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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My 12 Favorite Resources of 2008 - Part I

1. Drop.io - The first time I saw Drop.io I knew that it would be a very useful tool for teachers. Drop.io was launched in the fall of 2007 and continuously add new, free, features throughout 2008. Some of things that I've done with Drop.io in the last year include recording podcasts, posting slide shows, posting lecture outlines, posting rubrics, posting links for my students, leaving voice messages for my students on the days that I'm out of the classroom, and collecting students' assignments without cluttering my inbox. Getting started with Drop.io is extremely quick and easy. In fact, it's easier than setting up a blog. To read more about how Drop.io can be used in the classroom click here, here, or here. To see just how useful Drop.io can be when you're short on time read How Drop.io Saved My Morning.

2. Google Docs - I used Google Docs off and on last year as a collaboration tool with my co-workers and administrators last year. Then my hard drive unexpectedly failed (it was less than six months old) in May taking a lot of files with it. That's when I decided that I trust Google's servers a lot more than my local hard drive or my school district's servers (which failed the prior year and took a lot of my files with it). Since May, every document that I have created has been created in my Google Docs account.

Many of my students are now using Google Docs for their word processing tasks. I encourage all of my students and colleagues to use Google Docs because it eliminates the "I forgot my flash drive" and "my printer is broken" excuses.

Here are a few previous posts about using Google Docs in education.
Eight Ways to Use Google Docs
Bibliography Templates for Google Docs
Projects Using Google Docs

3. Zoho Show - Zoho Show is part of a suite of free web based tools offered by Zoho. There are many free slide show creation tools available on the Internet and I've tried a lot of them, but every time I need to create a slide show, I find myself using Zoho Show. I find myself using Zoho Show because it offers more editing options and templates than those found on Google Presentation. Zoho Show presentations can easily be embedded in a blog or shared via email. I also like Zoho Show because my students can work collaboratively to create group presentations. Interestingly, when my students have to create a presentation I give them the choice of Google Presentation or Zoho Show and most end up using Zoho. Click here or here to see a couple of previous blog posts about Zoho Show.


4. Jing Project - Jing is a free screencasting tool available for Mac and Windows. Jing allows me to make short screencasts to explain to students and colleagues how to perform a function on the computer. I used Jing numerous times this year to produce screencasts for my colleagues that had to learn how to use Mac.

5. Google Maps & Google Earth - As a Social Studies teacher I teach and have taught history, geography, and economics. Google Maps and Google Earth can be used to teach all three of these topics. Google Maps and Google Earth can be used by students to create content like virtual tours or as research tools. A few of my favorite uses for Google Maps and Google Earth can be found here, here, or here.

6. Zamzar - Zamzar is a free resource that allows me to convert YouTube videos into a number of different formats to download, save, and playback on my local computer. This is a particularly useful tool if you're in a school district that doesn't allow access to YouTube. You can download videos at home, save them on your laptop, flash drive, or email them to yourself to use in the classroom. You can read about Zamzar and other ways to save YouTube videos in Can't Use YouTube? Try This.