This page lists, alphabetically, a collection of online and downloadable resources that support curriculum. These are some of the resources that I have blogged about HERE.
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2 + 2 Mathematics for Children (downloadable program) This completely free downloadable program is well designed to help build numeracy. The program offers a variety of activities for students to practice basic number facts and computation skills–addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. Activities are accompanied by soothing music and a human voice to provide encouragement. You have the option of downloading an Italian or Polish version of this program if you happen to need that.
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2Learn.ca Education Society (online resource) This website houses an amazingly extensive collection of online resources for K – 12 students, for their parents, and for their teachers. In addition to offering a few of its own resources, this website provides links to some of the best educational resources and online activities available elsewhere on the internet. The site is well organized, making it easy to locate material and activities to support specific areas of the curriculum. For Canadian schools, the French language resources may be especially helpful.
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Algebasics (online resource) This is an extremely valuable resource for anyone needing help learning algebra or wishing to review algebraic concepts already introduced. The site begins with the most basic concepts and works systematically through to quadratics and algebraic applications. A flash activity has been created for each concept. In every instance, a visual step-by-step demonstration is accompanied by a clear audio explanation. A student may have the demonstration repeated as often as necessary.
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ARKive Education describes itself as “…a free multi-media resource for teachers and educators.” It is an extensive and well organized resource of extremely high quality. Lesson modules, organized by targeted age level from 5 to 16+, cover a wide range of topics in science and social studies.
Each lesson module consists of an interactive PowerPoint file that contains supporting photos and video footage. The modules download as zipped files which must be properly unzipped and saved to your computer in order to work properly. In fact, I found the modules I sampled to function very slowly the first time through. It was smooth sailing after that.
In addition to the lesson modules, Arkive Education offers a collection of engaging online games.
It is worth noting that Arkive Education is the “child” of ARKive, a website that houses literally thousands of wildlife images and videos, with a special focus on threatened species. Images have been carefully catalogued for easy searching. A great deal of additional information is also available about each species. All movie clips and images on the ARKive website are free to download and use for internal educational purposes.
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BBC Dance Mat Typing This is a free online introduction to touch typing that targets children aged 7 to 11. The multi-modal instruction (auditory, visual, tactile) is engaging, systematic and clear. With its wonderfully corny themes and music, even the drills seem like fun. The course is divided into 4 levels, and each level into 3 stages. There is a different exotic and eccentric “teacher” to guide the learner through each of the levels.
As this is a resource from the BBC, there is no advertising on the site. If desired, there is a full screen mode for all of the activities. Although it isn’t nearly so engaging, there is also a non-flash version available. This is one of the best touch typing programs I’ve discovered to date. I’m a wee bit older than 11, but I’ve spent more time than necessary trying out some of the activities because they were so much fun.
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BBC Schools Page (online resource) Many high quality interactive online activities for kids of all ages. Activities include stories, language learning exercises, science lessons, music, numeracy skills, and much more. Be sure to check out the Little Animals Activity Centre under literacy for 4 to 11.(Select sound for the stories by “Story Bear”) This site from the British Broadcasting Corporation is ad-free..
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BlockCAD (downloadable program) BlockCAD is a free onscreen lego program where you can build and save lego creations on your computer. This program is sophisticated and attractive. There is a tremendous variety of lego blocks to choose from, so the options for creative art and problem solving are virtually unlimited. In addition to the potential for fun, this program might be used in a wide variety of ways–perhaps to investigate concepts in science, to illustrate social studies projects, or to explore three dimensional graphic design. Download the program, as well as additional resources at Anders’ Corner of the Web. You’ll also find a gallery of virtual creations built by others. It can be a bit challenging to learn how to work the program, but some online help is available. For those who persevere, the journey is well worthwhile!
Browser Books is a site that contains a set of over 50 attractive grade one books that can be read online. Along with text, the books contain photos of real children and real objects in situations that other children can easily identify with. Here’s what the site’s author has to say about it:
This website was created to allow beginning readers to read books on their web browser. Readers can click on the triangle in the lower right-hand corner of each page to turn the pages. If they are unsure of a word, they can click on it to hear a child’s voice read the word to them.
The books have been sorted by level and by subject according to the curriculum. Where possible, the specific objective in the Saskatchewan Evergreen Curriculum has been indicated.
Browser Books offers a very special kind of user generated web content that will engage learners and re-enforce learning in homes and classrooms around the world. Browser Books also sets an example of what can be done in classrooms around the world. I suspect that the children in Mrs. Cassidy’s classroom found it powerfully motivating to help create this resource.
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Calendar Magic (downloadable program) There are numerous free calendar applications, but this one is unique. Calendar Magic offers calendars in Gregorian, Chinese, Hebrew, Julian, and Persian formats. This calendar enables you to go back to virtually any date in history. It’s easy to go back and find the day of the week on which you were born, or to discover how many days you have lived. If you need to know the date and time of an equinox, solstice, or moon phase in any year between 1582 and 3000, then this is the calendar for you. Also, if you need to know when religious festivals or other days of observance occur, Calendar Magic will help you with that. Of course, Calendar Magic can give you reminders for current events such as birthdays or anniversaries, even an audible reminder for something that is about to happen immediately. Other features include a Geometry calculator and a mathematical Expressions Calculator. This program has been developed by a company called Eurosoft, and they continue to update it. The latest release was on Aug. 11, 2006. (This program runs in Windows.)
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Celestia (downloadable program) This is a “…free space simulation that lets you explore our universe in three dimensions! Celestia doesn’t confine you to the surface of the Earth. You can travel throughout the solar system, to any of over 100,000 stars, or even beyond the galaxy.” There are exciting add-ons and instructional units available from the “Motherlode”, but it requires a little computer savvy to install them. Entire educational units have been prepared for students in grades 7 – 12. A 46-page downloadable User’s Guide has been prepared by Frank Gregorio. Further support is available through forums hosted on Celestia’s website.
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Cells Alive (online resource) This is a well organized biology resource of exceptional quality that offers a wealth of information. Material is presented and illustrated in such an engaging manner that it is accessible to learners across the learning-style spectrum. As well, the Firefox add-on, CLiCkSpeak, is able to read aloud much of the content on Cells Alive, and the website’s pages can be printed directly into Kurzweil 3000 via the virtual printer.
Cells Alive provides beautifully illustrated definitions, interactive animations, puzzles, and quizzes. Key words are suggested throughout the site to facilitate extended learning. Teaching materials are available for sale, but animal and plant cell-diagrams can be downloaded free of charge for use by teachers and students.
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Children’s Storybooks Online is a site that contains 35 beautifully illustrated stories. A few of the stories contain built-in audio that is read expressively by a real live person. Some of the stories may be purchased and downloaded as “talking e-books” , with individually clickable words, for $3.00 or $3.50 each.
The stories are organized into 3 categories: Books for Young Children; Books for Older Children; Books for Young Adults.
I believe there are indeed many children of all ages who would enjoy the books available at Children’s Storybooks Online.
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Childtopia is a website from Spain that offers a collection of online early learning and primary activities that can be accessed in English, French, Spanish, Catalan and Basque. Chiltopia accurately claims to be a “safe place to play and learn”, with countless online activities and printable worksheets. The screenshot below shows the range of available activities. Helpfully, the name of each category is spoken as you mouse over its button.
I believe that the “Listen and Reading Comprehension” section is especially impressive. Beautifully illustrated stories are read aloud, with each word highlighted as it is read. Each story is accompanied by a set of comprehension questions that are also read aloud. Independent readers, however, have the option of reading the stories and questions to themselves. The “Tales” section offers 7 traditional fairy tales. These are illustrated and read aloud with the text onscreen, but text is not highlighted as it is read.
Apart from having the opportunity to purchase Childtopia’s activities on CD for use when you cannot be online, there is no advertising on this site. All activities on the CD’s can be used free of charge online.
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Cliffs Notes (online resource) Extensive collection of free online study notes for literature, covering a wide range of titles and authors. There is plenty of advertising on this site, and the folks who operate the site would like to sell you print copies of their notes. Still, it doesn’t cost anything to read the notes online. The notes from this site can be printed into Kurzweil 3000 so that a student can take advantage of Kurzweil’s many study aids.
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Count On (online resource) is another high quality ad-free educational site from the UK. As the name implies, the focus here is on maths. There are numerous games, puzzles and activities here. The math that is explored and reenforced here goes well beyond basic skills and concepts. Some of the activities are even a little unusual such as the art gallery that showcases western and Islamic art with connections to mathematics. At Count On, you’ll also find multiple links to other good math sites. This one is well worth a look.
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curriculumSET (online resource) This is a new “emerging” database of downloadable activities designed for students who use assistive technology to access the curriculum. At present, most activities are for Clicker 4, Clicker 5, or Classroom Suite. There are a handful of activities for Boardmaker, Kurzweil 3000 and Solo. The collection is searchable and well organized by subject area and school level, but there are presently some gaps in what is available.
The potential for using curriculumSET to share resources is tremendous. Too many people are wasting precious time as they repeat the efforts of others. In many instances, it works well to use an activity that has been created by someone else as a template for a new activity with modified or alternative content.
curriculumSET is offered by SET-BC, which happens to be where I hold down a day-job.
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do2Learn is a website that offers an extensive set of resources designed specifically to support the learning of fundamental skills by individuals with special needs. This site offers products for sale, but it also provides a significant number of helpful teaching and learning resources that can be downloaded free of charge. There are also some free online activities that support learning.
Resources available for download include symbol sets to help learn and communicate about daily living skills, pictures and symbols for creating social stories, visual maps, practice guides for learning to print and write, a variety of step-by-step art activities, as well as sing-along songs and interactive games to help learn basic skills.
Do2Learn provides resources about disabilities for teachers and families. Of special note is the “FASD Toolbox for Teachers”. This is a collection of effective classroom strategies for supporting learners with fetal alcohol syndrome disorder.
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Dragonfly TV (online resource) This is an excellent website for kids from PBS. Investigative activities are conducted and presented by kids. Many of the presentations incorporate video footage. There are also suggested investigative activities where students are invited to submit their findings. Just in case that isn’t enough, there are also great online games here. Click on this link to go to the Dragonfly Video Podcast Channel for podcasts showing “…real kids doing real science. DragonflyTV taps ordinary kids doing extraordinary investigations, and showcases them in fast-moving video with wall-to-wall music.
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Drawing for Children (downloadable program) This is an attractive multi-featured drawing program designed specifically for children. Artwork can be saved and/or printed.
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(Click the title above to download the list.)
I first noticed Dinell Stuckey on the Intellitools’ Activity Exchange, where she has shared some very high quality and engaging activities that she’s created. I’ve been using these activities with my students for the past three years.
Now Dinell has put together and shared an extensive list of electronic book resources that are available on the internet. There are learners in every classroom who benefit from access to electronic text, so this is a resource that is not just for teachers and learners in “special” education.
Dinell has shared the rationale and background for her list on Annie’s Resource Attic, and I encourage you to go there to read it for yourself. If you don’t already subscribe to Ann Brundige’s blog, you will want to do so after taking a look. It is another blog with a focus on sharing “free materials for teachers”.
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Free Reading is a wiki built on the Mediawiki platform, and it provides a forum for creating and sharing early literacy resources. There is already an impressive foundation here with great growth potential.
The Free Reading community defines itself as:
“…an ongoing, collaborative, teacher-based, curriculum-sharing project. We’re looking to provide a reliable forum where teachers can openly and freely share their successful and effective methods for teaching reading in grades K-1.
The stated underlying premises of the project are clear:
- The research on how students learn to read is well-established.
- The research on which instructional techniques work is well-understood.
- The voices of those who know what works best — the classroom teachers — are rarely heard in instructional design.
- The power of “we” is far greater than the power of “you” or “I. (underlining added)
Free Reading is truly an open source curriculum development community. The wiki already contains a repository of links to relevant research, a complete 40 week K-1 reading intervention program, phonics activities, vocabulary development exercises based on quality children’s books, audio and video supports, and more.
This is a community that welcomes participation. It is worth a look by anyone involved in teaching early literacy. If you teach early literacy, this may even be a place where you want to invest. In my own experience, there is nothing more rewarding than sharing!
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Game Design is a website that houses a both a collection of flash games for online use as well as games that may be downloaded and installed on your PC for use off line. There are about 30 flash games and puzzles to play on line that include simple math challenges, word puzzles, strategy games, etc. There are about half as many similar games that you can download and install on your own PC. These downloadable games are of particular interest for classrooms that may have limited internet access.
The site is ad supported (Google adsense). There is also a link in the header to the “Andkon Arcade“, an extensive collection of online flash games. I have not explored the Andkon Arcade to determine appropriateness for a classroom context.
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Google Earth (downloadable program) This is a free downloadable program from Google that can enrich anyone’s life, including his or her curriculum at school. In Google’s own words, “The idea is simple. It’s a globe that sits inside your PC. You point and zoom to anyplace on the planet that you want to explore. Satellite images and local facts zoom into view. Tap into Google search to show local points of interest and facts. Zoom to a specific address to check out an apartment or hotel. View driving directions and even fly along your route.” If you haven’t yet experienced Google Earth, and used it to explore your world, you will be rewarded handsomely for checking it out.
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GraphCalc (downloadable program) I downloaded this program and found that it seemed to function well, with a graphic interface that looked almost approachable. The sad reality is that I don’t know nearly enough math to put this program through its paces. If you need an onscreen graphing calculator, however, I have no doubt that this program will get the job done for you. Since I’m no mathemetician, I’ll let the guys who designed the program describe it for you.
“When in the course of computing events it becomes apparent that not all calculators are created equal, one must turn no further than to GraphCalc. When the requirements of your computations exceed the capabilities of your four-function figurer, turn to GraphCalc. When you need to see what multiple compound exponential sinusoidal waves look like, turn to GraphCalc. Haven’t we all at some point wanted to see what “sin(x)^2-3*ln(tan(x*pi))” looked like, and the Windows calculator just wasn’t up to the task?
GraphCalc can be your first, last, and only line of offense against the mathematics that threaten to push you over the brink of insanity. It slices, dices, shreds and purees functions that leave other calculators wondering what hit them.
GraphCalc is an all-in-one solution to everything from everyday arithmetic to statistical analysis, from betas to Booleans, from cubes to calculus, from decimals to derivatives. GraphCalc combines all the features of a professional mathematics package with the simplicity of an easy to learn windows interface. It provides user-friendly help and tutorials to guide you through the easy and fun process of mastering GraphCalc.
GraphCalc is ready to use out of the box. Don’t bother reading the documentation. Just start the program and you’ll see how easy it is to use.”
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Graphic Organizers (online resource) Great online source of graphic organizers from Houghton Mifflin’s Education Place. The downloadable templates here can be customized for an infinite variety of learning activities across the curriculum. Although this is a resource that supports curriculum, it is definitely a form of productivity tool for teachers.
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Hammerhead Rhythm Station (downloadable program with online resources) If you like drums, you can use this totally free program to create, play and save music on your computer. I’m not a musicia, so I’ll let the developers do the describing: “You can use it to create perfect Techno loops, Jungle patterns, or House beats, but it’s also suitable for Hip Hop,Trihop, Rap, Industrial, and almost any other music you can think of. Hammerhead features six separate channels, 29 built-in drum sounds, six complete breakbeats, and the possibility to import six samples of your own. You can save your patterns to completely noise-free CD-quality wave files to use them with your sampler, tracker, or sequencer program.”
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Hiyah.net (downloadable programs) Hiyah fills a significant need by offering a growing set of downloadable activities designed to help develop basic language and communication skills in children with autism, ADHD, or delayed speech. Each activity is built around a nursery rhyme, a specific holiday/celebration, or other activity that might be stressful for a child. The activities are visually appealing, and it is evident that they are the result of careful thought and planning.
Since the activities have been created in PowerPoint, they can all be accessed by having the child simply hit the space bar. Alternatively, a switch may be used via an adapted mouse.
Each activity comes bundled with its own PowerPoint viewer. This means that when you double click on a shortcut for the activity, the activity will open in PowerPoint. Image and sound quality is high. Because of the rich media content, some of the files are rather large. This means that downloading can take some time even with a high speed connection.
These activities run in Windows and Mac.
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Instructables bills itself as “The World’s Biggest Show & Tell”. It strikes me as an online paradise for people of any age who are interested in inventing, designing, and making things. I see huge potential for engaging countless high school students who are motivated by concrete application of what they study in school. In typical Web 2.0 fashion, Instructables offers a convenient forum for networking and collaborating with others of like mind. They even throw in additional motivation from contests that offer real prizes.
Instructables is built on the concept of posting step-by-step instructions. They provide a platform for putting up a visual image for each step, along with space for accompanying text. “Collaborators” are given the opportunity to comment on each step or on the project as a whole. The community therefore can have input on refining the process and/or the product.
Not surprisingly, Instructables hosts groups and forums. Major categories include: Art; Craft; Food; Games; Home; Life; Offbeat; Ride; Tech. There are currently 3 contests under way, including one called “Mashup” that is offering over $5,000 in prizes. Popular projects include a remote for an iPod, making a safety pin from a paper clip, and a mini airplane that actually flies. That’s the airplane shown below, and the entry in Instructables includes a video that proves it can fly!
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Internet4Classrooms (online resource) This website offers a veritable catalogue of links to internet resources for educators, many of them of outstanding quality. The site is well organized and easy to navigate so that you can browse through the literally hundreds of suggested resources. Main categories include Links for K-12 Teachers, Assessment Assistance, On-Line Practice Modules (for learning computer applications), Daily Dose of the Web, and In-School Integration Support. Each category is also well organized for convenient browsing. In the Resources section, under Links for K-12 Teachers, there is a helpful page of Assistive Technology links.
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Jefferson County Schools–PowerPoint Collection This is an extensive repository of PowerPoint presentations that have been prepared by teachers, and made available for download by other educators. Quality varies, but almost all that I have looked at are quite good.
Presentations are organized by subject (The Arts, Language Arts, Library Science, Math, Science, Social Studies). Each subject area is divided into the two broad categories of K-5 and 6-12.
A disclaimer on the site states, “The content of these presentations are provided by teachers and are presumed to be in the public domain.” This means that the presentations may be used as they are or modified as required to suit specific circumstances.
Since free PowerPoint viewers are available from Microsoft, it isn’t even necessary to have a full version of PowerPoint in order to make use of the presentations. There is great potential for making use of these presentations with students who have only single-switch access to a computer.
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kapili.com (online resource) Previously available only by paid subscription, kapili.com is now a free suite of excellent science and math websites geared primarily for elementary and middle school students. There are 6 separate websites in the suite: CHEM4KIDS; BIOLOGY4KIDS; GEOGRAPHY4KIDS; COSMOS4KIDS; PHYSICS4KIDS; NUMBERNUT.COM. Content is extensive. It is presented in an appealing manner that is respectful of students; and it is helpfully organized.
The kapili sites are of value to all students, but I believe they can be especially valuable for students with learning disablities. I have tested kapili’s science sites with the PC version of Kurzweil 3000’s “Read the Web” function and found it to work well, especially using the Firefox toolbar available in K3000’s Version 10.
The web pages of kapili.com are relatively uncluttered. Kapili.com is ad supported, but only with Google ads of the inobtrusive variety.
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Kidspace @ The Internet Public Library (online resource) is a huge repository of information and resources for children. Essentially, this site is a very well organized collection of links to other web sites. The main headings are: Reference; Our World; Computers & Internet; Health & Nutrition; Reading Zone; Math & Science; Art & Music; Sports & Recreation; Fun Stuff. Kidspace itself is ad-free and the site is clean and uncluttered. The sites that are linked are generally of very high quality, but they are not all ad-free. Kidspace provides links to both content and skill-building sources.
In addition to its “Subject Collections”, Kidspace offers what it calls “Features”. These include: Science Fair, Stately Knowledge, Learning HTML, Orca Search, Poison Prevention, Culture Quest, Story Hour, US Presidents. The site is searchable, and for children under 13, there is an “Ask a question” feature as well. The site says it requires 3 days to answer questions that are submitted.
The Internet Public Library is sponsored by The Regents of the University of Michigan.
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kidsRgreen (online resource) This is a quality interactive website from India that is geared toward children in the 5 – 10 age range. With new content being added each month, it is a growing resource for elementary social studies and science education. The focus is on the environment and responsible stewardship of our planet. Spaceship Earth is a monthly environmental magazine, complete with easily accessible archives of previous editions. Let’s Do It!, is a monthly hands on investigative activity, again with previous activities conveniently archived. Green Games is a collection of games and puzzles designed to enhance environmental awareness. Celebrate a Day highlights one day each month and suggests environmental themes for celebrating. For example, this November 20th is “Universal Childrens Day”. Although the site is completely ad-free, you may order from the Green Gifts shop that is hosted by the site. Unfortunately, some of the worthwhile products offered are available only within India.
kidsRgreen is sponsored by the Centre for Environmental Education in Ahmedabad, India. Green Teacher is another website sponsored by CEE that is well worth a look.
NOTE: The kidsRgreen website requires the latest version of Adobe’s FlashPlayer.
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Literacy Center (online resource) This is a high quality interactive online resource designed to facilitate development of basic literacy and numeracy skills. Learning modules consist of carefully designed and research-based flash activities. The developers of this site indicate they have used a modified Montessori approach to the teaching of reading. Not only is this site free of charge for users, it is ad-free and completely free of distracting clutter. All activities are available in English, French, Spanish and German.
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Kindersay describes itself as, “…a free online video website designed to help preschool kids & English as Second Language (ESL) children learn English words. Over 500 online activities are available in a special Word Show format.” The consistent format shown below is helpful because young learners easily learn and then know what to expect.
There are 15 categories of words to choose from, including alphabet, animals, food, parts of the body. The entry for each word consists of a simple photo that is accompanied by the pronunciation of the word in a very clearly spoken voice. For registered (free) users, Kindersay includes the opportunity to upload photos of family members and other individuals who may have special significance to the learner.
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Leading to Reading is, “A free resource to help parents and childcare providers develop the language skills of their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. Available in English and Spanish.”
The site is divided into 3 main sections: Babies and Todders (Ages 0-2); Pre-Schoolers (Ages 3-5); Grownups. The collection of interactive options for both toddlers and pre-schoolers is extensive. These include nursery rhymes, games, lullabys, finger plays, songs, art, and exploratory activities.
What I like best here are the books and stories. There is a wonderful collection of online books available to be read aloud to children. Even for the toddlers, words in the stories are highlighted onscreen as they are read.
It is hard to imagine a more engaging set of early literacy activities than those found here, and the quality is first rate. There is absolutely no commercial advertising on the site.
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LibriVox (online resource) The mission of the folks at LibriVox is the “acoustical liberation of books in the public domain”. The ultimate goal is to make all public domain books available as free audio books. This has resulted in an extensive, and rapidly growing, collection of books that have been read aloud and recorded by volunteer readers.
The audio files are available for download from the LibriVox website. There are three format options for each selection–64kbps mp3, 128 kbps mp3 files, or ogg vorbis. There is a separate digital file for each chapter of a book. (In the case of Shakespeare’s plays, there is a separate file for each act; and it is noteworthy that at least some of the plays are presented by entire casts of readers.)
I downloaded and sampled several files at random. In every instance, the quality of both the reading and the recording was excellent.
The LibriVox website has been designed to make it easy to locate any work in the collection. There is a convenient search engine which lets you search by title, author, category, genre, status (complete, in-progress, etc.), language, and reader. You can browse the entire collection, which is listed alphabetically. Or, you can browse one of the four sub-sections of the catalogue: fiction; poetry; non-fiction; dramatic works.
If you wish to keep up with what is happening at LibriVox, there are several options for RSS subscription. Of course, LibriVox would also welcome your contribution if you were to volunteer.
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Lit2Go is an online library of K-12 literature available in 3 formats. Each poem, article, story or novel can be downloaded as an audio mp3 file, viewed online as a web page, or downloaded for printing as a pdf file. This means that the material can be listened to either online or away from the computer, with or without following the written text.
Although restricted to literature that is available in the public domain, Lit2Go’s database is quite large, and it is growing. It can be searched by author, title, key word, or reading level.
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ManyThings (online resource) This site is a source of numerous online language development activities–games, puzzles, podcasts and more.
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Maps that Teach from Owl & Mouse (downloadable programs and online resource) This is a set of 13 individual well designed and attractive downloadable map puzzle programs from Owl & Mouse Educational Software. These include maps of countries, regions of the world, continents, and cultural landmarks. In addition to the programs you can download, there are interactive online map activities available from Owl & Mouse. Several other free educational programs can also be had from their website.
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MES English offers free printable resources that can be downloaded “for teachers of young learners” This includes flashcards, worksheets, and games, with the focus on language development. There’s also a forum here for users of the site, as well as the opportunity to subscribe to a newsletter.
The collection of downloadable vocabulary flashcards is probably the most impressive resource here, with over 90 sets organized into 60 themes. Since the emphasis is on spoken language, many of the flash cards are not labeled. Still, these can be used effectively to help learners find and use words on speech generating devices and for a multitude of other learning activities.
MES stands for Mighty Education Systems, and it turns out that it is but one of several related sites owned by a prolific resource creator by the name of Mark. If you are involved in elementary education, it is well worth taking time to check out what Mark has kindly made available free of charge. Here are links to his other sites:
- Tools for Educators
- Fun Fonix
- Stickers and Charts
- Sunday School Printables
- Hospital English
- 1 – 2 – 3 Print Cards
- ESL Teacher Talk
Minisebran (downloadable program) This is another free suite of early learning activities by Marianne Warthoff, the same author who gave us SebranABC. Minisebran is intended for younger children (2-6). There are 8 simple activities that provide children the opportunity to explore letters, numbers, colours and the computer keyboard. Three of the activities involve doodling with basic drawing tools. Minisebran can be played in French and Swedish as well as English. In order to run, Minisebran requires that .NET Framework be installed, and there is a link for downloading this at the Minisebran download site. (This program runs in Windows.)
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Music Games (downloadable program) A free program containing a set of five simple music activities written by Inclusive Technology. Auditory cuing for instructions is available, and activities are self-checking. These activities can be easily accessed with Intellikeys or with switches.
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myoats is an online application with a set of tools that anyone can use to create striking visual images. The potential is tremendous, as illustrated by the three scaled down examples of art work created on myoats over just the past couple of days. (Clicking on the image will take you to its source at myoats.)
I’m not enough of an expert to do justice to describing the extensive range of creativity tools offered by myoats, so you’ll need to check them out for yourself. The site offers clear explanations of how to create with myoats, including 3 excellent video tutorials. Myoats has made it convenient for you to save and download your art. You can go back and revise your work with a “Save As” option. Myoats has also established a community for artists to share and enjoy each others’ work.
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National Geographic Education (online resource) Although this site is ad-supported, it is an excellent source of otherwise free high quality educational resources from National Geographic. National Geographic Xpeditions is a comprehensive set of lesson plans and activities for K-12 referenced to the US National Geography Standards, as established by National Geographic. The lesson plans are well organized and clearly laid out. The site also offers an extensive collection of map and photo resources. Among the numerous other features on the website is a very helpful one labeled “Homework Help” for students.
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NLVM (online resource) The National Library of Virtual Manipulatives is an exceptional website! It is a comprehensive and systematic virtual resource to support the development of numeracy and the learning of math concepts and skills from K to 12. A team at the University of Utah has created an extensive set of virtual manipulatives and interactive exercises.
Activities are organized under 5 main headings: Number & Operations; Algegra; Geometry; Measurement; Data Analysis & Probability. Within each heading, exercises are designed for Pre-K – 2, 3 – 5, 6 – 8, and 9 – 12. Under each heading, and for each targeted grade level group, there is a variety of well constructed activities. For each activity, there is a clear set of instructions as well as a detailed rationale for the parent or teacher. The website is ad-free and totally free of distracting clutter. Activities have been created using Java. The user may view the site in Spanish if he or she wishes.
eNLVM is a sister website to NLVM (above) that offers “eModules”, consisting of online interactive units with assessment, tracking tools that enable students to submit activities, adaptation tools that allow teachers to modify activities, and collaboration tools that make it possible for teachers to work together in creating and publishing materials.
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NOVA Flash Activities (online resource) This is an extensive collection of interactive flash science activities–from Tsunamis, to the Wright Brothers, to How Cancer Grows. These are high quality educational activities from the folks at PBS.
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PBS KIDS Island is a site from PBS KIDS Raising Readers that targets early learners with research based and leveled activities. Activities are engaging, and learners earn “rewards” by playing reading games with popular characters from PBS KIDS. Players systematically advance as they build fundamental reading readiness and reading skills. Because each user must be registered and signed in, teachers and parents are able to track the progress of individual learners. A teacher or parent may register multiple users, so this is a resource that could be used by a teacher with an entire class.
PBS KIDS Island also offers an extensive collection of short musical videos for early learners that powerfully promote and re-enforce reading skills. As well, there are helpful resources for parents, teachers and caregivers. The site’s creators have made it easy to check out the games and activities before getting a learner started.
I’ve only taken a preliminary look, played a couple of the games and watched a few of the videos, but that was enough to convince me that PBS KIDS Island is a valuable resource that deserves to be widely known and used.
NOTE: The registration process asks for your “ZIP Code”. I could not register using my Canadian postal code, but I was able to register when I entered my ZIP code as 12345. I didn’t check it out but the site is also available in Spanish.
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Peep and the Big Wide World is a site designed to engage early learners in a comprehensive science program, and it is hard to imagine how it could be more engaging! Activities and games are anchored in a daily video about a newly hatched chick named Peep and his adventures in the “big wide world”.
With appealing graphics, dramatic musical accompaniment, and narration by Joan Cusack, the videos are extremely well done. Closed captioning is available for anyone who needs it. The closed captioning also means that the videos provide excellent practice for beginning readers.
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pictureSET from SET-BC (online resource) A collection of downloadable visual supports that can be used by students for both receptive and expressive communication. Most of these resources have been created in Boardmaker, with some in other programs such as Writing With Symbols. Files can be downloaded in their original format (eg. as Boardmaker files) or as pdf files. This searchable database allows you to find a wide range of useful visual supports for different curriculum areas, activities, and events–life skills, social skills, basic concepts, literacy, numeracy, art, music, physical education, French language, science, social studies, holidays/seasons, etc.
Podcasts for Educators (online resource) Podcasts are a rapidly growing source of educational enrichment available at no cost on the internet. Many podcasts are updated regularly, and you can subscribe to those of particular interest to you. Podcasts for Educators is a directory offering links to many excellent podcasts that are of value to educators and their students. Although the directory is based in the UK, the podcasts listed are from around the world. Podcasts are categorized according to subject area, and there is also a comprehensive alphabetical listing. Many podcasts are actually produced by students for other students. There are podcasts of interest to students of all ages, and the subjects addressed range from basic literacy and numeracy to advanced science, math, history, literature, music, art, etc. For two examples of what is available, check out Astronomy a Go-Go or Storynory.
Poisson Rouge (online resource) is a delightful website with a variety of activities to help develop basic literacy (French and English), numeracy, and other thinking skills. There are also simple art and music activities. All activities here provide excellent mouse practice. There are absolutely no ads at this site. Nor are there any onscreen instructions to follow. This is a quality site for young children.
Priory Woods (online resource) This is the wonderful website of Priory Woods School in Middlesbrough in the UK. I’ve called this an online resource, but while there are many worthwhile online activities here designed for children with special needs, the site is also a repository of downloadable programs and activities. In fact, there are over 150 available free downloads here for individuals who access the computer via either switch or touch screen. There is also much information that can be helpful for curriculum planning and IEP development when working with students with moderate to profound intellectual disabilities. You’ll find recommendations for other software here as well.
Rainforest Math (Online Resource) This website contains literally hundreds of high quality online math activities for K-6. Activities are organized by grade level, and cover the whole mathematical spectrum–basic counting and numeracy, computation, algebra, measurement (including time), geometry (space), probability, data graphing, money, etc. This really is a gold mine of appealing and varied activities designed to practice and extend math skills and understanding. This is a truly free resource. There aren’t even any distracting ads to contend with.
Reading Bear is a totally free high quality and ad-free online resource for beginning readers. Videos, which may also be viewed as slide shows, systematically introduce and re-enforce phonics principles and sounds. Each presentation is customizable for individual learners. Registration is not required, but it is highly recommended for each individual user.
Reconstructors (online resource) In this set of online activities, you join a team from the future to solve medical mysteries of the past. The learning adventures involve investigative problem solving. Doing the science requires analysis of history and geography. These excellent activities have been developed bythe Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning at Rice University. The activities are supported by a well prepared set of learning objectives and teacher resources.
RobertMunsch.com (online resource) Robert Munsch is the author of numerous wonderful children’s stories. At his website, Robert Munsch he has given us the opportunity to listen to the author himself reading all 50 of his own books. The stories can be downloaded as MP3 files. This is the delightful free resource that I am highlighting today.
BUT RobertMunsch.com is far more than just a collection of free downloadable stories. This is a website that illustrates how powerful and beautiful the internet can be. It is a place where Bob Munsch, as he refers to himself, shares much more than his books. Bob Munsch shares himself, and art and poetry and anecdotes and wisdom and laughter and more. When you go to this website, be prepared to spend some time exploring, and you’ll be richer for the investment. You’ll probably feel just a little younger at heart as well.
The screenshot below gives some idea of what you will find at RobertMunsch.com. (Click to enlarge and use your browser’s back arrow to return to this page.)
Roxie’s ABC Fish (downloadable program) This free “Go Fish” game reinforces learning of upper and lower case letters as well as numbers to 100. Find out more and download at Lattice Work Software
Science Up Close is a free interactive resource from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School Publishers. Engaging activities of high quality are offered by grade level and targeted for grades 1 to 6. Many of the activities include captioned video where the “captions” can be read aloud. Other activities use diagrams and interactive images to present material. All text can be read aloud, and can be repeated upon request.
The image below shows the user interface and a Grade 1 activity about a Coral Reef.
For each grade level, there are 13 to 19 activities. “Animals and their Young”, “Ways to Save Resources”, and “Telescopes” are examples of the titles of grade 1 activities. For grade 6, examples include “Mendel’s Discoveries”, “World Biomes”, and “The Electromagnetic Spectrum”.
The accessibility of Science Up Close is exceptional. I believe the model used here should be adopted everywhere. Because keyboard shortcuts are available for all the activities, they are accessible to learners who are blind or who have low vision and to learners who use programmable speech generating devices. Because all of the text is read aloud, the activities are accessible to learners who face reading challenges.
Sebran’s ABC (downloadable program) This is a whole suite of free, open source, high quality activities that support early learning–literacy, numeracy, problem solving, and even keyboarding. There are colourful images, catchy music (that can be turned off), and wonderful contrast. Check it out or download it from www.wartoft.nu/software/sebran/.
SenseLang Typing Tutor (downloadable program and online resource) This is a free typing tutor program that you can download to your computer. Actually, you can either download the program or practice online at http://www.senselang.com/ It is easy to add your own text for practice exercises with this program. If you need to learn to type on a Hebrew keyboard, that is also an option with this program.
SENSwitcher (online resource) is a suite of 132 activities designed to help teach computer skills to people with profound and multiple learning difficulties, especially those who need to develop skills with alternative input devices. These sequenced activities target skills sequentially, from purely experiential through cause and effect, switch building, timed activation, targeting and row scanning.
The activities have been developed by InclusiveTechnology and implementation strategies have been prepared by the folks at Priory Woods. This systematic set of activities have been designed to be used online or downloaded to be used offline. We have experienced difficulties in installing the programs after downloading them, but they work fine online. SENSwitcher, along with support material, can be found at Northern Grid.
SEN Teacher “…provides cost-free teaching & learning resources for students with special needs and learning disabilities.” That’s how this major repository of special ed resources sums itself up. (SEN is the acronym from the UK that stands for Special Education Needs.)
SEN Teacher offers a substantial collection of “printable” downloads. There are links to websites that provide information about a wide range of disabilities. There is also significant list of websites that offer free online resources. Jane especially appreciated finding links to Tinsnips and Ispeek here.
Finally, there are numerous links to freeware download sites. The free software listed here includes programs to help develop basic mouse and other computer skills, programs to practice switch use, programs that support curriculum, and much more. There are even a few programs by SEN Teacher itself (eg. 1-5 Counting, 3D Shape Venn, Buried 3D Shape, Girl Face Matching)
The screenshots below show the free programs listed by SEN Teacher and the helpful way in which these are organized on the site.
Shidonni invites you to create a virtual world by drawing it. You begin by drawing a walking or flying creature, and then the world it lives in. The animal or bird is then animated and brought to life. (These “living” creatures can even eat food that you prepare for them.) There are games and puzzles for the Shidonni creatures to play, and you can invite creatures that have been created by friends anywhere in the world to join you in your world.
Shidonni’s developers have deliberately created a non-violent world where shooting games are not the norm. Neither is the Shidonni website populated with any intrusive advertising! Before you can use Shidonni, you need to download and install Microsoft’s cross-platform Silverlight plug-in.
Sight Words Buddy is a completely free downloadable program designed to help build basic literacy skills. This program is made up of a set of activities that provide practice in identifying sight words. The words are from the Dolch word list, and there are four practice levels–from pre-primer to third grade. The user interface is clean and the activities are simple. Each word is spoken in a clear natural voice, and the learner simply clicks on the word that he or she hears. The program can be downloaded from Quiz Tree. Other literacy building activities can also be done online at the Quiz Tree website.
Soda Play (online resource) This site offers the opportunity for online creative play and exploration. You can make and race virtual soda straw creations. The site is evolving, with a vision for even greater things to come.
Speaking Of Speech is a major online resource for speech/language pathologists and teachers who are “interested in the speech and language development of children”. It is a place where professionals can share ideas, lesson plans, materials, and even IEP goals.
Among other things, the materials exchange houses printable Boardmaker games, communication boards, and social stories that can be downloaded free of charge in pdf format. Some of the resources are helpfully organized by theme and according to school level. Your contributions to this exchange are encouraged, with clearly stated guidelines.
Pat Mervine, the experienced SLP behind Speaking of Speech, has created an invaluable resource that deserves to be well known.
SpeQMathematics (downloadable program and online resource) Whether you need to do basic computation or advanced math on the computer, this resource may be your answer. You can either download the complete powerful program to your Windows PC, or you can go to the website and do basic work online. Although the user interface is simple and intuitive, the greatest potential by far is for those who need a tool to complete advanced math problems involving mathematical or scientific notation.
Since I’m no mathematician, and my descriptions and explanations of the program will fall short, click on the image below for a clearer (and enlarged) idea of at least some of the potential.
Online tutorials are available. At less than half a megabyte, SpeQ is a very small download; and it will run on virtually any Windows machine–all the way back to Windows 95.
For more details, and to download, go to http://www.speqmath.com/index.html.
Starchild (online resource) This high quality online science resource from NASA bills itself as “A Learning Center for Young Astronomers”. The site offers a wealth of information along with appealing interactive activities under the headings: Solar System; Universe; Space Stuff; Glossary. There are plenty of audio and video files, quizes, suggested classroom activities, and helpful links to other relevant sites.
There are two features of this website, however, that make it especially useful for children with a wide range of abilities. First, each of the main headings is offered at two levels of “difficulty”. The second helpful feature is that all of the text offered in Level 1 can be read aloud by simply clicking on a “play” button. This is especially helpful for learners who face challenges in reading text.
Screenshots (click to enlarge)
Starfall.com (online resource) This is a high quality and well organized website that is offered as a “free public service” to facilitate the building of basic literacy and reading skills. Pre-kindergarten through grade 2 are the targeted reading levels. The interactive flash activities are well designed, appealing, and easy to use. Activities and stories are arranged in four levels, beginning with those designed to help develop reading readiness. In many activities, a natural child’s voice reads aloud while words are highlighted on screen. Printouts are available to accompany some activities; and some activities can be printed when complete. The pages of this web site are uncluttered and ad-free.
SymbolWorld.org (online resource) This is a website that has been created to offer free content for users of Widget Rebus Symbols. The entire site has been constructed using Writing With Symbols 2000 (2.6) and Communicate: In Print 2. SymbolWorld includes a variety of curriculum-based learning activities organized under the following headings: Science & Nature; Life Skills; Cooking; Interactive; Humanities; Literacy; Different Languages; Current Affairs. There are separate sections for stories and personal contributions. SymbolWorld also hosts a monthly online magazine called eLive. eLive offers a collection of current event news articles as well as film reviews, puzzles, recipes, jokes, etc. A pdf version of eLive is available for download, and eLive is archived with access to editions dating back to 2002. The entire site is easy to navigate with large easily accessible buttons.
Tar Heel Reader offers a large (more than 1000) and growing collection of…
…free, easy-to-read, and accessible books on a wide range of topics. Each book can be speech enabled and accessed using multiple interfaces (i.e. switches, alternative keyboards, touch screens, and dedicated AAC devices). The books may be downloaded as slide shows in PowerPoint, Impress, or Flash format.
The image below shows the format of books in the Tar Heel Reader collection.
Books hosted by Tar Heel Reader are created with images from Flickr or from the author’s computer. Added text is appropriate for beginning readers. This is a community effort that leverages the power of the internet, with contributions from many authors. I see great potential for teachers of more advanced readers to empower learners in their classrooms to become authors for Tar Heel Reader. (Quality control, of course, needs to be monitored.)
The collection is searchable, and it has been categorized in a helpful manner. Tar Heel Reader makes it possible for teachers or parents to set up collections of “Favorites” with particular value and appeal for specific individuals. The interface for searching and choosing books is shown below.
TeenSpace – Internet Public Library for Teens (online resource) The part of the Internet Public Library that is geared toward teens is a truly amazing free resource for teens and those who support them. This website offers a large and well organized collection of valuable links that point teens to sources of relevant information–both academic and otherwise. The site is uncluttered and ad-free.
To give some idea of the range of material that is catalogued, the home page features the following “Hot Topics”: Homework Help; A+ Writing; Graphic Novels Guide; Poetry Wiki; FAEQs (Frequently Asked Embarrassing Questions); Procrastinator. The home page’s “Directory” consists of the following headings: Clubs and Organizations; Reading and Writing; Health and Sexuality; School and Homework Help; Money and Work; Sports, Entertainment and Arts; Technology. This site and many of its component pages deserve to be bookmarked.
Topmarks bills itself as an “Educational Search Engine”. It is certainly that–and more! It is a site where you search from pre-selected resources that are some of the best available on the web. Topmarks claims that “All of the content on Topmarks is carefully reviewed by qualified teachers and regularly re-checked because of the changing nature of the web.” My exploration of the Topmarks site suggests this claim to be accurate.
You can do a general search of the Topmarks site. For example, if you enter “number line”, the search returns 30 activities that use the number line to help learn mathematical concepts. The majority of these are high quality flash activities that lend themselves to use on an individual computer or on an interactive white board. The targeted learning level is suggested for each activity.
Or, You can search for learning activities by subject area and by age level. The list of subjects is extensive, and the age range extends from early years through higher education.
Now Topmarks has a special place dedicated specifically to helping teachers find resources that work well on an interactive whiteboard. If you are using an interactive whiteboard, I think you need to check this out!
Tux Paint (downloadable program) Tux Paint is a free drawing program designed for young children (ages 3 and up). It has a simple, easy-to-use interface, fun sound effects, and an encouraging cartoon mascot who helps guide children as they use the program. To download, and for more information about the program, including videos that demonstrate how to use various features, visit http://www.newbreedsoftware.com/tuxpaint/ Be sure to check out the extensive gallery of art work from around the world that has been created by young artists with Tux Paint.
TuxTyping 2 This free open source program offers several engaging activities to help learn and practice computer keyboarding. This is not a typical typing tutor. Most activities involve hitting a designated key, or typing a word before the letter or word reaches the bottom of the screen. There are two distinct modes, “Fish Cascade” or “Comet Zap”. The former provides a gentler approach with music to match. “Comet Zap” is a little more like an arcade game. Within both modes, practice exercises and activities are offered in multiple levels. This program can help anyone become more a more effective typist by becoming more familiar with the location of the keys! In the process, you can have yourself some pretty good fun. Tux Typing 2 supports multiple languages, and you can download it from http://tuxtype.sourceforge.net/.
Utah Education Network (online resource) This is a well organized repository of resource links for educators and students–from Kindergarten to post-secondary. The site is comprehensive in its scope. The main categories: K-12 Educators; K-12 students; Higher Ed. Faculty; College Students; Adult Education. Resources are searchable, and the content is organized intuitively. Material can be searched by both grade level and subject area.
Most helpful of all, from my perspective, is the collection of free online interactive student activities (“Student Interactives” under “K-12 Students” ). There is much here to enrich and re-enforce virtually every area of the curriculum. Most linked online activities are created in either Flash or Shockwave. The activities have been chosen carefully and they are all of high quality. Take a look at the following screen shots to get a better idea of some of the content and how it is organized and presented. (Click on thumbnail to enlarge.)
Virtual Electricity Lab (downloadable program) has been around for a while, but it is still very cool if you want to have fun exploring how electrical circuits work. Virtual Electricity Lab offers a selection of batteries, switches, bulbs, fans, and audio devices. Your job is to figure out how to connect them on a circuit board to make it all work. If you wish, you can have resistors, capacitors, and breakers to work with, along with meters to measure volts, amps, and ohms. There are suggested circuits to try, and even an opportunity to take and save bitmap snapshots of the circuits you do make. There is a built in reference and glossary of relevant terms. This program was developed originally by Edmark, which is now Riverdeep You can still purchase the full program, along with a set of lesson plans from Riverdeep. Or, you can download the free demo from http://www.wsd1.org/LTCActivities/46%20Freeware/virtual_labs_electricity.htm. (Unfortunately, it seems that Riverdeep is no longer permitting the free version of this program to be downloaded.)
Webmath.com (online resource) Whether you are in primary school and stuck on a basic computation, or in high school and at the end of yourself as you try to complete an assignment in calculus, this site offers amazing help. All you have to do is type in your problem. Webmath will work it out for you and provide you with a helpful explanation. The Webmath programmers have developed special engines that do the calculations almost instantly in real time. For someone like me who never did very well in maths, it is truly magical to behold!
There are teachers who will say that this site encourages students to “cheat”. This may be true if the goal is simply to have students complete homework assignments. For the student who is having real difficulty with the math, however, this site offers a wonderful way of getting over the hurdle with a much improved chance of “getting it”. I believe that Webmath is more likely to reduce cheating on the part of serious students as it facilitates understanding and success.
Webmath.com’s site is truly free–free of distracting clutter and free of advertising. I’ve provided a couple of screenshots below to give a better visual impression of what is available from this remarkable website. (Click on the thumbnail to enlarge.)
Wikipedia (online resource) Wikipedia is a truly remarkable online resource. It is an online encyclopedia offering an incredible wealth of information on a huge range of subjects. Since this site has been constructed as a wiki, you and your students even have the opportunity to add to this amazing online resource. Here’s how Wikipedia describes itself: “Begun in 2001, Wikipedia has rapidly grown into the largest reference website on the Internet. The content of Wikipedia is free, written collaboratively by people from all around the world. This website is a wiki, which means that anyone with access to an Internet-connected computer can edit, correct, or improve information throughout the encyclopedia, simply by clicking the edit this page link…”
“Simple English Wikipedia is for everyone!” This bold declaration is contained in the opening paragraph on the home page. In other words, the Simple English Wikipedia is by design a resource that facilitates universal access and supports a UDL (Universal Design for Learning) approach in the classroom. Writers have been encouraged to “use easy words and shorter sentences”. In my experience, there are learners in classrooms at all levels who benefit from this approach.
Simple English Wikipedia is part of the Wikimedia Foundation. In appearance and layout, Simple English Wikipedia is exactly the same as Wikipedia. Simple English Wikipedia currently contains 36,599 articles. We are all invited, of course, to contribute new articles or to edit existing ones. I see great potential here for teachers who are looking for meaningful and motivating projects.
Wikijunior (online resource) Wikijunior is a “child” of Wikibooks, which describes itself as “a collection of free content textbooks you can edit.” The parent site boasts 23,402 modules in over 1000 books. This is a truly amazing free resource with incredible potential.
Wikijunior is targeting children aged 8 to 11 for a series of open content books under three main headings: The Natural World; Our World of People; A World of Discovery and Innovation. So far, Wikijunior has completed and published one title–Big Cats as part of The Natural World series. If this book is a sign of things to come, Wikijunior has a promising future. Big Cats is beautifully illustrated and offers a wealth of well organized and carefully written information.
Big Cats is available in three formats, pdf, html, and hard copy. Although the print version of Big Cats costs $10 to download and the bound paperback is $20.53, the pdf version is a free download and the html version is freely available online. For individuals with reading challenges, the pdf and html versions work well with the reading aids and study tools offered by such programs as Kurzweil 3000.
Wikijunior says a second title is currently being “readied for publication”. Solar System will be part of A World of Discovery and Innovation. Eight other titles have been approved and are in process: How Things Work; The Elements; Dinosaurs; Bugs; South America; Languages; Kings and Queens of England; Ancient Civilizations.
As the Wikibooks community creates educational resources for children to use, it also offers exciting opportunities for educators and their students to be involved in the creation of the books. Be sure to check out “How to Help” at the Wikijunior website.
Here are a few screen shots from the pdf version of Big Cats. (Click to enlarge and use your browser’s back button if you wish to return to the blog. You may get a clearer view of the enlarged screenshot if you click on it again in the enlarged view.)
Windows to the Universe (online resource) This is a truly exceptional free online educational resource. The site’s developers have achieved their stated goal of putting together “…a rich array of documents, including images, movies, animations, and data sets, that explore the Earth and Space sciences and the historical and cultural ties between science, exploration, and the human experience.” Information is organized under three main headings: Our Planet; Our Solar System; Astronomy and the Universe. The range and quality of the available material and activities is impressive.
Not only is information presented here in a variety of media, the written content is offered at three reading levels–beginner, intermediate, and advanced. The screenshots below demonstrate the differences between the levels. It is easy to toggle from one reading level to another. This makes the site accessible and useful for the wide range of student ability to be found in any typical classroom.
The site is updated regularly, and there is a special section for “Teacher Resources”.
Screenshots (click to enlarge)
Writing Fix (online resource) Here’s an interesting free resource for anyone involved in teaching or learning writing skills. This site has been put together by the writers, teachers and students of the Northern Nevada Writing Project to support the development of writing skills with the Six Trait Model. The site hosts an extensive collection of lessons, activities and other resources. (The Writing Fix is one of 190 web sites sponsored by the National Writing Project in the US.)
Featured prominently at the Writing Fix are two separate “prompt generators”. One is called the “Interactive Instant Plot Creator”. You press separate buttons to bring up random suggestions for setting, character, and conflict. To go along with this idea generator, there is a downloadable “pre-writing worksheet” as well as a “rough draft worksheet”. The other generator is called the “Random Prompt Generator for Writers”. This second prompt generator consists of 470 prompts, each of which begins with a question that is followed by a suggested writing task.
ZAC Browser is a web browser that has been designed specifically for children with autism and autism spectrum disorders, but it is a browser with great potential for other early learners as well.
ZAC Browser is a real browser (you must be online to use it) with a carefully prescribed and limited online environment. Upon opening the browser, the user is presented with options (represented by visual icons) for movies, games, music, and stories. Each of these sections contain links to websites with selected quality video clips and activities.
External links on the linked websites are not active, so the user cannot get out into the wider web. ZAC goes a step further by making it impossible (or very difficult) for the user to switch to other applications on the computer. The only way of closing ZAC and getting to other programs is by using a keyboard shortcut.
ZAC’s creators have attempted to facilitate interactive freedom within a confined space on the internet. There has been a deliberate effort to link to activities “…that cater specifically to kids who display the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders, like impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication, restricted interests and repetitive behavior.” In my experience there are plenty of children,without a dignosis on the autism spectrum who would benefit greatly from independent access to the same activities.