Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Ten Teacher-Powered Tools

September 01, 2015

I frequently say that nobody knows teaching like teachers. So it makes sense that great teaching tools are created by teachers. Who else is a better expert on teaching than other teachers? 

Teachers are also incredible collaborators and eager to share their experiences. When teachers connect, combine their expertise, and use it to design the resources they need, the results are truly amazing. Thanks to consistent college- and career-ready standards and new ways to connect online, powerful collaboration is more common than ever before. Here are some tools for teachers that were created by teachers:  

  • Common Assignment Study units: Teachers from Colorado and Kentucky worked together to develop these high-quality, Common Core-aligned units in English language arts, science, and history. They’ve also shared tools—like templates and rubrics—that helped them create and teach the units so that other educators can be involved in the ongoing design process (learn more about how teachers collaborated to develop the units).
  • Literacy Design Collaborative and Mathematics Design Collaborative: The hundreds of thousands of teachers involved in these networks work together to design standards-aligned tools to support literacy and math instruction. The tools are free, customizable, and engaging for students.
  • National Blogging Collaborative: We know teachers are creative, and this network is proof! Started by a group of teacher-bloggers, the collaborative provides writing tools and one-on-one coaching to teachers who want to make their voice heard online.
  • LearnZillion: The brainchild of former teacher and principal Eric Westendorf, LearnZillion is an online library of standards-aligned resources created by a dream team of teachers from around the country. Engaging videos and interactive assessments make the lessons a hit with both teachers and students.
  • Teaching Channel: This site features more than 1,000 videos of teachers sharing their expertise in the classroom, but it’s more than just the YouTube of teaching. It’s also an online community where educators learn from each other, discuss their practice, and share their best ideas and resources.
  • ThinkCERCA: English teacher Eileen Murphy Buckley created this online platform to help teachers tailor their literacy instruction to their individual students. All of the close reading and argumentative writing lessons on ThinkCERCA were developed by teachers and align with the Common Core.
  • BetterLesson: On this site, more than 130 master teachers share their lessons, resources, and day-to-day reflections on what’s working in their classrooms to build “a living, breathing body of knowledge around effective instruction.” Plus, teachers can access resources from the entire BetterLesson community—and submit their own materials!
  • LightSail: Designed by educators, this program offers a huge library of texts with student assessments embedded in them. It also gives teachers access to real-time data so that they can see how their students are progressing and where they need more support.
  • DonorsChoose: Every teacher knows that teaching requires resources, and that’s the idea behind this educator-powered crowdfunding site. lets anyone donate money to help public school teachers get the resources their students need to learn—books, science equipment, art supplies, and field trips.
  • Twitter chats: Teachers are using Twitter chats—virtual real-time discussions around a topical hashtag—to connect with other like-minded educators around the globe, whether they’re interested in English (#engchat) or technology (#edtechchat). One of my favorite chats is the weekly #ECET2 chat, which is all about celebrating and empowering teachers. Tune in Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. Eastern.

Do you have a favorite teacher-powered tool? Share it in the comments!

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