Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A Feast of Fall Freebies

Magazine article Curriculum Administrator

A Feast of Fall Freebies

Article excerpt

Web sites offer K-12 administrators and teachers everything from advice to e-mail to lesson plans, all for no cost.

ANYONE STILL BELIEVING there's no such thing as a free lunch clearly has not been paying attention. For K-12's appetite, the Web serves up a veritable smorgasbord of tools, curriculum, news, activities plus timely help for any need from colleagues or experts--all at no charge. So belly up to the banquet as CURRICULUM ADMINISTRATOR samples just some of what you'll find on the Web's fall buffet.

APPETIZING FREE SERVICES

HiFusion (www.hifusion.com) is a "free, filtered and focused" ISP connection for K-12 staff, students and parents. In English or in Spanish, this new online service provides news, e-mail, instant messaging, chat and boards, plus deep educational resources in a format that ties the school and community together. HiFusion kids get their own K-5 or 6-12 entryways, as do teachers and school leaders.

For out-bound communication, SchoolNotes or eBoard may satisfy. Using eBoard (eboard.com), a teacher can create a "virtual corkboard" in two minutes that will handle text messages, plus photos, schedules and now file attachments, with tabs to help organize content. More simply, SchoolNotes (schoolnotes.com) posts homework assignments or other information to the Web (in English or Spanish) that parents or students find via zip code. It also builds custom Web flashcards for study.

Celebrating two-way dialogue is ePALS (www.epals. com). Worldwide, more than two million students and teachers in 182 countries employ its free monitored e-mail and classroom profile services to share and learn via collaborative projects, pen pals and more. Language translation, chat, printable maps and other tools assist the experience.

Back home, tame scheduling nightmares with eHomeRoom's (www.ehomeroom.com) free calendar site. Families can track all their of children's school and other activities in one integrated, customizable calendar that updates itself when teachers or campus officials post new information. Attendance, homework notices and common e-mail tasks may also be performed.

ClassRoll.com (www.classroll.com) goes even further, adding Web applications for grading, attendance and lesson plans to the mix. Fully replacing locally run software, this ASP converts and keeps student data on its servers, too, under Oracle 8i and behind a firewall. Applications, data conversion, hosting and access are all free.

Adding instant zest to a school's Web life is the HighWired collection of elegant site builders (www.highwired.com). Based on their popular school newspaper model, these free tools use customizable templates to easily publish Web sites tailored for school clubs (activities), sports groups and teams, guidance/career interests, individual classrooms, and whole campuses (SchoolCentral). Become a free member to activate My HighWired, featuring e-mail, calendars, to-do lists and discussion functions.

Finally, imagine how live Webcasts might impact a collaborative learning project among remote classrooms or enrich teacher training. Now, using SpotLife (www.spotlife.com), teachers or students with supported Webcams can merely "point, click and broadcast" to share live Web casts or stored video and images. This is an intriguing tool, and free at the basic membership level. File educational material under the think channel for regular use, or just send Webcasts out live. SpotLife's eclectic array of channels are continuously monitored for adult sexual content, plus a mature audiences checkbox further filters content.

REFRESHING SOURCES OF NEW FREEBIES

It's easier than ever to quench your thirst for new no-cost materials or great deals. The Teacher Freebies section on About.com, for example, is worth tracking for fresh treats (freebies.about.com/shopping/freebies/cs/teacherfreebies/ index.htm). At the FreeSite, having the "most complete listings on the Net," 24 categories from fun to technical satisfy any special taste (www. …

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