Online Tools and Tips

On this page we are compiling some tips we've picked up for running our classes online but also educational technology tools that you can use in or out of class. If you've got some  cool tools and tips, please share them in the comments section for everyone.

In the presentation I made for our first webinar, you will hear about some of these tools and about synchronous and asynchronous teaching. Synchronous happens when you meet the students at the same time, in an online classroom, and asynchronous is work that you provide your students to study independently, perhaps with you commenting on this work at a different time.

Online Classrooms

Google Meet

In both mine and Laura's school we are using the Google environment to support online learning. When you make a calendar invite, you can choose to add "conferencing". This automatically creates a link to a Google Hangout Meet. Students click on the link in their calendar and it opens in a shared hangout. I am using a Chrome extension called Google Meet Grid View which allows you to see everyone at the same time. If you'd like help with using Google Education tools their YouTube channel is very helpful.


I've attended many Zoom meetings since we went online. There are some privacy concerns with Zoom but there are precautions you / your school can take to improve your online safety. I've found the video quality is slightly higher with Zoom than Google and it is easier to manage Breakout Rooms. Here is Zoom's YouTube channel.

Microsoft Teams

The word "team" refers to a class. Students cannot freely move between Teams – a teacher has to assign them. You can also create a Team for an activity and include students from different Teams to take part in the activity.

The process of organising a debate in Microsoft Teams is not dissimilar to the one in Zoom, but the terminology used is different. Instead of assigning students to "breakout rooms," you create a channel.

Breakout Rooms

Breakout Rooms allow your students to work in smaller groups during your class. It simulates the process of pair or group work. They are very useful and I've found students like them as they are able to talk more freely. I've used these to support group quizzing, brainstorming, formative assessment and mindmapping.

Google: Here's a video about setting up Breakout Rooms in Google.

Zoom has an inbuilt feature for these rooms. On the bottom of the Zoom screen there is a second icon from the left that says "breakout rooms." When you click on that icon, it will give you a new screen, asking you to choose how many rooms you would like. You can either assign students randomly to a breakout room - or you can assign them manually.  You cannot, however, manually assign students to groups until they have entered the meeting.

Teams uses channels for these rooms. When creating a channel you have two choices. You can create them with the privacy set to standard.  This means that students can choose to join the meeting and the work done by the student is accessible to everyone in your course. If you choose standard, you just tell your students which channel to join. You can also choose to make the channel private and assign students to a channel in which only the students that you assign to that channel have access to the group. Once you choose the private channel option and click ok the menu appears and you add members.

InThinking Student Access Tools

QuizzesIn the ESS website we have self-assessment dynamic quizzes in the Revision section of the website.  See Quizzes  These are not recorded in the gradebook.
ReadingUsing the task manager  you can choose a page to assign to a group of your students. When you do this it appears on the front page of the student's ESS homepage as a task. Clicking on the task takes the student to the page, which they hopefully read, and then click the read submission button at the bottom of the page when they are done. This appears in your task manager with information about how long the student spent on the page and how many times they visited the page.
WritingWith this task you can instruct students to write a comment after studying a page(s) of resources. These comments are stored automatically in your mark book.
DiscussionAgain assign a page(s) you can instruct students to provide a response to a discussion prompt. You can decide when students see each other's comments.

EdTech Tools


Padlet is a collaborative sticky board. In the free version you can have a class of students sticking summaries of ideas or using a thinking template, like connect extend challenge. Here's an introductory video. There are limits to the free version but it's a very useful too.

Google Jamboard

This is a new tool for me. It acts like a sophisticated online whiteboard. If you could use it with a stylus then it improves the writing tool. I suspect this tool will improve quickly. It is fully compatable with other google tools and can include embedded slides and documents. Here's an introductory video.
Google DocsThis is my go to place for collaborative document production. Students can produce a document together, edit each other's work and comment on each other's ideas.
List.lyThis is a tool for curating and publishing lists online. I've used it to compile articles or youtube videos on a particular topic, for example on this page  Understanding how Energy Resources Work
Google FormsI've been using google forms to produce quizzes and collaborative activities that students answer together. There's an example on this page  Understanding Energy Security. My students also use them when they construct online surveys.
LoomThis is an easy tool to use to produce screencasts where you talk through a presentation for example. It allows you to either share a link to your presentation or download the file. Presentations can be as long as you like.
ScreencastifyThis is another screencast tool which will record your screencasts directly to your google drive. The limit is 5 minutes in length.
KahootKahoot is a great tool for producing quizzes that students can take while competing against each other. I've used them online by sharing my screen with the class and playing the kahoot in the shared screen. Students get a code to enter the game and then answer questions either on their computer or their phones. They score points for accuracy with speed.
QuizletThis is a tool for helping with retention so you can share flashcards like those in the  Key Vocabulary and Ideas for Each Topic section or they can make their own flashcards. They can then test themselves. Quizlet live however, allows students to play in teams to match the definitions up with the concepts. To do this online, students need to get into their breakout rooms in order to collarborate to answer the questions.
QuizizzLaura uses quizizz at the beginning of the lesson to get some nice interaction with her students as she usually joins in and they try to beat her. A bit like Quizlet or kahoot, it's extremely easy to use and had lots of nice features including immediate feedback of the questions the students couldn't answer.
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