Free and Easy

Happy New Year! I hope that you had a relaxing and peaceful holiday break and that you feel energized and ready to explore new ideas. As I conducted workshops across the state in 2005, one reality kept emerging in almost every district I worked–budgets are extremely tight and money for new technology equipment and software is difficult to find. Because of this, teachers, media specialists, and technology coordinators are turning to free resources and utilities more than ever.

Photo Story 3 is one of those free resources that I hear a growing number of educators praise as they talk about new projects that teachers and students are creating in their schools. This a nifty software package that has been previously mentioned in this blog site and on the national DEN site, and for Windows XP users who are looking for an effective tool to build digital stories and presentations, it is a wonderful resource to explore. Macintosh users will many of the same features in the free iMovie software bundled with the Mac OS.

These tools are just two of the many free resources available, and most teachers have a few favorite software utilities and web pages on which they rely for downloading pictures, audio and video editing tools, photo imaging utilities, mapping software, and a variety of other special tools. What free utilities or web sites would you recommend for teachers who are looking for some new resources that they can use in their classrooms and computer labs? Please share your expertise by adding a comment below and passing along a brief explanation and web address for the resources that you have found to be more useful. New ideas for the new year–a great way to strengthen our community of Discovery Educators!


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  1. Bette Nelson said:

    This is probably an old site for many of you. It is not free, but only costs a little bit each year..less than $20.00. It has information on everything, but what I like best are the posters you can copy that correspond with most units you teach.

  2. Meg Ormiston said:

    Hello all!
    Thanks for the email and the nudge to participate Dick! I also will tip my hat to Photo Story 3, love the ease of creating your own music tracks. On the PC side of the world I do miss iMovie, the next best free solution I have used is Windows Movie Maker.

    Although in many cases you get what you pay for (free), once you work around the problems, students and teachers can create some amazing products. Once completed the projects are saved and can be played in Windows Media Player. The fact that the program is free on XP machines (not sure before…)makes it easy to try a project. One tip is to make sure you keep everything in one folder and we have had problems moving from machine to machine. Good luck!

  3. Steve Dembo said:

    (To get to the site that Bette was talking about, click on her name!)

    A favorite topic of mine as well. I’ll chime in on the web based side of things. One of my favorite free websites is Flickr , which is a free photo sharing site. You can make photos private to just people that you consider ‘friends or family’. By using this feature, you can post pictures of kids in your class, but keep them private to just the community that you approve. There are free plugins to export photos from many popular photo organizing tools like iPhoto too.

    Another site that’s quickly becoming a favorite is Writley . Writely is a free online word processor that could give Word a run for it’s money. The nice thing is that students who don’t have Word at home can use this for free. It’s files are completely compatible with Office too. Great tool.

  4. Christy Marchessault said:

    Thanks for all of the resources so far, everyone! I have a few more to add that may be useful to you as well.

    First, I have found a few other free photo sharing websites in addition to the one that Steve mentioned. One is You need to sign up for a Yahoo account, but everything is free. There are two really nice things about this site: it has unlimited storage, and you can order prints directly from the website to be printed at any Target store. Another fun photo sharing site is This one has more options for adding colorful backgrounds and captions to your photos in your online albums, but unfortunately there is a limited number of photos you are allowed to upload before you have to pay for a subscription to the site. It might hold enough for a year’s worth of photos from your classroom, though! Both of these also have password and privacy options.

    Another great website that I utilize ALL the time is Google Images. (Just go to and click on the “Images” tab.) You can find pictures of ANYTHING there, so just be careful if you have students use it. I like to use it to find clipart for various projects and centers that I create – if it’s clipart you’re looking for, simply include “clipart” as part of the phrase you type. Of course, you only need to resort to this site if you have already checked out Unitedstreaming’s awesome image library, right??? 🙂

    The other three websites I would like to share are only geared to a specific audience, and I’m not sure if anyone else will have any use for them or not. They are all websites that help children learn to read. has many online activities, as well as a few free printable resources. has an entire printable library of leveled reading books in English, Spanish, and French. However, only a limited number are available for free. I am lucky that my school has a subscription because it is a wonderful resource – for me, it would definitely be worth the cost if I had to subscribe individually. The last one is, which has numerous free resources for primary teachers. My favorites are the free printable easy-reader books that come in English and Spanish!

    I just remembered one more site! has lots of free printable pages that you can customize to fit different themes. You can make bingo cards, memory cards, awards, greeting cards, etc.

    Ok I think I need to stop before this gets any longer! Hope this helped!

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