I wanted to take some time this Wednesday (ok Thursday) to talk about online tools. Thanks too Google and the open source movement we have some wonderful tools that are helping to break down the digital gap. As a middle school tech teacher I sometime forget that once students leave my classroom not everyone has access to the same tools or access to tools at all as they do in the classroom. This is where tools such as Google docs and Gimp as well as many others. Giving access to these tools to both students and teachers has the potential to break down many barriers.
All too often I here staff say that they can't do something or assign something as homework because students don't have access to software at home. However with a few clicks and a quick registration and you can have a Google docs account. With this account students can work on assignments and save those online on Google servers which give them access anywhere they have internet access. Then with a few more simple steps that assignment can be converted into a PDF, Word file, and others. Along with the document program there is a presentation, spreadsheet, and form generator, with these tools teachers also have powerful tools to work off-site with. This can eliminate the need for thumb drives, CD/DVD RW drives, and etc. as everything is web based. Being web based that is one of the biggest drawbacks in that one needs internet access to access these tools. There are more online document tools than Google docs others such as openoffice.org, gimp (photo editing), Picasa, etc. With these programs the major downside is that they are software and require installation and some ask for donations. It is always good to be read the fine print first with software that asks for a donation as sometimes you have a specific grace period you can use a full version without a donation.
So remember that with just a simple search online one can find free and/or online tools that enable and empower students and staff to work on project both at school and outside of school. Look below for a short demo of Google Docs.