Cool Tools for School

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.

Avoid Sppelling Erors
Some people are naturally good at spelling. Those of us who aren’t rely heavily on spell checkers. Finding a free online spell checker to fill in those web page fields is worth a lot. This is particularly useful if one comments on blogs or fills in fields with more than just name, address and email.

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.

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
****. 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 often are 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 turn a phrase and violate a song copyright. If you have some favorite cool tools, please leave a comment.