Favorite Tools for Student-Centered Learning

Updated: Nov 7, 2020

With schools transitioning from brick and mortar learning to virtual learning, teachers have carried the load. From implementing more technology use and using the online platforms, both teachers have been overwhelmed with a steep learning curve given that even from class to class platforms and tools may differ!

This transformation is also faced with the idea that virtual teaching is “not enough” - not enough time in the day, not enough face to face with students, not enough learning. To combat this, teachers should center learning on their students - as doing so will help address the amount of busy work to fill hours, lack of clarity about what students are doing with the learning activities, and the literal amount of time teachers spend planning for online learning.

What's so great about these 5 tools below is that they can both be used in synchronous and asynchronous time - resulting in less platforms that you can use with your students. Below you’ll find my favorite tools to empower both students and teachers to do what they are there for: learning through thinking and thinking about learning, respectfully.

Top Five tools

Google Slides/Jamboard

Google Slides & Jamboard that allows teachers to interact with students and students to interact with each other on a digital whiteboard or bulletin board. A class can collaborate on a single Google Jamboard or Slide deck by addition thoughts, additional notes, or images. Teachers can use the “magic” highlighter tool (that makes a temporary highlight on the board and then fades away.) You can even import PDFs to make a fillable worksheet online, and assign each student a page/slide to complete on their own. Either can be used for demonstrations, live notetaking, and crating math representations, for example.

💻 Logistics:

Students don’t need to sign in. Just share the link to the Slides or Jamboard with students. One drawback is that without student sign-in you don’t know who wrote what.

🆓 Price:

Totally free. If you have a Google account, you have Google Slides and Google Jamboard. If your Google account is managed by your district, you may have to ask your administrator to activate Jamboard, as it is a newer product.

⚙ Tech Skills:

No need to download anything else! To access Jamboard, simply sign into your Google drive, select the "+" icon and click "More" at the bottom, then down to click "Google Jamboard" or "Google Slides." You can import anything into Google Slides or Jamboard. It’ll be saved automatically to your Google account.

🧠 Flexibility:

Great ideas for using Google Slides interactively with students. Here's a how to make a Choice Story using Google Slides and additional Google Slides templates from ditchthattextbook. While all of these can also be used in Jamboard, Jamboard has additional presentation features that can both teachers and students can use, such as:

  • Draw: Draw with a finger or stylus on the screen.

  • Handwriting recognition: This tool uses your writing and converts it into printed text.

  • Shape recognition: This tools takes your drawing and turns it into a shape. You can even connect shaped by drawing a line between shapes.

  • Autodraw: This creates an image from your drawings.

  • Laser pointer: With this feature, your finger or stylus temporarily highlights items on the board to focus attention on something important.

Zoom Annotation

Zoom allows you and your students to annotate over whatever you are sharing on your screen. You can see the annotation feature in your Zoom toolbar when you are screen sharing. Both the Zoom host and Zoom participants have this feature. You can even save the annotations!

💻 Logistics:

Anyone in your Zoom call can use these features. No need for students to sign in because they enter their names when they enter Zoom.

🆓 Price:

If you use Zoom, you already have these features.

⚙ Tech Skills:

Just turn these features on or off. No need to download anything else! The controls are really easy to use and self-explanatory!

As the Zoom host, you control annotation settings for your Zoom participants.

  • Enable/Disable Attendee Annotation: Start or stop annotation from within the call. If someone is not using this tool appropriately, you can adjust this immediately.

  • Show/Hide Names of Annotators: This helps you keep track of what is annotating what. When you hover over an annotation, you can see which participant created that annotation.

Check out our post about Zoom features and settings!

🧠 Flexibility:

Use these to draw attention to the information you want them to focus on or get their ideas on your screen!


You can create 8 different layouts of a Padlet board - columns, a feed (like a chat), or an open grid, shelf, backchannel, map, or timeline, each with the option of a background color, picture, or graphic organizer like a KWL chart! Students can add to the conversation with text, pictures, video, files, links, GIFs, and more. Student responses are saved and posted immediately, unless you turn on the feature to moderate posts, which allows teachers and students to comment or like immediately, which support shared sense-making.

💻 Logistics:

With a single link, students can view and write on the Padlet board. While Padlet doesn't require students to log in, turning on the Attribute feature requires anyone who writes to enter their name to see the Padlet. Turning on the Comments feature, allows students to comment on each other's posts to share ideas! You can even have the reactions to be able to see quickly student reactions to posts!