Who doesn’t love a free resource? From organizational tools to content-based material, free resources can be an instructor’s best friend. Check out these amazing free resources for your classroom:
- Penultimate is a digital handwriting app for the iPad. It is excellent for note-taking for committee work and the like, but my favorite use of it is for responses to student questions sent through email. When a problem needs a diagram to provide a clearer explanation, a quick drawing can be made in Penultimate and sent to the student as a PDF. It’s much quicker and more convenient than trying to draw using a mouse, and a handwritten answer works well for this informal setting.
- Dropbox and Google Drive are both great for cloud storage and collaborative work. No more emailing everything back and forth every time there is an update or change in some of the shared classroom materials!
- TeXnicCenter and Overleaf are distributions of the LaTeX typesetting program, which is the gold standard for mathematical and scientific papers. With them, you can create beautifully designed technical documents, including journal articles, books, posters, and presentations. Overleaf’s free version is web-based and includes unlimited cloud storage of projects as well as access to a vast library of templates. If you prefer to install a program on your local machine, TeXnicCenter performs well and includes handy toolbars available to get you through the coding learning curve. I personally use both tools regularly, especially for making exams, assignments, and conference presentations.
- Google Keep is a virtual post-it note system that can help improve organization. Google Keep can provide access to multiple to-do lists, with color-coding and collaboration/sharing features. In addition, you can save and annotate photos and screenshots, a huge upgrade from scrolling through your phone’s camera roll. Google Keep also syncs automatically by account, allowing your notes to follow you from mobile to tablet to desktop devices.
- Wikipedia - I know, I know. Wikipedia sometimes gets a bad rap because it is editable by anyone, but the reality is that it’s an amazingly effective site for quick and easy information. While it still shouldn’t be used as a primary source, it is excellent for discovering and in some cases explaining the basics of a topic. And let’s face it, students are using it regardless; why not teach them out to use Wikipedia effectively, i.e. look at the overall information and then use the references listed to find out more.
- Publisher’s websites - Before you reinvent the wheel when teaching a course for the first time, take a moment to check out your book publisher’s website. Often there are test banks, solution manuals, guided notes, videos, or slides available for you to use in your class. You will likely have to sign up for an account so that your instructor status can be verified, but that process is generally quick and easy compared to the time you would have spent generating that content from scratch.
- Your campus and local libraries - The original free resource! Books, e-books, journals, movies, or music – the library has got you covered. The biggest perk also lies in the people – librarians are typically wonderful and incredibly helpful individuals eager to help you get the resources you need.
- WolframAlpha has all the answers. Literally. Curious which films have won the Academy Award for Best Picture? Or how many teaspoons are in a gallon? WolframAlpha knows. Trivia night preparation aside, WolframAlpha can also help you write exams. For example, I can quickly compare the graphs of multiple equations before I decide which questions might be most appropriate for the test. It’s also great for checking for alternate forms of a solution.
- Khan Academy is a vibrant website that began as a resource for math tutoring but has since grown to include science, computing, the humanities, and test prep. Their videos are very well done and incredibly helpful for students with questions. In addition, there is an instructor dashboard where you can assign activities for your students and monitor their progress.
- Unsplash offers beautiful stock photography, perfect for students to use when making websites or print materials for class projects. Freepik is useful as well, with a large assortment of vector graphics to choose from.