Monday, November 11, 2013

Three Free Web Tools

In every teacher’s digital toolbox is a collection of online resources.  Some sites become part of the everyday tool collection. Consider the ubiquitous Wikipedia. Previously shunned by educators as the villain of reliable information, now many publicly acknowledge their use of this popular site. However, many of the seemingly promising tools to be found online are bookmarked only to join the ranks of that gluten-free recipe you’ve been meaning to try.

Here are three high-quality sites to add to that everyday collection that may already include sites like Evernote, TEDEd, or Khan Academy.  Applicable to multiple disciplines, I challenge you to follow the links and spend 60 seconds exploring each site.  

Wolfram Alpha
This “computational knowledge engine” helps teachers and students solve any data based question.  Need to solve ax^2 + bx + c = 0 for x?  Or how much interest will be paid on a $150,000 mortgage over 30 years at 7.5% interest?  Or what percentage of the US population is named Fred?  It won’t tell you what to fix for dinner, but it will let you know that “dinner” is worth 7 points in Scrabble.  And yes, now your math students have the answer key to every problem in existence.     

This site doesn't just apply to English teachers--but mostly.  NoRedInk is a “fun” online interface that targets students’ individual writing needs.  Students create accounts to complete various grammar exercises catered to their interests. Teachers can view student progress, track the needs of the entire class, and assign tasks based on need. Great for individuals, classes, or entire school populations.  Immediate feedback for kids, no grading for teachers.

This site allows students to build virtual poster boards. It’s the 21st century version of a tri-fold project.  A great alternative to a Prezi or Power Point,  students build a single page presentation using this site.  Applicable to any subject, students can insert links, videos, pictures, text, and drawings.  Don’t be fooled by the many examples of elementary school projects.  This tool has serious idea sharing potential.

They are all free.  You have nothing to lose but another username and password.  Try one and see what you can learn.    

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