Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My 12 Favorite Resources of 2008 - Part I

1. - The first time I saw I knew that it would be a very useful tool for teachers. was launched in the fall of 2007 and continuously add new, free, features throughout 2008. Some of things that I've done with 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 is extremely quick and easy. In fact, it's easier than setting up a blog. To read more about how can be used in the classroom click here, here, or here. To see just how useful can be when you're short on time read How 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.

Synthasite - Build a Great Free Website

Synthasite is another entry in the free website builder market. Synthasite is one of the better entries into this market not only because it has great templates and great design flexibility, but because it offers very good help pages for first time users. Another outstanding aspect of Synthasite is that not only is your website free, it is advertising free (unless you want advertising), and remains free regardless of how much content you add to it. This is a good thing if you plan to post a lot of audio or video content as some website builders and hosts begin to charge once you reach a certain volume content.

Applications for Education
Synthasite can be used to create a website for your classes. If you decide later on that you also want to have a blog for your classes, you can add that as an element of your website. Synthasite could be used by students to create websites as a way to display what they have learned through a research project or during the course of a unit of study.

Here are a few other very good, free website building tools and hosts.
Snap Pages
Free Webs

Newsweek's Year in Cartoons

Last week I posted a link to MSNBC's year in cartoons and year in pictures slide shows. This morning I was reminded, by Jeffrey Hill's English Blog, of another year in cartoons resource. Newsweek has a collection of political cartoons featured in their magazine throughout the last year. Most of the cartoons are based on US politics with a healthy dose of global economics and global affairs thrown in.

Applications for Education
Those of you that are still in school today, may want to use the MSNBC and Newsweek year in cartoons and year in pictures as the basis for a discussion of the year's top news stories. Those of us that are on vacation until 2009 may want to use these slide shows as a way to remind students of the past year and have them make predictions for the coming year.

A related resource that you may want to consider using in your classroom is The Week in Rap.

Small Update for Email Subscribers

If you subscribe to Free Technology for Teachers by email, you will see a small change in the next update. The emails will now come from an email account addressed as "my name" at Nothing else has changed, you do not have to do anything unless you don't see an update from me tomorrow, in which case just check your junk mailbox.

If you're not subscribed to Free Technology for Teachers via email and would like to receive a daily email containing the newest content, you can subscribe to the email here.

Sticky Screen - Your To-Do List Homepage

There are a lot of reminder services and sticky note services available on the Internet. Sticky Screen might be the simplest of them all. Sticky Screen lets you put three short notes on a sticky placed in the center of your screen. Make sticky screen your Internet browser's homepage and your reminders stare you in the face every time you open a window or tab.

Applications for Education
Reminder services don't get any simpler than Sticky Screen. If getting on the Internet is a daily occurrence in your classroom, consider making Sticky Screen your students' homepage. Students can then quickly check their to-do list and update it accordingly.

Here are some other reminder and sticky services you might want to consider if Sticky Screen is too basic for your needs.