Innovative Technology for K-12 & College Classrooms Tools & Apps, Learning Environments & Resources for Students & Educators

Meet the Expert

Amanda Gould, Chief Administrative Officer, The American Women’s College Read bio

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Rob Sabo Read bio

Technology has ushered in countless changes in teaching methods and student learning. Tech trends in education will continue full-steam with the development of new and improved educational technologies and tools. This guide offers an in-depth look at cutting-edge learning tools and trends, virtual learning environments, and the latest educational technology apps that are enabling new models of connected learning. Learn more about the sweeping technological changes that are transforming American educational systems.

Virtual Learning Environments and Learning/Course Management Systems

K-12 schools and colleges use a variety of learning and course management systems to deliver online content. These systems are becoming an integral part of the educational experience as colleges and schools incorporate more distance education curriculum and degree programs into their 21st educational offerings.

There’s overlap between the terms “learning management system” and “course management system.”

  • An LMS is the entire infrastructure used to manage and deliver course content, as well as track student progress and other key metrics.

  • A CMS is used by instructors to place courses and materials online for access by distance learners.

  • A learning management system is the entire package, while the CMS is the suite of tools educators use to expand course offerings online. These include class exercises, quizzes and tests, and communications tools such as bulletin boards and real-time chat.

Regardless of the minor distinctions, the terms typically are interchangeable. All LMS and CMS fall under the umbrella of virtual learning environments. Here’s a closer look at some of the most widely used VLEs implemented in K-12 classrooms, as well as colleges and universities:


Designed to support both educators and students, Moodle provides an all-in-one learning platform that can be accessed anytime, anywhere on any device due to its mobile-compatible interface and cross-browser compatibility. Moodle is free open-source software that has more than 90 million global users. The software has been translated into more than 120 languages. Moodle is widely used because of its low cost of implementation compared to fee-based LMS services.


Off-the-shelf educational web-based server software that allow educators to create virtual classrooms, manage courses online, or supplement on-campus course offerings with online materials. Often used to delivery completely online course material as well. Instructors can create learning modules of different lessons for students complete in order to advance in the class.


Cloud-based Canvas is used by more than 3,000 universities and school districts around the world. Like Moodle, Canvas is an open-source platform. It’s hosted on Amazon Web Services and allows students and teachers to access resources from many different sources. It’s compatible with mobile devices, tablets and web browsers.


Formerly known as Desire2Learn, D2L is another cloud-based LMS that allows instructors to add courses, content and materials for online and blended classes. In addition to storing and managing class content, educators can track student success and quickly identify at-risk students. Allows for easy collaboration of group work with shared documents, video chat and other features.

Google Classroom

Google Classroom is growing in popularity primarily because it’s free for schools, non-profits and Google users. The web service allows educators to set up an online class where they can share assignments, announcements, communicate with students and organize class materials into folders on Google Drive. It’s supported by all major web browsers, as well as Android and iOS.

How Learning Management Systems Work

These systems give institutions the ability to offer coursework and completely online degree programs to students regardless of location and the devices used to access the LMS. They also are completely customizable – educators can add any number of required readings, video lectures, quizzes, tests, mid-terms and final exams, and also track student progress through each assignment or test. The ability to customize educational content is what makes a college or university’s LMS a true educational environment rather than merely an online repository for class materials.

  • Essentials such as grading, getting and turning in assignments are similar to traditional classes. When educators create courses, they establish a grading scheme such as the commonly used letter grading scale of A-F. Students can view individual assignment grading scores when they log into their classes, as well as view grades for weekly quizzes, assignments, major projects and their overall class grade. Grading parameters also can be set to percentages.

  • Students turn assignments in by uploading content using the LMS assignment tool, or through a third-party app such as Turnitin. Educators can provide feedback on assignments, and students can communicate with their instructors through the LMS via chat messaging, video call, or regular email.

A primary drawback to virtual learning environments is that many areas of instruction require hands-on training and development of physical skills that must be learned in a laboratory or similar setting. Examples include nursing or study in skilled trades such as carpentry or welding. Also, there are many charismatic college or high school instructors who have perfected the art of engaging students to increase student achievement. The dynamic personality traits these experts rely on in the classroom might not necessarily translate into a digital classroom, though.

EdTech Apps

Education was the third-most popular category in Apple’s App Store in January of 2018, accounting for 8.5 percent of all apps available for download. Educational technology apps are being used to foster better learning in math, science and reading, as well as track citizenship and other key student metrics in grades K-12.

Although the word “educational” encompasses a broad spectrum of apps, we’ve put together a list of some of the most popular and widely used EdTech apps for K-12 and college classrooms, along with the app’s primary area of focus and platforms upon which they are available.

  • Kahoot

    Any subject, Android/iOS. Popular game-based learning app. Students play in groups and answer questions on their own devices. Promotes social learning and engages students in group discussions.

  • Monkey in the Middle

    Vocabulary, Science, Math, iOS. Students compete against each other in games that use Common Core Standards. Designed for students in grades 6-8.

  • NOVA Elements

    Science, Physics, iOS. Created by PBS for NOVA, the popular prime time science program, NOVA Elements helps users gain a deeper understanding of the table of periodic elements and play games with NOVA host David Pogue.

  • iTooch Middle School

    English, Math, Android, iOS. Contains more than 10,000 exercises and lessons for students in grades 6-8 who need additional help developing skills in mathematics and language arts.

  • myHomework

    Student planning, Android, iOS, Kindle, Web browser. Helps students improve their organizational skills and become more efficient learners. Tracks assignments, papers and test due dates so students can stay ahead of deadlines.

  • Raz-Kids

    Reading, Android, iOS, Web browser. Provides guided reading ebooks downloadable books and quizzes at 29 levels of difficulty. Digital management tools track student engagement and progress.

  • Mathway

    Math, chemistry, Android, iOS, Web browser. From basic algebraic equations to finite math, statistics and complex calculus, Mathway helps students’ solve mathematical problems with step-by-step solutions.

  • Ready4 SAT

    Study guide, Android, iOS, Web browser. SAT prep guide for mobile platforms that provides simulated tests and quizzes to help students achieve their best score on test day.

  • ABCmouse for Schools Early Learning Academy

    Reading, math, science, Android, iOS, Web Browser. Popular learning app and site for youth ages 2-8 (pre-K through Grade 2). Provides a comprehensive early learning curriculum with more than 9,000 learning activities.

  • ClassDojo

    Connectivity, Android/iOS/Amazon/Web browser. Popular communication app that connects parents with teachers. Many educators use the app to award points to students for good behavior, helping others, and staying on task. ClassDojo is used in 90 percent of K-8 schools in the U.S.

  • Photomath

    Stumped on a math problem? Take a picture of it using Photomath, and the app provides a solution with step-by-step instructions. From exponentiation and roots to trigonometry, Photomath can help college students learn how to solve complex mathematical equations.

  • Duolingo

    Language, Android, iOS, Web browser. The free app and web site can help students pass their foreign language requirement. Learn Spanish, French, German, Italian and even High Valyrian, the language of nobility and the elite from Game of Thrones.

  • StudyBlue

    Any subject, iOS/Web browser. The world’s largest crowdsourced study library of study guides, notes and flash cards has more than 15 million college and high school student users.

  • EasyBib

    Writing, Android, iOS, Web browser. Take the difficulty out of writing citations for college-level essays with this citation, note-taking and research platform.

  • Evernote

    Productivity, Android, iOS, Web browser. While Evernote doesn’t technically fall within the realm of an educational app, it’s one of the best and most popular note-taking tools on the market. Succeeding in class often depends on taking detailed study notes. College students can use Evernote for class lectures, labs and group projects, and organize their notes into separate folders for each class.

Online Resources & MOOCs

The number of students enrolled in distance education programs continues to rise. According to a Survey by Babson Survey Research Group, In the fall of 2016, there were more than 3 million students taking online only courses, which is just under 15 percent of the nation’s more than 20 million college students.

The rise of distance education has also led to a proliferation of Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and other online resources such as Open Educational Resources and Open Courseware. MOOCs are modeled like traditional college classes with assignments, tests and deadlines, while the other two offer resources such as textbooks and class materials that help students who are independently learning subject matter.

Here’s a look at 10 such resources:

  • Alison

    Offers more than 1,000 free online courses in information technology, language, health, math, humanities, skilled trades and many more areas. Alison has served more than 11 million online learners.

  • Community College Consortium for Open Educational Resources

    This consortium of community and technical colleges offers open educational resources and OER degree programs that have zero textbook costs since all materials are delivered online.

  • Coursera

    Offers online classes from leading educational institutions throughout the world such as Columbia University, University of California, Johns Hopkins University and many more. Coursera also offers online degrees in business and computer and data science from select university partners.

  • edX

    Founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2012, edX is an online learning repository and provider of Massively Open Online Courses from more than 90 of the world’s leading universities.

  • Harvard Online Learning

    From lectures to podcasts, Harvard Online offers both free and fee-based content for distance learners taught by Harvard professors. Open online courses include abstract algebra, Greek history, poetry, digital technology, computer science and many more.

  • Khan Academy

    Offers free practice lessons, instructional videos in math, science, computers, history, art and more for learners in grades K-12 and college. Also offers test prep instruction for adult learners preparing for the MCAT, NCLEX-RN or GMAT exams.

  • Open Course Library

    A library of sharable resources such as course activities and materials, syllabi, readings and assessments created by the Washington State Board for Community and Technical Education.

  • Udacity

    Offers free online courses in topics such as data science, data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence, software engineering, virtual reality, Google AdWords and related technical topics to students throughout the globe.

  • MoocLab

    Site that aggregates Massively Open Online Courses, MOOC certificates, MOOC credit programs, and MOOC college degree programs.

  • Code Academy

    Offers free computer programming in Java, SQL, Python, HTML/CSS, as well as technical skills development courses in web design, HTML, responsive design and more.

From the Expert

Amanda Gould is chief administrative officer for The American Women’s College, the first, fully-online degree program in the country designed just for women. A thought leader in data-driven digital learning, Gould presents throughout the United States on this topic, with a particular focus on the innovative Social Online Universal Learning model currently being implemented at The American Women’s College.

What are some of the tools and trends in virtual learning and apps that Bay Path has installed or is examining for potential deployment?

We have deployed adaptive technology to help personalize learning pathways for students because we believe it allows us to better meet students where they are, and provide ‘just-in-time’ content/activities that help fill knowledge gaps along the way. It also allows us to genuinely look at how interdisciplinary content integrates across a curriculum.

Why is it important to stay in front of technological changes in educational technology?

Like all technology, educational tools are constantly improving. And just as technology has allowed for enhancements in many industries, the educational arena can also be enhanced by incorporating tools that allow for increased engagement, more targeted personalized instruction, and/or provide insights for interventions to better serve our students.

Who benefits most from these tools? How do they help teachers and students?

The real value of using adaptive technology as the backbone for the formative assessment in the learning process is that it provides both the instructors and the students a clear sense of what is expected. The visual representation of a learning map also shows what has been achieved and where there may have been challenges. It keeps the student and instructor precisely on the same page and gives them the same language, and yet on an individual basis for each and every student. Complementing faculty instruction with this technology means that students essentially have built in one-on-one ‘tutors,’ and instructors have information at their fingertips to guide feedback and interventions that may apply to individual students, or to the class as a whole.

Can you address how the development of technology in the classroom has led to new methods of teaching and student learning, and what we might expect five or 10 years down the road.

The way people learn today has inherently changed due to technology. People of all ages are exploring content on the internet to figure out how to perform new tasks, solve problems and fix something that has broken. I am most excited about the shift from a text-book driven educational environment to one that is more exploratory and focused on the skills, knowledge, competencies for which we want students to be exposed and the rich plethora of materials/videos/exercises that can help a student navigate towards mastery in more affordable ways.

It would be most rewarding if the incorporation of technology and student-driven exploration afforded teachers the time to work with students on emerging skill sets for our changing world, such as sense-making, computational thinking, media literacy – skills for the future that go even beyond the communication, problem solving and collaboration skills considered so important to supplement our discipline specific training.

Are there any educational technology initiatives that American Women's College has rolled out that have fostered new student-teacher interaction and methods of learning?

The American Women’s College Online has also begun exploring how technology can be incorporated into virtual learning in the sciences. Through a partnership with Labster, simulated lab experiences were custom- created for our Food Science and Safety degree program. By augmenting other lab experiences with these simulations, students can re-create the experiments multiple times towards mastery. Each and every student is required to demonstrate their own competence, and additional content can be integrated along the sequence to help explain what scientific concepts are being demonstrated at various steps in a laboratory experience.

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