move into the new school year, as indicated by the second most popular tool in my survey: the education-focused social network Edmodo. Teachers said they looked forward to using Edmodo for handing out and receiving assignments and hoped that the social network would help encourage shy and quiet students to feel like they could have a place to express themselves.

When I conducted the same survey this time last year, the most popular response was the iPad. That wasn't a surprise, really, as last year would have been the first full academic year with these mobile devices at a teacher's disposal. Although classrooms have long had 1:1 laptop initiatives, the iPad seems to have rekindled (so to speak) interest in these sorts of programs. The iPad does remain popular this year, although it's dropped to third place. I don't think this marks any sort of diminished interest in the iPad, but it's an indication perhaps that new gadgetry doesn't always outshine useful, functional software -- in this case, focused around social networks.

Rounding out last year's most anticipated tools were Twitter, Google Apps for Education, and student blogs. None of these garnered more than a vote or two this year. Again, I don't think this means these tools aren't in use as widely any more; rather that they've been in use already and teachers are trying other new things this school year; tools like document cameras, Evernote, Moodle, cell phones, and Collaborize Classroom.

Readers, we'd still love to hear what new technology tools you plan to bring back-to-school with you this fall. Please let us know in the comments!