Today I am sharing a guest post that I wrote for Inspired Classroom: 34 Free Productivity Tools That Will Help You Eliminate Expensive Software. These are my favorite free productivity tools to use in the classroom. Here is the first paragraph, hopefully it will convince you to go take a look at the full article
Software can be an expensive burden for schools to carry year after year. This expense can result in a decreased use of technology because schools can’t purchase the tools that make the technology worthwhile. Lack of budget doesn’t have to stop you in your tracks. There are thousands of free technology resources and online tools that will keep your students learning even without a large software budget. Below are a few of my favorite free online productivity tools that offer excellent alternatives to their expensive software counterparts.
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What it is: Letter Pop is a web-based newsletter publishing center. Best of all, Letter Pop is free! The newsletters are easy to create, just add text and pictures.
How to integrate Letter Pop into your classroom: If you don’t have a publishing program like Pages, this is the next best thing. Students can use Letter Pop for mini reports, class newsletters, and book reports. Teachers can use Letter Pop to create their weekly or monthly newsletters or for back to school letters.
Tips: Letter Pop is integrated with flickr.com making uploading pictures to your newsletter even more convenient.
What it is: Canvastic is a great student focused graphics and text publishing tool for kindergarten through eighth grade. It has easy to use tools and options. You won’t find any of the “toy” features that you find in Kid Pix type applications. The control given to teachers is wonderful. Teachers can give students access to tools gradually so that as they learn more, they can use more. It actually grows with the user. It has the best spell checking feature for students I have seen. You can try Canvastic for free in your classroom for as long as you like but the print, export, and save features are disabled. For $39 you can purchase Canvastic.
How to integrate Canvastic into your classroom: Use Canvastic as part of your publishing center. Students can publish written stories complete with illustrations. Students can create their own graphic organizers on any subject using the Canvastic software.
Tips: Join the Canvastic community to contribute ideas for improvement of the software, how you are using it in your classroom, and to foster an atmosphere of communication and exchange. In the Community you will find example lesson plans that are tied to state and national standards.
What it is: Zoho is a free office productivity suite. Zoho Writer is an online word processor with collaboration features. There is no download or install, just sign up to start creating documents. Zoho Sheet is an online spreadsheet application where students can create and share spreadsheets on the web. Zoho Show is an online presentation tool to create, edit, publish and show presentations. Zoho Notebook allows you to create, aggregate, and collaborate on content online. Zoho Planner is an online organizer to maintain your todo’s, reminders, notes, and attachments. Zoho Meeting allows for desktop sharing, web conferencing, online meetings, and remote assistance.
How to integrate Zoho into your classroom: Zoho is an amazing tool. Use in place of office suites that require expensive licensing. What is helpful for the classroom is the ability for students to collaborate on projects. Students can begin a project at school and easily access it later at home.
Tips: Sign up requires an email address, if your students do not have an email address, set up a special email account just for Zoho (you can set up one email address that all students use, as long as they have different usernames this shouldn’t be a problem.)
What it is: A FREE online alternative to Microsoft Office with 1GB of online storage for each user, online document collaboration, document viewer, and Think Free docs.
How to integrate Think Free into your curriculum: Think Free is not only a great way to get a complete word processor into your classroom, it also allows you to assign homework to students, and know that they students have the proper tools to get the job done. Students can easily collaborate on projects using Think Free. The best part? Students can access their files and the applications they need from any connected computer. Students can also create spreadsheets and presentations (like PowerPoint) for free.
Tips: Think Free is a great tool for you too! Instead of transferring files back and forth on a flash drive or CD, use Think Free for your word processing needs (lesson plans, class materials, homework) and access on your connected home computer. Easy!