TeachersFirst Edge

New web 2.0 tools appear each day. Many of these tools were not originally intended for classroom use, but they can be powerful learning tools for today's techno-savvy students and their more adventurous teachers. These sites appear (and frequently disappear) very quickly, launched by creative techno-geeks out there in the world.

Many of these tools require a higher-than-average set of teacher tech skills or some extra monitoring to assure student "safety." TeachersFirst Edge reviews these "tools on the Edge" carefully, and with specific ideas for using them safely and effectively in teaching and learning. Reviews point out any safety or policy concerns for the tool and offer links to management tips for each concern.

Especially popular is this subset of the Edge: BYOD Dream Tools: Free tools that work on any device. Look for the device agnostic tool tag in any review.

This is the world your students already know. Try teaching in their vernacular. A little adventurousness makes for powerful learning.

See General Tips for using Edge Tools - a must for first-time users

Browse the full listing of detailed safety/school policy tips or save time by reading them as needed from each tool review.

Learn about school web filtering, a critical issue with many "Edge" tools

If you try one of these tools and find it especially useful, be sure to leave a comment on it to share your students' successes with other teachers. If you know of another tool that teachers would find beneficial, please suggest it via our webmaster account, as a "suggested resource."

Here's the Edge:

 

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Google My Maps - Google

Grades
4 to 12
1 Favorites 0  Comments
 
You may already be familiar with Google Maps, reviewed here, but Google My Maps takes working with maps a step further. Use Google My Maps to create...more
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You may already be familiar with Google Maps, reviewed here, but Google My Maps takes working with maps a step further. Use Google My Maps to create custom maps with features you add. Add points or shapes to any location, use the embedded search to find places then save to your map, import information from spreadsheets, and customize your map with colored icons and your uploaded images and videos. Collaborate on your project just like you would with Google Documents, then embed maps into your website or blog.

tag(s): maps (294), virtual field trips (54)

In the Classroom

Share Google My Maps on an interactive whiteboard or projector to create virtual trips for many situations. Create a trip to biomes around the world, visit places mentioned within books, map out battlefield locations for different wars, or find and save different kinds of landforms on your map. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. Embed completed maps onto your class webpage or blog for students to view when reviewing for tests or quizzes. Have older students complete their own Google My Map project to create their own virtual field trips. This site is perfect to use in conjunction with TeachersFirst Reading Treks to follow the adventures of characters in the featured stories. Not ready to create your own maps? Use the explore feature on the site to find many examples of maps made by others.

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Free Website Map Widget - ClustrMaps

Grades
K to 12
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Add a real-time map of your website or blog's visitors with this geo-location hitmap. Download then customize the widget with your preference of colors, size, and stats available for...more
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Add a real-time map of your website or blog's visitors with this geo-location hitmap. Download then customize the widget with your preference of colors, size, and stats available for viewing. Follow the steps to create your customized code then place on your site.

tag(s): blogs (87), computers (100), maps (294)

In the Classroom

Students will love seeing the wide variety of visitors to their classroom website. Have a student share locations of viewers with other students, then research to learn more about those areas around the world. Challenge students to create an interactive map with images and videos using a tool such as Stepmap, reviewed here, for where the visitors to their blog live. With Stepmap students can colorize specific areas including national parks, or the city and neighborhoods of their visitors to their blog; additional options include latitude and longitude lines, and icons. Ask students to create an annotated image of any location including text boxes and related links using a tool such as Thinglink, reviewed here. Display a world map in your classroom and pin locations of viewers on the map for students to see at all times.

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QuickTopic - Steve Yost

Grades
9 to 12
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QuickTopic is a free collaborative message board designed for ease of use for any user and includes additional options for more advanced users. This site fully integrates with email;...more
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QuickTopic is a free collaborative message board designed for ease of use for any user and includes additional options for more advanced users. This site fully integrates with email; email responses post to the forum automatically. Other options allow the creation of multiple forums for different topics and the ability to archive and delete discussions by the account administrator.

tag(s): collaboration (19), questioning (35)

In the Classroom

Consider using QuickTopic as a resource in your classroom to increase student interaction with materials and each other. Create quick questions or even a short quiz using QuickTopic. Small groups can use QuickTopic during research to share resources. Library/media specialists could use this tool for online book clubs. Teach on a team? Collaborate with other teachers for assignments and more using this site.

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ProProfs Brain Games - ProProfs Brain Games

Grades
K to 12
2 Favorites 1  Comments
 
ProProfs Brain Games allows you to play or create puzzles and games. Choose from created games in formats including hangman, crosswords, word scrambles, tic tac toe, and more. Create...more
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ProProfs Brain Games allows you to play or create puzzles and games. Choose from created games in formats including hangman, crosswords, word scrambles, tic tac toe, and more. Create a free account to make your own puzzles using the game choices provided. Creating puzzle options includes options for levels of difficulty and personalization of images and vocabulary.

tag(s): game based learning (131), gamification (85), logic (241), problem solving (289), puzzles (207)

In the Classroom

Share puzzles and brain teasers with students on your class website or classroom computers. Brainstorm with students on problem-solving methods and tips. Use a tool like Padlet, reviewed here, to share your list of ideas. Have students use Brain Games to create their own games to review classroom material before tests and quizzes. Take student learning a step further and include their game in a Symbaloo Learning Path, reviewed here. This site allows users to add tiles including quizzes, websites, videos, and more to follow as a learning path for any subject.

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Shirley, CA, Grades: 6 - 12

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Microsoft Visual Studio - Microsoft

Grades
6 to 12
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Microsoft Visual Studio offers a variety of free tools and services to build and develop apps on any platform. Download Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio Community, and sign up ...more
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Microsoft Visual Studio offers a variety of free tools and services to build and develop apps on any platform. Download Visual Studio Code and Visual Studio Community, and sign up for a free account on Visual Studio Team Services providing tools and information for integration across platforms. Sign up also for training sessions and additional downloads.

tag(s): coding (68), computers (100), logic (241), problem solving (289)

In the Classroom

Share Microsoft Visual with students interested in computer coding. Have students sign up for training that meets their interests. Encourage students to design apps that help fellow students and others in your school. For example, design an app for tracking assignments or an app for collaborating on school projects.

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Beautiful Audio Editor - Creative Tools

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K to 12
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Beautiful Audio is an in-browser audio editor that works with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Use the editor to import or record audio files to edit. Use the toolbar to ...more
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Beautiful Audio is an in-browser audio editor that works with Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox. Use the editor to import or record audio files to edit. Use the toolbar to add effects, drag and reorder audio, and split or delete sections of your file. Easily save completed projects to Google Drive or your computer. Be sure to visit the "Docs" section of this site for an overview of available features. Beautiful Audio recommends using the editor for files under 300mb or 45 minutes in length to avoid crashes leading to project failures.

tag(s): editing (71)

In the Classroom

Record your class singing or reading their compositions to share with parents on your website or blog. Record and edit sound to be included with PowerPoint presentations. Use with a creative writing project to record stories for selected images. Share with students to use with multimedia projects to create background audio or original audio presentations. View the features of the site on your interactive whiteboard together with your older students, then allow them time to explore and experiment with the available features. Instead of having students share a written speech as an oral presentation, ask them to use Beautiful Audio to record their presentation and add original features to the soundtrack. Include this recording as part of a multimedia presentation using a site like Sway, reviewed here. Sway offers tools to create interactive presentations available for all devices.
 

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MrOwl - Arvind Raichur

Grades
6 to 12
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Organize, search, and share information with MrOwl. Use this site to build "branches" with information useful to you. Add links, photos, and videos to your branches, then share with...more
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Organize, search, and share information with MrOwl. Use this site to build "branches" with information useful to you. Add links, photos, and videos to your branches, then share with others through social media. Search the site to find branches created by others and grab them to save in your account.

tag(s): bookmarks (67), organizational skills (126)

In the Classroom

Use MrOwl to organize and save resources for all classroom content. Have students create and share branches with resources used in research projects. Share with students as a way to organize information for review of any content.

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kudoswall - Nikhil Vootkur and Jag Vootkur

Grades
K to 12
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kudoswall is a free online portfolio-building tool. Upload images to document accomplishments, talents, and experiences. Add and sort information into categories documenting sports,...more
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kudoswall is a free online portfolio-building tool. Upload images to document accomplishments, talents, and experiences. Add and sort information into categories documenting sports, academic, volunteer, or other topics. kudoswall automatically creates a portfolio for sharing or updating at any time.

tag(s): assessment (114), classroom management (158), portfolios (35)

In the Classroom

Record classroom activities and student learning with photos or written anecdotes. Show students how to create a portfolio, then document their learning and make comments in their portfolio. Share portfolios with parents, not just at conference time, but anytime the student portfolio is updated to keep parents in the loop.

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WordMint - Nathaniel Story

Grades
K to 12
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Create crossword puzzles, word searches, and bingo cards quickly with WordMint. Create your free account to begin, then choose an activity to set up and enter terms. When finished,...more
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Create crossword puzzles, word searches, and bingo cards quickly with WordMint. Create your free account to begin, then choose an activity to set up and enter terms. When finished, print and save your puzzle including an answer key and student copies. WordMint also contains an extensive database of already made word searches and puzzles that don't require registration to use, find the links to them at the bottom of the home page.

tag(s): crosswords (20), puzzles (207)

In the Classroom

Create puzzles and activities to review spelling or vocabulary terms. Create bingo cards and use as an introduction to new concepts. Share a link to this site on your class website for students to create their own puzzles for review at home.
 This resource requires PDF reader software like Adobe Acrobat.

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MapHub - Zsolt Ero and Gergely Matyus

Grades
4 to 12
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Create personalized and interactive maps with MapHub's user-friendly features. Explore the featured maps to find examples of maps, then make your own. MapHub's short tutorial provides...more
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Create personalized and interactive maps with MapHub's user-friendly features. Explore the featured maps to find examples of maps, then make your own. MapHub's short tutorial provides an overview of features. Add and personalize points on your map by choosing from different icons and color combinations. Give your icon a title and description; MapHub also provides many choices for map backgrounds. Connect points of interest using lines or define with polygons. When finished, download your map or share using the provided link or embed code.

tag(s): digital storytelling (151), maps (294)

In the Classroom

Use MapHub for personalized lessons in using maps and defining locations. Create a map to share on your interactive whiteboard (or with a projector) to highlight landforms, state capitols, or locations within a novel. As you teach about events in history such as the Civil War add markers to your map to share locations and information from that event. Add notes to your icons sharing information from each location. Include a link to this map on classroom computers or embed onto your class blog for students to view from any device. Add URLs to additional resources within your descriptions of points on a map. This allows you and your students to create visual presentations with access to multiple resources. Flip your classroom to create an interactive lesson using MapHub. Have students view your map as an introduction to a new unit. Instead of a traditional book report or class presentation, have students use MapHub to create an interactive map sharing their learning.

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Chartico - Gal Shir

Grades
1 to 12
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Create colorful bar charts in just a few easy steps using Chartico. Click to begin a New Chart and add information. Add color to each bar by clicking on the ...more
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Create colorful bar charts in just a few easy steps using Chartico. Click to begin a New Chart and add information. Add color to each bar by clicking on the bar and choosing from color options Select the last bar to delete or add bars for your chart. Share your chart using social media links, or right click on the image to save to your computer.

tag(s): charts and graphs (198)

In the Classroom

With the class, discuss sets of data. Then use an interactive whiteboard or projector and create a bar graph using Chartico as a way to introduce this tool. Have students use the information on the bar graph to create a different type of graph using the same information. Have students create their own bar graphs using Chartico to include with research reports.
 

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Anchor - Michael Mignano and Nir Zicherman

Grades
1 to 12
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Turn audio into a podcast using any device with Anchor. Add songs from Apple Music or Spotify, upload audio from your computer, or record your voice to create your podcast. ...more
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Turn audio into a podcast using any device with Anchor. Add songs from Apple Music or Spotify, upload audio from your computer, or record your voice to create your podcast. Choose a name when finished, then upload your content as a finished podcast. For ideas on what to include in your podcast, listen to Anchor podcasts shared on the site by Anchor users.

tag(s): DAT device agnostic tool (178), podcasts (59)

In the Classroom

Create regular or special podcasts to share on your class web page or wiki. Looking for even more ideas? Record class assignments or directions. Record story time or a reading excerpt for younger ones to listen to at a computer center AND from home! Have readers (perhaps older buddies) build fluency by recording selected passages for your non-readers. Launch a service project for your fifth or sixth graders to record stories for the kindergarten to use in their reading and listening center. Challenge students to create "you are there" recordings as "eyewitnesses" to historical or current events. Make a weekly class podcast, with students taking turns writing and sharing the "Class News," encourage students to create radio advertisements for concepts studied in class (Buy Dynamic DNA!). Invite students to write and record their own stories or poetry in dramatic readings. Language students or beginning readers could record their fluency by reading passages. Allow parents to hear their child's progress reading aloud, etc. Compare world language, speech articulation, or reading fluency at two points during the year. Challenge your Shakespeare students to record a soliloquy. Write and record a poem for Father's or Mother's Day (or other special events) and send the URL as a gift to that special person. If you have gifted students who lean toward the dramatic, this tool is simple enough for them to create dramatic mini-casts without needing any additional tools.

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QuizPedia - Stephan Stephensen

Grades
6 to 12
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Create and play your own quizzes with QuizPedia's straightforward and customizable design. Play quizzes without registration or register to create and save your own quizzes. Follow...more
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Create and play your own quizzes with QuizPedia's straightforward and customizable design. Play quizzes without registration or register to create and save your own quizzes. Follow the steps to create your quiz on any device. QuizPedia's format allows the use of images as an option for both questions and responses. Additional options let you set the time quizzes are active or set rules for visibility options.

tag(s): assessment (114), DAT device agnostic tool (178), game based learning (131), gamification (85), quizzes (103)

In the Classroom

Pretest students and allow them to "test out" of material they already know. Learning support teachers will want their students to create their own QuizPedia sets for practice and review of any material. Create your own sets of quizzes, or let students do the work for themselves and each other. Take advantage of quizzes previously developed and available to share with students on your class website. Allow students to create a quiz for other students to take following class presentations and reports.

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Sketchboard - sketchboard.io

Grades
K to 12
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Sketchboard is an online collaborative whiteboard tool that contains unlimited drawing space. The free plan allows up to 5 users, three private boards, and unlimited public boards....more
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Sketchboard is an online collaborative whiteboard tool that contains unlimited drawing space. The free plan allows up to 5 users, three private boards, and unlimited public boards. View the 3 step tutorial to learn how to add features and use the included features. Easily share your board with other participants using the provided link.

tag(s): drawing (81), iwb (33), painting (67)

In the Classroom

Allow students to create collaborative drawings as responses to literature. They can map out the plot or themes, add labels, create character studies, and more. Share the finished products on an interactive whiteboard, projector, or your class website. Have a group of students create a drawing so that another group can use it as a writing prompt. Use a board as a brainstorming or sketching space as groups (or the class) share ideas for a major project or for solving a real-world problem. Use this site with students in a computer lab (or on laptops) to create a drawing of the setting in a story as it is read aloud. As an assessment idea, have students draw out a simple cartoon with stick figures to explain a more complex process such as how democracy works. If you are lucky enough to teach in a BYOD setting, use Sketchboard to demonstrate and illustrate any concept while students use the chat and drawing tools to interact in real time. If you are studying weather, have students diagram the layers of the atmosphere and what happens during a thunderstorm, for example. Introduce this tool to students who are working on group projects. Alternatively, have students use this to work as partners or as a small team to complete complex math problems or equations. Give students a problem by typing it on their board.

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Sploder - Geoff P. Gaudreault

Grades
5 to 12
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Design and play online games at Sploder. Register on the site to save and share your creations; however, registration isn't required to play games. Choose from four different game options...more
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Design and play online games at Sploder. Register on the site to save and share your creations; however, registration isn't required to play games. Choose from four different game options to create games without any coding skills. Scroll down on the home page to select games by topic including two-player games and girl games.

tag(s): game based learning (131), gamification (85)

In the Classroom

Show Sploder to students who love to play games as an excellent source for creating their own games. Ask them to create educational games for classroom topics such as identifying parts of speech or multiples of numbers. Share a link to games on your class website for review.

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Free Office Online Apps - Microsoft

Grades
K to 12
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Create and collaborate from any computer using the Microsoft suite of Office apps. Choose from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft applications to begin. Sign in to (or create)...more
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Create and collaborate from any computer using the Microsoft suite of Office apps. Choose from Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and other Microsoft applications to begin. Sign in to (or create) your Microsoft account and follow directions. Each application works within the familiar interface of the downloaded applications.

tag(s): classroom management (158), editing (71), portfolios (35), spreadsheets (19)

In the Classroom

Take advantage of these free Microsoft applications to access and use documents across a variety of devices. Have students collaborate on reports and presentations using the tools provided on this site. Easily curate and share class projects made using Microsoft Office using sharing links within each tool. Consider creating a class OneDrive account for students to share and upload documents and class projects. Flip your classroom by uploading documents and presentations for students to access on their own, then have students add comments and additional information to the uploaded document. Find 32 ideas for using Office Apps in this informative blog post from Microsoft.

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Bing Maps - Microsoft

Grades
K to 12
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Use Bing Maps as your online resource for mapping locations and more. Allow Bing to recognize your location, then find and map directions anywhere. Additional features allow you to...more
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Use Bing Maps as your online resource for mapping locations and more. Allow Bing to recognize your location, then find and map directions anywhere. Additional features allow you to view current traffic along the route. Additional icons offer nearby locations for restaurants, gas stations, and more. Choose different views for viewing maps including road, aerial, and street-side views. Sign in to Bing Maps using your Microsoft account to save and access your collections from any device.

tag(s): directions (19), maps (294)

In the Classroom

If you teach geography, this one's a must. It is also helpful for showing students WHERE a story or news event takes place. In lower grades, use it to show students the basics of their community. Teach map skills by showing students their own community. Zoom in on their street or the school. This site is perfect for sharing on an interactive whiteboard. Set up a class Microsoft account (or use student accounts if permitted). Have students create their own custom route plans to tour historic sites. Challenge math students to plan the most economical route to visit several vacation destinations, including gas mileage and gas prices. Have students create place-marker files of the important places in the life of a famous person or the route traveled by a particular unit during the Civil War. Have student groups create place-marker files to show environmental sites, habitats, landforms, or anything you can place on a map. Share or embed student-created maps using the links and embed code provided.

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Kodu Game Lab - Microsoft Research

Grades
3 to 12
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Kodu is a software download for creating Windows PC games through a simple programming language. A download is also available for Xbox games; however, it is not free. The software ...more
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Kodu is a software download for creating Windows PC games through a simple programming language. A download is also available for Xbox games; however, it is not free. The software allows users to create and personalize virtual worlds through point and click options. Additional options offer "if this, then that" personalization to add variety to the game. Under Resources find the "Getting Started" tutorial videos that reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): coding (68), game based learning (131), gamification (85)

In the Classroom

Have students work in teams to design and develop content demonstrating an understanding of lessons in any subject area. Begin sharing Kodu with your computer experts who are interested in programming. Allow them to be the leaders in sharing how to use and personalize the program. Use Kodu as part of an after-school computer club. Be sure to take advantage of the resources section of Kodu for tips and tutorials on using the program.

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Inkscape - The Inkscape Project

Grades
6 to 12
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Inkscape is a free vector graphics software program. Download it to your computer using the provided links for different operating systems. Use Inkscape to create icons, logos, maps,...more
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Inkscape is a free vector graphics software program. Download it to your computer using the provided links for different operating systems. Use Inkscape to create icons, logos, maps, and more. The software supports many different file formats and has an extensive set of drawing tools. View the many tutorials found on the site to learn how to use Inkscape and understand the many features available for use. The video tutorials reside on YouTube. If your district blocks YouTube, the videos may not be viewable. You could always view them at home and bring them to class "on a stick" to share. Use a tool such as Freemake Video Converter, reviewed here, to download the videos from YouTube.

tag(s): design (83), graphic design (35), images (272)

In the Classroom

Include Inkscape as part of any graphics art program. Allow students to use the program to create digital icons for school projects, logos for athletic teams, or enhance images for school yearbooks.

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RobotBasic - John Blankenship

Grades
6 to 12
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RobotBasic is a free program download for robotic simulations. It features the ability to include several different commands and sensors. The program is for both novice and experienced...more
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RobotBasic is a free program download for robotic simulations. It features the ability to include several different commands and sensors. The program is for both novice and experienced programmers, this site includes several video tutorials that begin with the assumption that users don't have any programming experience. Be sure to read all system requirements and necessary information before downloading the program.

tag(s): computers (100), robotics (26)

In the Classroom

Share RobotBasic with students interested in computer programming. Ask proficient programmers to be the "experts" and share how-to activities with other students. Have your experts create short tutorials using a tool like My Simpleshow, reviewed here, and share them using a tool such as SchoolTube, reviewed here.

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