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Free websites help boost student engagement, teacher productivity

Teachers can use free sites to help boost student interest in lessons.

Cash-strapped schools can’t stop giving students the resources they need to learn and develop 21st century skills simply because budgets are tight. Luckily, educators can turn to free online resources to help them find and organize lesson plans, give students extra help in various subjects, and more.

During a webinar on, an educational social networking site for teachers and administrators, presenter Shannon Holden, a former teacher and assistant principal, and adjunct instructor at Lindenwood University and Missouri State University, shared a number of free online resources to help educators take advantage of what the internet has to offer.

Many educators “don’t know where to start” when it comes to finding, learning about, and really using free online resources, Holden said. “Most people just do not have the time to learn all of these technology tools,” he added.

Holden suggested that those educators pick one or two websites of interest and start exploring them. Users can turn to YouTube for website tutorials if they need help.

“Don’t wait for the next big thing in technology before you jump in–there’s always going to be a next big thing,” he said. “It’s just amazing that all this stuff is free, and we don’t use it because we don’t have time to find it.”

Here is a round-up of Holden’s web recommendations:
This site supplies educators with information about teaching reading comprehension to students of all ages. It includes details on Lexile scores, teaching strategies, and more.
This flash card and study game website offers more than 10 million free sets of flash cards on a range of topics. Users can find flash cards or can create and share their own original flash cards.
This site offers multimedia study materials and educational information to high school and college students, all for free. Subjects include algebra, statistics, calculus, biology, physics, chemistry, Earth science, economics, history and government, psychology, and religion. Users can “mix” their own multimedia playlists, find existing playlists, and share their playlists with peers. Teachers can create playlists for easy student access.
Though not as aesthetically pleasing as some other sites, teachers can search through 2,800 teaching units and lesson plans, from other teachers, focuses on plays and novels. The site currently offers only literature lesson plans, but will expand its offerings into other subject areas in the near future. Lesson plans are alphabetized, printable, and full of information.
Teachers and students can search through and download thousands of free videos, arranged by subject. Videos include user ratings and appropriate age ranges. The site offers more than 33,000 educational videos, which have been placed into a directory of more than 3,000 categories. Videos are available without registration or fees to teachers in the classroom and to students at home.
Teachers can set up a library of educational videos they want their students to view and can group videos together in an online content library that students can access at any time. The site removes outside content that exists on other video sites such as YouTube.
This website is a free online grade book and also gives educators a way to create a personalized learning system. Teachers can organize lessons for student access, and teachers are able to make assessments, and distribute them for students to take, based on their lesson plans.
Through this free site, teachers can create lesson plans, share those lesson plans with anyone they please, and can access their lesson plans from any internet-accessible place or device. Users can attach files to lesson plans, link plans to the Common Core standards, export to Word or PDF, and print.
Elementary school teachers can take advantage of this site’s free teaching ideas, including Bell Work ideas and sponge activities.  The site features lesson plans and thematic units, teaching tips and interactive bulletin boards, and downloadables and reproducibles.
This site lets anyone share a presentation, document, webinar, PDF, or video. Teachers can share class presentations or multimedia, which students can access at home or in a library for reference. Homebound students or students who are out sick for a day can use the site to brush up on the lessons they missed. Educators might also turn to the site for a “flipped classroom” experience, in which students watch presentations outside of school hours and come to class prepared to discuss what they viewed.
This site, which Holden helped to develop, takes the typical field trip “packet” and transforms it into an app for students’ personal devices or for a classroom set of mobile devices. Students scroll through the app and answer questions during the field trip, and are able to send their completed “virtual packet” to the teacher. Washington, D.C. and London are currently offered, and a New York City app is coming soon.

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Laura Ascione

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