Sunday, February 3, 2013

My Favorite Instructional Resources

Being a tech ed teacher has A LOT of perks.  I have access to a lot of technology that many of my peers don't.  Even though I get to play with all these cool gadgets and tools, I still find my brain is the best tool I can have.  There are websites and programs that I frequently use at home, but are blocked by the school filters when I go to use them.  Some of the websites and programs I am going to recommend may fall into those categories, so you will have to find a way to get around the filters to use them.



I love CNET.  This is where I find may of the open source software's that I use in class.  Though I have to get my IT guy to come in to give me administrative access to my laptop, I find that the frustration of getting him in is a small price to pay to get what I want.  I know I can't purchase expensive software, so finding an open source software is an excellent way to get what you want for free.  CNET gives you reviews, news, downloads and deals on many of the programs you are looking for.


Though these websites have a lot of gossip and articles that have nothing to do with what I will be teaching, sometimes I will stumble on a little nugget of awesomeness that I can share with my students in class.  I will often click on the tech tab to see what is happening in the technology world.  I find this helpful because I can then take an article and use it a real life example in one of my lessons or use them as a discussion piece in the beginning of class.


Mashable is a pretty cool website. They frequently update the site with articles from their staff. Sometimes it is hit or miss, but I find it is often more of a hit for me. I recently learned how to properly cite a tweet in a research paper.


I love this site.  It always has cool little projects to do. If you like to fiddle around with gadgets in your personal time or finding a special project for a kid who may not learn conventionally , this website is for you. I was recently turned on to the website by some coworkers this past summer and I check it every day.  I even wrote a grant to get a 3D printer that I saw at the Maker Faire in New York this past year.


When twitter first came out, I thought it was pointless.  Then I learned that if you follow the right people, you can learn a lot. Most people who tweet will provide a link to what they are talking about.  I follow @mashable, @pltworg, @techcrunch and @edtech_k12 just to name a few.


Edmodo is a site I use with my students.  The interface is similar to Facebook which really draws in the students. A teacher creates and account.  The teacher then creates groups.  The teacher then has the students join using codes that are unique to that group so nobody else can join them.  The students can not communicate with one another and the teacher can monitor everything they do. I love it because it is a central place that the students can log in to where my assignments are posted and they can post their work.  The students do not need an email account and the student can also give their parent an access code so they can monitor the site as well.


This website has really helped me out.  When I teach my CAD unit, I am able to create videos for the students look at who are lost or have been absent for an extended period of time.  I can make a video recording of everything I do in my laptop and can save it as an .avi, .mp4, .flv or even post it directly to youtube.

8) Extreme Engineering - Discovery Channel

Extreme Engineering is a go to video series for when I am unexpectedly absent.  They feature extreme engineering feats they have happened, are happening, or will happen.   You can buy the dvd set, but why should you do that? Go to youtube and have your students watch them.  Better yet, download them from youtube and burn them to a DVD because you know that the internet will be down when you want to show an episode. How do you download youtube videos? Check out number 9.


Ah keepvid. Love it, except when I can't use it at school. However, if you have the time to use it at home, PLEASE DO.  In a matter of seconds, you can have a permanent copy of the youtube video. All you need is the direct link to the youtube video you want, paste it into the website and BAM, it's yours to cherish.

10) is a great website for getting a lesson plan in a pinch, or even finding resource to help bolster your lesson plan.  They have FULL lesson plans they are aligned to TE standards with the break down of the lesson. They even have the attachments they go along with the lesson.  It is 100% free, no need to register, no pop ups, no unnecessary advertisements or hoops to jump through.  I highly recommend it.

Open Source Programs

1) Gimp

Gimp is a tremendous alternative to Photoshop   It is just as powerful and works in the same way.  It may not be as flashy as owning Photoshop  but it does the same thing.  For someone who will only open up Photoshop once in a while, just download gimp and save your money.

2) Open Office

Well I don't use open office, but from what I understand is Open Office is extremely similar the Microsoft Office suite.  Check it out.  

3)  Scribus

Scribus is a desktop publishing software. It is very similar to programs like Microsoft Word and Publisher, as well as Adobe Pagemaker, for those of you who remember that program.  Scribus allows you to lay out forms and worksheets how you want them.  Microsoft programs seem to enjoy moving around your font and never letting you place anything on the screen where you exactly want it.  If you don't want to sepnd the money on the office sweet, go for Scribus.  

4)  VDownloader

VDownloader is an alternative I use to  Since I can't access keepvid at school, or any other websites similar to it, I use this program. Basically works the same as keepvid, but has a few drawbacks.  The biggest of which is that it will not download videos if they are copyright protected.  

5) Wax2.0 

Wax is a free video editing software that works pretty well and is a bit more powerful than Windows MovieMaker.  If you are looking for something to use in your classroom, I would suggest checking out Wax.  

6) Audacity

Audacity is a program for recording and editing music.  You can do a lot of cool things with it.  I enjoy using it with my students just as a fun activity.  There is a lot to use once you start digging.  

7)  FreeOCR

OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition.  Put simply, you can scan a document or take a PDF that has been emailed to you, plug it into FreeOCR and it will spit out a word document so you can edit the text. This program has saved me countless hours of retyping worksheets among many other things.  You need to always proof read the document because sometimes the characters of the text got a little mixed up, but all the trouble is worth the results you get.  

To finish up, there are many other programs I have come across and used.  Most of the time, I end up going to myself, "Oh man, this program is gonna save me so much trouble!" but then I forget to save it and then losing it forever.  I always find something new that pops up that is similar to it though, so don't fret if this happens to you.  Remember, there are at least 3 ways to get the results you want when you use technology, so keep digging! The examples I have listed though all work well independently, but work even better when I start to use them together.  Again, the best tool you have is your brain.  These programs are worthless unless you use them properly.  

Please feel free to comment with any other websites or programs that I left out that really help you educators in your classrooms.  


  1. Wow Joe what a great list of resources! This is my first year teaching Computer Teachnology so it is fantastic to be in this program with people like you who have knowledge and experience. I do teach on the elementary level so some of the resources might be advanced for my students but they are definetly resources I can use in my teaching. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Wow! Joe, YOU are a great resource! What great sites! How on Earth do you keep up? I am going to try several of these, though. Thanks for sharing!