You have a four-drawer file cabinet full of lesson plans, activity ideas, projects and… worksheets. You’ve been collecting and using these workhorses for years!! They’re so reliable for getting students to practice their skills and apply what they’ve learned. And (most of) your students over the years really liked them, too.
Perhaps your principal has asked that all teachers start using online materials more. Maybe a pandemic has hit and your school buildings are closed. Maybe you want to teach with more engaging technologies because the kids love working on their Chromebooks. Whatever the reason, you’d like to turn your favorite supplementals into online resources. But that requires spare time that you don’t have—and maybe you aren’t a computer programmer or digital media expert, either.
There are lots of powerful online publishing tools available today. They are referred to by many names: courseware, digital curriculums, and the Adobe Creative Suite, to name a few. But almost none of them start with your tried-and-true papers stored in the filing cabinet. They all seek to leave your beloved worksheets behind, or at a minimum, make you recreate them from scratch. It’s a real problem for which there just aren’t many good solutions. Sure, you can scan each worksheet and make it a PDF, and then distribute it via Google Classroom or your school’s LMS. But to be able to transform your papers into online, interactive worksheets without being a technology wiz? That requires a specific type of app.
Here at TeacherMade, we believe we offer the best tool for turning PDFs into digital interactives. But there are other tools available and we think it’s best if readers do some comparison shopping.
There are two tools out there whose designers must be educators and not Silicon Valley technocrats, because they understand your investment in paper-based resources during the age of technology. Their products will transform PDFs into interactive activities—and one even attempts to do scoring for you, like TeacherMade does.
When installed in teacher and student browsers, the Kami Chrome Extension lets a class annotate a PDF. For example, a teacher can assign a reading passage to her American Literature 1st period class in Google Classroom. She can load the PDF into Kami and provide a link to her students. Kami uses Huckleberry Finn to illustrate their training videos, so we will, too: the assignment is to read Chapter 14 of Huckleberry Finn and identify three examples of how slavery impacts Huck and Jim’s interactions. Students would respond by using the annotation tool to underline or highlight at least three parts of the text and leave their rationales in the margins via text or audio. After students save and submit the assignment, the teacher can see their responses.
The free version of Kami is a brilliant way to facilitate discussions and critical analyses of a text. If you have pocket change for the paid version, there are even more features to explore. Check out Kami to learn more about classroom flipping, remote learning ideas and group collaboration tools.
Only a teacher would have dreamt up the Liveworksheets site! Using it, you can turn paper worksheets into interactive, digital versions for students to complete on their computers. You can even auto-score their work using a fixed scale of 10. Though some of the features can be a little convoluted, chalk it all up to a very innovative ESL teacher in Spain who taught himself computer programming just so he could build the tools that he and his colleagues need. His name is Victor Gayol Fernandez and he’s an active member of the Liveworksheets.com Liveworksheet community. The site is currently supported by ad revenue, so it’s free to use well into 2021!!