A variety of free tools that can help educators organize and deliver and access learning content, and help to make sure they never lose any of it!
Guest post collaboratively written with Evan Fischer.
Most teachers will agree that educating the leaders of tomorrow in today's society is something of a labor of love. Although we live in an era of unparalleled opportunity, in which literacy is practically a given and more children than ever are able to pursue their professional dreams and interests through hard work and devotion to their studies, there are certain realities that teachers at every level must face. Public schools in the K-12 range are particularly susceptible to budget cuts and overcrowding and other challenges. When you get to the college level, many entitled teens treat school like an ongoing party that is occasionally interrupted by classes, rather than an opportunity to better themselves and improve their job prospects.
If you are like most teachers you probably spend just as much time outside the classroom working as you do teaching in front of the student body. This is time spent preparing lesson plans, grading work, and racking your brains to find ways to keep your pupils interested in the coursework and engaged in the learning process. It is a tough profession for the teacher that truly wants to see each and every student reach their potential.
Thankfully, there are a few tools out there that can help to make your job a little easier. There are many free software applications available that offer a variety of approaches to storing, managing, and using lesson materials. Following are a number of web-based tools and some insights into how they can assist teachers in the roles, and help to make sure you never lose learning content.
Edmodo – A popular free web-based course management tool for K-12
Edmodo is a fantastic tool that you can use in the classroom to enhance the student experience while making your own job a lot easier. With features that allow you to keep a calendar, post assignments, start class discussions, and even accept assignments and post grades, this program is like a virtual classroom that can keep your students engaged both in and outside of the school setting while helping you to keep everything organized and in one place. Plus, it can be used via computer or with mobile devices like smartphones and tablets, making it fairly versatile. And whatever you store in Edmodo stays there (they make sure everything is backed up and secure – that’s part of what makes these kinds of services rock!).
Free File Sharing (and Collaboration) with Google Docs
A simpler approach, focused on storing and sharing access to files, is Google Docs. Google Docs is very popular and provides a word processing document format, spreadsheets, presentations and more, and can import and export widely used formats like Word, Excel, and Powerpoint. Another powerful aspect of Google Docs is the ability to allow for collaborative editing.
Here’s a few resources where you can learn more about using Google Docs for Education (and other free Google solutions for teachers and schools):
- The Google Docs for Education page: http://www.google.com/educators/p_docs.html
- The official “Google Apps for Education Page”: http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/edu/
- The “Google Apps” forum on Classroom 2.0: http://www.classroom20.com/group/googleappsforeducation
Free Cloud Based Note Taking & File Storage Apps
For an even simpler approach, consider cloud storage and sharing tools that allow you to create lesson plans at home and access them at school, or take notes during classes and use them at home to tailor your classroom activities. These tools come with app versions for different platforms, making it possible to access your files from different devices, and always have them at your fingertips:
- Simplenote (simplenoteapp.com): Simplenote is focused on note taking, as opposed to file storage. This freebie that lets you jot down notes, tag them, and organize them for later reference.
- Evernote (evernote.com): A hugely popular tool similar in functionality to Simplenote.
- Dropbox (dropbox.com): This is not a note taking app, but an this application offers 2GB of online storage that you and access from anywhere. This way you can store and access files of any type from any devices that can read those files.
- Box (box.com): “Secure, scalable content-sharing that both users and IT love and adopt.” This is app is similar to Dropbox.
Bio: Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. He enjoys writing about the latest tech news for a variety of companies and discovering new and innovative gadgets.
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4 Powerful Free Cloud Apps for Teachers
5 Fun Ways to Use Facebook in Your Lesson Plans and Teaching
7 Reasons To Leverage Social Networking Tools in the Classroom