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Microsoft offers the following free tools to help engage students in a variety of subject areas—from art to music to science and beyond. Teachers can use these interactive tools to encourage self-directed learning or to create fun, dynamic group projects.

  • AutoCollage: Have students gather images from the Web or snap their own photos on a subject. Then, they can create a unique piece of art using this free collage-making tool.
  • WorldWide Telescope: This free tool brings together imagery from the world’s best ground and space-based telescopes. Students can explore the night sky by panning and zooming to distant planets and galaxies.
  • Microsoft Photosynth: Students can explore famous places in the world with cinematic quality using this virtual, visual three-dimensional tour.
  • Songsmith: Bring out the musical creativity in your students. Choose a style—from pop to jazz or R&B. Have a student sing into a PC microphone, and Songsmith will generate musical accompaniment to match his or her voice.
  • Windows Live Movie Maker: Make your classroom lessons even more memorable with a movie. Windows Live Movie Maker is the fast, easy way to turn photos and video clips into great-looking movies and slide shows you can share in class or on the Web.
  • Photo Story 3 for Windows XP: Bring a subject to life with music and pictures. This free, downloadable program has tools to enhance, crop, and rotate your digital photos. Students and teachers can easily create a slide show with just a few clicks.
  • Bing Search and Bing Maps: The visual aspect of Bing makes searching the Internet a more captivating and rewarding experience for students. Bing Maps offer breathtaking, bird’s eye views of the world that can enhance any project.
  • Bing Translator: This helpful tool easily converts what you have written into nearly any language you need.
  • Mouse Mischief: Integrate multiple choice, polling and true/false questions into your lessons with this free add-in for PowerPoint 2007 and PowerPoint 2010 that lets students use mice to answer.
  • Windows Live SkyDrive: Gain access to 25 gigabytes (GB) of free, online storage. Use it for a student or teacher workgroup to upload and share documents in one central place, rather than trying to track them in e-mails. Store your photos and files, and access them with a password.

To learn more about the creative ways of using these Microsoft’s free tools to engage your students, you can download the Creative ways to engage students (pdf file, 3.5 MB) here.

Free Tools for Teachers


Engaging Students in the Classroom

Songsmith in the Classroom

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Besides Google Base, blist is another collaborative, Web-based database application.  blist is a visually rich, social online database.  It requires no software installation and comes with a very slick Flash interface running against a SQL backend.  You do not need to know any SQL in order to use blist.  blist offers an array of templates that can be selected for a variety of purposes, from common to-do lists to fantasy football stats.  It is very easy to create a database in blist and collaborate with your friends or colleagues.  You can simply drag field types onto a spreadsheet-like grid.  Data types include names, phones, URLs, and images.  blist allows you to easily share their databases with other blist users through the standard interface or widgets. Also, you can incorporate multimedia items like photos or videos into the databases.

I think blist has an intuitive interface that provides non-technical users the easy-to-use tools to create and manage databases online.  blist is functional and is free.  I think blist is a great tool for teachers and students.   You can give blist a try.

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My colleague, Dennis Vital, came across an article “The Top 50 Proprietary Programs that Drive You Crazy – and Their Open Source Alternatives” on the WHDb. The article is written by Jimmy Atkinson who compares various proprietary programs/products with open source programs. Dennis alerts me about this post since he knows I am a strong advocate for the use of Open Source in schools. I am glad he did and I found the article is very interesting. Overall, Mr. Atkinson does a great job of compiling the list. I am not surprised that many of my favorite Open Source programs are included although some are missing (i.e., KompoZer, NotePad++, GimpShop, VLC player, and etc). Nonetheless, here are the top 50 proprietary programs and their Open source alternative discussed in the article. To read the full article, please visit Jimmy Atkinson’s post on the WHDb.

Basics

1. Windows Vista OS to Ubuntu OS

2. Internet Explorer Browser to Firefox Browser

Office Suites

3. Microsoft Office to OpenOffice

4. Mactopia to NeoOffice

Office Tools

5. MathWorks MATLAB to Scilab

6. Microsoft Access to Kexi

7. Microsoft Word to OpenOffice Writer

8. Microsoft Excel to OpenOffice Calc

9. Microsoft Visio to Dia

Productivity

10. Blackboard to Moodle

11. Box to Cabos

12. Microsoft Project to Open Workbench

13. Mindjet to FreeMind

Graphic Programs

14. Adobe Illustrator to Inkscape

15. Adobe PhotoShop to GIMP

16. Adobe Premiere to Avidemux

17. AutoCAD to Archimedes

18. Microsoft PowerPoint to OpenOffice Impress

19. Microsoft Paint to Tux Paint

Web Editors

21. Adobe GoLive CS2 to Mozilla SeaMonkey

22. Adobe Dreamweaver to NVU

23. Macromedia Flash Professional to OpenLaszlo

24. Microsoft Frontpage to Bluefish

25. Windows Notepad to ConTEXT

26. Altova XMLSpy to XML Copy Editor

Publishing

27. Adobe Acrobat to PDFCreator

28. Adobe Framemaker to DocBook

29. Microsoft Publisher to Scribus

Communications

30. AIM to Pidgin

31. FeedDemon to RSS Bandit

32. Microsoft MSN Messenger to aMSN

33. Microsoft Outlook to Thunderbird

34. Skype to Wengophone

Media

35. iTunes to Songbird

36. Nero Burning Rom to K3b

37. Quicktime to Darwin Streaming Server

38. TiVo Desktop to Galleon.tv

39. Windows Media Player to Miro

Utilities

40. CuteFTP to Filezilla

41. iBackup to ZManda

42. Norton Ghost to Partition Image

43. Rational Purify to Valgrind

44. WinZip to 7-Zip

Security

45. Kaspersky Anti-Virus Personal to Winpooch

46. McAfee VirusScan to ClamWin

47. Norton Personal Firewall to WIPFW

Financial

48. Authorize.net to OpenSSL

49. Microsoft Money (Plus) to TurboCash

50. Quickbooks to Compiere

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MECA 2008 Conference

I am now attending the MECA (Mississippi Educational Computing Association ) 2008 Conference in Jackson, Mississippi. MECA celebrates the silver anniversary this year with a recorded participants over 1,100. I have been attending the MECA conference since 1995 and have made presentations each year for the past 13 years. This year is no exception. I am the lead presenter of 3 presentations. You can view my presentations in this post if you who can’t attend the conference this year.

Software for Starving Students

Developing Data Literacy with InspireData

Top 20 Free Web Applications for Teachers and Librarians

Also, an opening keynote presentation “Literacy & Learning in the 21st Century” delivered by David Warlick is embedded here as well.

Literacy & Learning in the 21st Century

Second Life A Teacher Primer by David Warlick

I will add other MECA 2008 conference presentations when become available. Stay tune!

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I was recently invited by Jane Hart, Head of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies in UK, to share my Top 10 Tools for Learning with her. Jane has done an excellent job of compiling the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2007 which provides a very useful information for learning professionals. Currently, she is updating the list by inviting the learning professionals worldwide to submit their Top 10 Tools to help her compile the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2008. Below are my Top 10 Tools for Learning 2008 submitted to Jane today.

1. Firefox. My favorite browser. It is customizable with a great collection of extensions, plug-ins and add-ons. It is fast and more secure way to surf the Web.

2. WordPress. A great open-source software for creating blogs. I use WordPress for my blog which is hosted by WordPress.com for free. WordPress provides a variety of attractive themes, plug-ins, and widgets.

3. Slideshare. A fantastic Web 2.0 tool that lets students and instructors to upload their presentations and share them online through a YouTube-like interface. Also, it is a good place to discover presentations and slideshows from others.

4. Ning. An excellent online service where I create and customize my own Social Network for students in my classes. Ning has customizable themes and templates. Also, it offers a public or private option.

5. Wetpaint. A great place to create a free wiki that can be a private or public site. Wetpaint Education Wikis are Ad-free for teachers and students.

6. Google Docs. A web-based word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation program that makes collaboration more efficient. It is a free online creation tool which is great for teachers and students. Also, Google Docs allows mobile access.

7. del.icio.us. A social bookmarking site that allows me to store bookmarks on the Web instead of inside my Web browser. Also, I use del.icio.us to share bookmarks with students, colleagues, friends, family, and the del.icio.us community.

8. Camtasia. A powerful screencasting software that I use frequently to create instructional videos for my students. Camtasia allows screen recordings, audio, voice narration, PowerPoint, Picture-in-Picture and webcam video. Also, I can edit and enhance my video with callouts, titles, credits, zooming, panning, quizzes and additional audio tracks.

9. VoiceThread. A Web-based digital-storytelling application that enables me to share my stories or slideshows through audio, images, videos, or text with others online. VoiceThread allows visitors to make comments on my stories or slideshows in: voice with a microphone, voice with telephone, text, audio file, and video with a webcam. I have used the VoiceThread as an online discussion tool in my class and it works quite well.

10. Skype. A great telecommunication tool that lets me use my own PC to make free voice-over-Internet and video calls to my students and colleagues (who are the Skype users as well) anywhere in the world.

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