The 4 Gift Rule of Education Technology

I am notorious in my family for wanting to give everyone, everything, during the holidays. However, I know I can’t actually do this, and have to make calculated, thoughtful decisions about what gifts I give. A few years ago, my wife mentioned a simple idea about the “4 Gift Rule” that she had heard of to help us think about what gifts we gave our kids for the holiday.

The “4 Gift Rule” essentially says that instead of falling into my trap of giving as much as you can to your children, parents should focus on 4 primary gifts. The idea is that you should give them:

  1. Something They Want
  2. Something They Need
  3. Something They Wear
  4. Something They Read

While we don’t actually do this in my house, I liked the idea of simplifying my focus in gift giving.

When I was asked to share some of my remote learning resources and tools, it quickly became evident that while I wanted to share about all of the tools I use, and give teachers every resource possible, I couldn’t. I know teachers, especially those teaching remotely, are feeling overwhelmed with technology and the responsibilities that come with teaching in this style. So, I decided that to help me focus on what tools and resources I could share, I would apply the “4 Gifts Rule” and share with you my 4 remote learning tools and resources as my holiday gift to you.

I pride myself on giving my kids the “perfect” gift. It’s easy for a kid to say what they want, and then go get it for them, but I like to find the thing that they didn’t even know they wanted. The present that will end up being their favorite, but wasn’t even on their list of wishes.

That’s what I like to think I am accomplishing in giving you this first Ed Tech resource, Genially.

Genially is the resource that you want, and don’t even know that you want it yet. It is a tool that lets you create a variety of digital resources from slide presentations to infographics. It is a perfect resource for creating those engaging, asynchronous learning activities that we are all aiming for.

The genius in it is that it gives you easy ways to control access and movement within the digital activity that you create. This lets you create simple learning activities like Click-to-Actions, Games, Break Outs, and Interactive Presentations.

Genially offers a free version with some templates, or a paid version which gives you access to more templates. If you want to see an activity in action then check out my 8th Grade Computer’s Unit 1 or the Break Out challenge I created for our staff to figure out who would be honored with our weekly shout out.

When my wife first told me about the “4 Gift Rule” and said that one of them was to give something they need, my first thought was; socks. Don’t worry, this Ed Tech gift for you is not the “socks” of remote learning resources. The thing I think remote teachers need is: Socrative.

Ok, if I am being honest, there are many other tools, like Nearpod for example, that I would love all teachers to have. However, I recommend the use of Socrative to all remote, and in person, teachers because of the flexibility and simplicity that it adds to your ability to engage all students.

Socrative is a formative assessment tool that is useful in both synchronous and asynchronous remote learning environments. There are other tools that let teachers get formative feedback from students, but I use Socrative, because I love that it lets me either pre-plan questions I want to ask students or ask them a question in the moment with its “Quick Question” feature.

Socrative gives me the opportunity to engage all students with questioning and gives them a place to reply and participate, whether asynchronously on their own time, or right in the middle of a live session online. My students are in the habit now of just keeping Socrative open during any of our live sessions. Teachers can view student responses immediately, as they run them live, or after the fact via Socratives reports.

Socrative provides simplicity in engagement and gives you all the formative feedback that a teacher could ever hope for, and is the tool you need to check out.

Sorry, I don’t have a free T-Shirt for you. What I do have for you is the graphic design tool that all teachers need in order to dress up your digital content. Software and video game companies have known for years that the visual look of their products relate heavily to whether a user will continue to use their product or not. It’s time for teachers to think the same way. My gift to help you achieve this is: Canva

I acknowledge that there might be many of you who are already aware of Canva, or even use it regularly. So my real gift with this tool is to remind you that Canva has two specific features that are available with teachers in mind specifically.

First, Canva offers what they call “Classroom Kits”, which are pre-designed and customizable packages of themed graphics to cover all your basic teacher digital needs. Classroom kits include things like lesson plans, virtual classrooms, zoom backgrounds, Google Classroom headers, and presentations.

Second, Canva offers its premium content to teachers FREE! Yes, free! All you need to do is go to and register as an educator and you will have full access to all the tools you need to turn your boring digital content into the visual envy of every other teacher in your building. I promise. Just ask the students who look at the image below to join my Zoom sessions, versus the boring text link in their other classes

Depending on what you are hoping for with this final gift, it will either come as a nice surprise, or a complete let down. If you are hoping for me to give you a tool you can use with students to support their reading skills, then you will be let down. If, on the other hand, you wanted something to learn about that you likely don’t know anything about, then you are in luck.

For this gift, I want to give you a tool you can go learn more about, because it’s just cool: Glide.

If you are a spreadsheet lover like me or have any interest in making a classroom app then Glide is the tool for you. Now, before you dismiss the idea of having an App for your classroom let me show you how I use it.

First, my curriculum is based off of the “Grid Method” and in this method you ask students to track their self-paced progress through progressively challenging levels of learning. In the past I used a spreadsheet to track this progress. Now, I have students do it through my “game” app for my course.

My students work as undercover agents to learn programming skills, and they track their progress through our curriculum using their secret agent app. It gives them a fun interactive way to engage with their progress, and gives me fun ways to reward them and check in on their learning progress. Take a look at the student view below and ask yourself, would a student prefer to track their progress like this, or on a spreadsheet?

I know teachers who use this to create things like virtual classroom currency and reward systems all the way through student help centers. The really nice thing about Glide is that you don’t have to be a programmer to create an app, and you still get to see the data in a Google Sheet. Below is how I view my students progress in their unit.

The phone interface can be added to any phone operating system, and even better, your students don’t need a phone to use your app. Almost all of my students interact with the “phone” in their web browser! You also don’t need to limit yourself to just classroom apps. If you want to see an app in action then check out the one I created to help our teachers get acquainted with our new LMS.

I hope you enjoy reading up on this tool and seeing if it can support you in new and innovative ways that you hadn’t even considered yet. The Glide App website has many different learning resources to help you get started.

My Wish For All Remote Teachers

My hope is that even a single one of these tools will help you connect with your students, and engage them with their learning even more. I use all of these tools and can vouch for how helpful they are. Please reach out if you ever want to connect, and let’s keep building on our goal of giving kids everything we can.

I am a passionate CS educator who has taught across all grade levels K-12. I have masters in Educational Technology and K-12 Online teaching and love helping both students and educators grow.
Twitter: @PlanoCompSci