Cross-posted from The Impetuous Geek

Everyone likes to find a terrific Web 2.0 tool or piece of free software that makes our digital lives easier. Often these little gems aren’t earth-shaking discoveries – they just make it easier to do things we need to do as teachers.

Avoid Sppelling Erors
Spelling in word documents and email is low-stress because these programs have spell checkers. Those of us who admit that we need spelling help assiduously use those spell checkers. Spelling in blog comments before a world-wide audience raises the ante and potential for embarrassment on a global scale. Web page browsers don’t come with built-in spell check abilities so finding a free browser spell checker for those blog comments is worth a lot.

ieSpell is a little freeware PC add-on for Internet Explorer

SpellBound 0.7.3 – SpellBound is an Open Source Spellchecker for Firefox and the Mozilla Suite

URL Shorteners
Ever receive an email containing a long hyperlink that has been broken up line-by-line so it can’t be clicked? This is where URL shorteners are life (and sanity) savers.

The qualities of a really great shortener are:

  • It can place a one-click bookmarklet button on the web browser so you don’t have to go to the site to shorten the URL.

  • The new URL can be customized to include keywords to identify the web site content –i.e.

  • The short URL can be previewed by users to see the actual web page address – good for avoiding junk sites.

  • The new URL doesn’t expire.

One of the first and most enduring URL shorteners is tinyURL. It’s been a favorite despite a few drawbacks. There is no customization of the URL and the resulting link is in tiny font – like the name “tinyURL.” This play on the name presents the shortened URL in Verdana bold 7.5 pt. This means one has to enlarge the font size and remove the bolding for most uses.

Another favorite URL shortener is Shrink This. The new shortened URL can be previewed and is presented in Ariel which is the web page font of choice due to its readability.

Getting Graphic
Sometimes there is a need to do more to an image than rotate and crop it. For a surprisingly powerful free graphics program try Paint.Net. It handles layers which is the function that divides easy, free, but limited graphics programs from more powerful programs such as Photo Shop, Corel Paint Shop pro.

PDF on the Fly
Need to share a document that will open on any computer? Make it into a PDF with Primo PDF. This program won’t ever rival Adobe Acrobat, but it gets the job done.

Cards – Quick!
There are times in the classroom when a teacher needs a birthday card in the next five minutes. This is a perfect time to use Avery DesignPro free software. This is the same Avery that sells the labels and templates for every need under the sun. The software has a great library of templates that make it quick to create something that can be printed on Avery products. If one thinks beyond the label concept, this software can produce classroom materials such as flash cards, table tents, and flyers that can be printed on cardstock, drawing paper and colored or plain paper.

Survey the Masses
Sometimes one needs to poll people to get information for decision-making. Now a good online survey tool is available for free - SurveyMonkey. The basic free version of SurveyMonkey allows up to ten questions that can be sent to 100 people. The paid version is quite reasonable and much more powerful.

Music on Demand
Internet radio is a great way to get music into a classroom without bringing personal music from home. Pandora Radio is easy to customize to play favorite music genres. Consider the power of music to subtly change the mood in the classroom – such as slow calm music for testing or reading activities. An inexpensive pair of external speakers can really help project the sound around the room. Look for speakers that use a power adaptor rather than batteries since batteries are often dead just when you need the device to work. Do check to see if internet radio is being blocked by the network filter.

So, these are a few of my favorite things – to borrow a phrase and violate a song copyright. If you have some favorite cool tools, please leave a comment.

Views: 38

Tags: Web2.0, blogging, editing, freeware, music, open_source, productivity, spell_check, teacher_tools

Comment by Mobbsey on October 2, 2008 at 3:24am
Another good one for Surveying the Masses is - you put your question up and get a map tracing where your responses are coming from, and they have the choice to leave comments/discuss the topic.
Comment by Alix E. Peshette on October 2, 2008 at 8:53am
Thanks for the lead torwards Ask500people - I'll check it out!

Comment by BrittanyH on October 3, 2008 at 8:48am
Another survey tool option (seems to be the theme) is SurveyGizmo. Yes, I work there so I'm biased-- but we allow an unlimited number of questions and surveys at the free level. Definitely something worth checking out-
Comment by Mark Cruthers on October 18, 2008 at 12:17pm
Check out WiZiQ's Virtual Classroom. WiZiQ has an excellent free basic virtual Classroom platform.


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