I’m not sure why it strikes me in such a funny way, but the recent TurboTax commercials regarding how much their basic services cost – free, reminded me of what so many teachers love – things that are free! When I started teaching back in the 19-none-of-your-businesses, the internet was barely a thought in people’s heads, let alone in the primary and elementary school settings. There was an internet service I used that allowed me to communicate with families in a more fluid and 21st-century manner – teacherweb.com, which I found using the WaybackMachine website while researching for this blog. To make a long story short, part of the reason I loved this website was that it was free free free. I used it for about 2 or 3 years until the day I got an email from the owners of the website saying that there would be a fee of $2 or $3/month for the continued use of the service. At the time, this seemed like highway robbery as that meant that my school would have to shell out $24/month just for me to continue to communicate with families that used to be free. It actually didn’t even seem like much back then, but for me, it was the principle of what felt like a bait and switch operation. Truth be told, for all the time I was using teacherweb.com I couldn’t figure out how it could have possibly been free. But, I stopped using the service on principle. Thank goodness that there were still many free online services that allowed me to continue getting the most out of the internet.
In the six years that I’ve been here at Stone Ridge, there have been several FREE online teacher resources that now require a monthly or yearly subscription price. animoto.com, Padlet, haikudeck.com, are three great resources that come to mind. I had one website that I had set up for my classes to use and it seemed that very day the pricing structure changed so I had to scrap my plans. Oh, well. So goes technology sometimes.
If you wanted to bank on two resources that you can bet will be free for your foreseeable teaching future, consider anything owned by Google, docs, drive, forms, and Khan Academy. Although Google products aim to be free, they make their money by the revenue generated from the advertising and sponsored links that you’ll find in google search finds. Khan Academy will remain free because Sal Khan found some very wealthy and philanthropical people like Bill Gates who wants to help reduce the chasm created by those who have internet access and those who don’t!
Other resources that you can count on being free, are the edtech teachers and leaders who know that charging for things cuts off a lot of educators who really want to impact their students’ learning. I wrote a blog earlier about my experience at SXSW.edu and Jennifer Gonzales’ Cult of Pedagogy blog. Some blogs are so worthwhile that you may want to find a way to buy the blogger a cup of coffee or adult beverage, but the great and effective ones make their money by the keynotes and consulting they do as part of their spreading their messages. Most blogs show you just how to support the great work they’re doing.
So, in the spirit of finding things for free, here is a list (not exhausted) of free resources that you might find useful for you in your academic, as well as personal life. Enjoy and good luck! I’d already posted some amazing education blogs in an earlier post from SXSW.edu, but you can never have enough inspiring and helpful blogs and websites. As a bonus, I’ve placed the websites I use to find tech bargains on the web at the very end. Happy shopping!
How to find edtech bargains:
First, if you’re anywhere near a Goodwill or Salvation Army Retail store and there are at least four of them within a 7-mile radius of Stone Ridge, you’ll often find some amazing tech gems in their special, glass-encased sections or in the more traditional spots. I can’t tell you the number of digital cameras, android tablets, LCD monitors, even HDTVs that I’ve found at incredibly low prices. At Goodwill, if,
- Techbargains.com – Tech discounts galore that scroll on a seemingly endless webpage!
- Bensbargains.net – Similar to the first link, but not an endless scroll.
- dealnews.com – Formerly dealmac.com, but this list is shorter and they’re mostly about tech news and some bargains
- shopgoodwill.com – Goodwill’s online national auctioning site, similar to eBay, but you’re helping out goodwill when auctioning on this website.
- Amazon refurbished and used products – Great bargains to be found here if you’re okay with refurbs or used items. Amazing discounts going this route and you have the safety of Amazon if something goes awry!