Best Virtual Classroom/Meeting Software
This category and the previous one share functional boundaries. Two web conferencing winners also appear here: Google Hangouts for platinum and Skype in the Classroom for silver. Citrix's GoToMeeting acquired gold in a competitive field with two dozen contenders.
Best Classroom Audio Distribution/Sound Enhancement System Maker
Few would question the need for audio technology in a college classroom. So we're a bit boggled by how few K-12 classrooms provide the same gear. After all, audio and sound enhancement products can help the teacher preserve his or her voice when classroom interactivity is at its loudest (and most rewarding) level. Three of four winners showed up in last year's tally, although in different orders. First comes Lightspeed Technologies in platinum position with its multimedia hub for amplifying audio. Smart, succeeding with gold, offers a couple of classroom amplification systems that integrate with its interactive whiteboards. Silver was a tie between Califone, which specializes in the "sounds of education," and FrontRow, which accommodates all kinds of important sound in the school building: intercoms, paging bells, mass notification, classroom audio, lesson sharing and audiovisual controls.
Top Educational Game or Gaming Tool
Kahoot, which took a medal in the category dedicated to student response, also wins platinum in the gaming category with its easy-to-use platform for creating games. Gold winner Minecraft has long entranced kids with its immersive worlds that, depending on what kind of day the students are having, can be explored, built up or blown up.
Top Non-education Game Used for Instruction
Although an argument could be made that Assassin's Creed offers lessons in history and League of Legends teaches teamwork, those games won't find a place in the classroom anytime soon. However, Minecraft has long had a home in K-12, as readers pointed out by voting it into the platinum position. Nothing else came close.
Best Gaming Platform
Apple's mobile device operating system, iOS, snared a third of the votes in this category to claim platinum. The games that play on the iPad or the iPhone are inexpensive and engaging, and most students feel like they're getting a real treat. Gold went to the Sony PlayStation and the Windows Xbox, which require more investment, but nobody can deny just how immersive gaming environments can be when they're fed from these consoles. Windows' gaming capabilities triumphed for silver, whether the hardware is a Surface, a PC or a phone
This year's Readers' Choice drew 1,003 people to vote for their favorite products in more than 50 categories. The largest contingent (39 percent) was made up of teachers. Thirteen percent were school or district administrators or non-teaching staff. Another 11 percent were education specialists who held positions outside of teacher. Ten percent came specifically from the ranks of the IT organization. And the remaining 20 percent either were education consultants unaffiliated with vendors or fell into the category of "other." Two-thirds of participants work in a public institution or local education agency; 15 percent work in private schools; and 19 percent came from other environments, including outside of the United States. Respondents weren't required to vote in any given category. We left that to their individual discretion.