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!
What it is: Tux Paint (http://www.tuxpaint.org) offers open source software aka FREE. Tux Paint is a painting and creativity program similar to Kid Pix. tuxpaint.org offers the free download for both Macintosh and Windows computers. Tux Paint is easy to use, includes fun sound effects, and a cartoon mascot who guides students as they use the program. Students use a variety of drawing tools to create masterpieces.
How to integrate Tux Paint into your curriculum: Use Tux Paint as part of your publishing center. Students can illustrate their writing pieces using Tux Paint. Tux Paint can be used to enhance your literacy program. For example, I use Tux Paint when I am introducing kids to the Caldecott award. Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems is a Caldecott Award winning book. The Pigeon is created with very simple shapes and can be easily recreated with the tools in Tux Paint. As part of this unit, I let kids create their own Pigeons. They look so close to Mo Willems Pigeon that the students feel like successful, award winning artists. This program is flexible enough to use in math (think patterns, money units, etc.), science, and history.
Tips: Make sure you have printing abilities. The students will be proud of their work and want to print it out! Be sure to download the stamp set. This is a free download but offers hundreds of stamps (including money) that enhance this already great program. Visit the school page to find out how other schools have used Tux Paint to enhance their curriculum.
Allow students to save their masterpieces and upload them to Artsonia (see archive).
What it is: Gamegoo features fun educational games that help students develop reading and language skills. When students play Gamegoo games, they are practicing the skills they are learning in class. Gamegoo is great for Kindergarten through third grade (although my fourth and fifth grade students still ask to play the games).
How to integrate Gamegoo into your literacy curriculum: Use Gamegoo games to reinforce literacy learning. In the one or two computer classroom, use Gamegoo as a center during literacy time. If you have access to a computer lab or mobile lab, build it right into your literacy curriculum.
Tips: Gamegoo has a great teacher section that gives descriptions, skills reinforced and grade levels of each game. Click on “Home” to get to the teacher section.
What it is: Wonderville is a place where your students can explore science in a fun, interactive environment. Wonderville has science games, interactive activities, printable activities, science works videos, ever wonders (fun facts), and downloads. Topics covered include photosynthesis, energy, fossils, forces, weather, basic physics, robots, moon phases, water treatment, levers and much more! This website is best for 3rd-8th grade. Most of the activities are a little difficult for 2nd grade.
How to integrate Wonderville into your science curriculum: Wonderville is a wonderful way to introduce an activity or as a culminating activity. In the one or two computer classroom, set it up as an experiment station. In a computer lab or mobile lab setting, all students can complete experiments together. Use the free printable activities to enhance your current science curriculum. Students will love this hands on approach to science!
Tips: Bookmark www.wonderville.ca for quick access. There are two options on the site, Wonderville, and Wonderville 3-D. Unless you have an incredibly fast T1 line, stick to Wonderville. Wonderville 3-D is generally VERY slow running, especially when multiple students are trying to access it at once in a lab setting. Invite students to play the 3-D version at home.
What it is: Knowledge Bears (www.kbears.com) is a site dedicated to learning and fun for kids. It offers students information about animals, dinosaurs, geography, space, science fair projects, weather, farms, and underwater animals. This interactive site is a good place for learning to start!
How to integrate Knowledge Bears into your curriculum: Use Knowledge Bears to introduce a new concept…invite your students to fill out a graphic organizer such as a KWL chart while they explore. Knowledge Bears is also wonderful for teaching the basics of research. Primary elementary students can use knowledge bears for a research project. I play Knowledge Bear Jeopardy with my students when I am teaching them how to navigate the internet (use links). Separate your class into teams (each team needs a computer or group of computers, I use a projector for the Jeopardy game board) then play Jeopardy, the first team to find the answer on Knowledge Bears gets the point. The kids love this activity and it is a wonderful way to teach research skills.
Tips: Let kids explore this site on their own…they will love it! Download the Jeopardy activity from here: kbears jeopardy.ppt or kbears jeopardy.key.zip
What it is: Think.com is a FREE online community for learning. Learning is social, think.com engages and inspires students by providing a wider (but protected) audience. It turns students into multimedia authors for their classmates and allows them to think and learn together. This is more than a blog and safe! Only teachers and students from your school can enter this password protected learning community (or you can open it up a little so that other schools can communicate with yours… like pen pals). Think.com allows members to use websites and interactive tools to publish their ideas, collaborate on projects, and build knowledge together.
How to integrate think.com into your curriculum: Think.com is incredibly motivational for students. It can be integrated into any subject and any curriculum. Give students a writing assignment and have them brainstorm together on think.com. Have them post projects they have been working on and encourage them to view each others projects and sites (you won’t have to prompt too much!) Students will use this tool outside of school and naturally extend learning on their own. They can create their own “homework help” pages where they are the expert. Learning a new language? Think.com offers the interactive learning tool to thousands of schools around the world in 8 languages, get real world language experience for your students! This tool is really limitless and can be used with students as young as second grade.
Tips: Think.com has tutorials for teachers, you can quickly and easily learn how to use the tool. Think.com also offers teacher-created lesson plans that incorporate think.com.
What it is: Read Write Think offers a collection of online student materials that support literacy learning in the kindergarten through twelfth grade classroom. The free interactive materials can supplement any curriculum and provide an opportunity for students to use technology while developing literacy skills. There are 52 interactive activities with everything from Word Family Sorts, to a Comic Creator.
How to integrate Read Write Think into your reading and writing curriculum: For the one or two computer classrooms, use one of the interactive activities from http://readwritethink.org as a center activity. Many of the activities allow students to demonstrate understanding of their reading. Allow students to use the activities as they complete reading. Read Write Think has hundreds of ready made literacy lesson plans that incorporate the interactive activities on the site. Use these when you have access to a computer lab or mobile lab.
Tips: Create bookmarks to the individual activities instead of the Read Write Think site. This will save students (and you) time.
What it is: Google is more than just a search engine, at www.google.com/educators you will find Google Tools for your classroom along with great ideas others are using Google in their classrooms. Google’s classroom tools include book searches, Google Earth, maps, news, iGoogle (a place where you and your students can collect useful content from all over the web and view it in one place), web search, custom search engines, Google notebook, Blogger, Calendar, Docs and Spreadsheets (free!), Groups, page creator, picsa, SketchUp, and more! All of these tools are free to use and exceptional! Google tools make it easy to stay in contact with your students and families.
How to integrate Google for Educators into your classroom: Use Google Earth for real world geography lessons, have students pinpoint places in history and add relevant information and picture to Google Earth. Create a custom search engine for your students when research is required. Use Google groups to connect your students outside of the classroom. Create a web page for your classroom where you can easily update students and parents. Use Google Docs and Spreadsheets in place of costly word processing programs. Google Educator has fabulous ideas for integrating each of their classroom tools into the classroom.
Tips: Create your own custom searches for the elementary classroom, this will protect your students from inappropriate content that they may run across in a general web search. Use Google Docs and Spreadsheets so that students can save their work online and access it from home and school. Browse the classroom activities on Google Educator, there are some great ones!
What it is: Starfall is a free learn-to-read phonics website primarily designed for kindergarten through second grade. It is a great resource for struggling readers. Starfall offers beginning readers interactive books, games, videos (complete with fun reading strategy songs). Starfall also offers free downloads of their printed materials which include short readers, writing and phonics journals, and more. The printed materials make classroom learning more fun and inspire a love of reading and writing.
How to integrate Starfall into your reading and writing curriculum: For the one or two computer classroom use www.starfall.com as a center activity during reading and writing time. Reinforce what is learned at school by sending some of the free printed resources home. If you have access to a computer lab or mobile lab, use www.starfall.com to introduce a new phonics concept. If you have access to a projector, use the Starfall videos for whole class phonics instruction, invite students to sing along.
Tips: Students as young as kindergarten will be able to navigate this site easily on their own. Create a bookmark for www.starfall.com for fast easy access. Students will love Starfall, send the link home so that students can continue learning at home.
What it is: Artsonia is the world’s largest kids’ art museum where each student in your class can have an online art gallery displaying their masterpieces for free! Artsonia is for pre-school through high-school students. Your students will develop a new sense of pride and feel like famous artists published in a museum. Friends and family members of the student can view the artwork, join fan clubs and leave personal comments for the artists. Family can purchase custom keepsakes with their child’s artwork (mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads, coasters, note cards and more). Your school will earn 15% of the purchases! Participation is completely free for teachers, students, and schools.
How to integrate Artsonia into your curriculum: Use www.artsonia.com as an enhancement for your school’s art program or use for your classroom projects. Students will put extra effort into their work and parents will be more involved in their classroom work.
Tips: Have a digital camera handy at all times, set up a place in your room to take a close up picture of student work. This will keep you from scanning all of the work in. Upload the pictures to Artsonia and you are finished! Set aside special days when students can visit the museum in class. Students can view and leave messages for classmates.