I. Free, Libre, and Open-Source Software Overview
The use of FLOSS allows students to become independent from costly software updates. It also avoids the risks that come with illegally downloaded software. The cost of ownership of open source software is often far less than proprietary software but FLOSS tools are not always the best technical choice for the needs of users. These manuals provide a good overview of Free, Libre, and Open-Source Software that students and faculty may find useful.
1. Manuals for Free, Libre, and Open-Source Software (FLOSS)
II. Collaborative Writing (and Visual Review)
Students share and comment on each others’ written work. Such collaborative writing works well in the context of smaller, seminar-style courses. Students can share their essays and leave comments on a specific paragraph (e.g., Google Docs).
B. Review of Visual Projects
A. Presentation Tools: Beyond Keynote and PowerPoint, OpenOffice (a free, Microsoft Office equivalent) includes a presentation tool similar to the two proprietary market leaders. Prezi is a platform that, if used well, can diversify presentation formats. Prezi is free for students who can also remove their talks from pubic view. Some students find it hard to understand how to import high-resolution images, download their talks, and create presentations that are not completely dizzying.
B. Create Web-Based Timelines
Use Tumblr for Twitter-like but media-rich blogging.
Identi.ca is a free, Canadian, open-source alternative for micro-blogging. Use Twitter to create a hash tag for your large class (70 students or more) and ask students to Tweet questions during class while you project the Twitter search page. Use Twuffer to schedule Tweets ahead of time.
E. Social Networking Services
Ning involves fees and can only be used for small classes, but is easy to use and allows private posting. While some educators make extensive use of Facebook for teaching, others question its usefulness and criticize its entanglement with commercial surveillance and its frequent privacy hiccups. BuddyPress is a WordPress plug-in that can be used to create a social networking service, though the process requires a tech-savvy individual.
3. https://n-1.cc and https://joindiaspora.com
Use screencasts to narrate and record short screen interaction, do quick walk-through software demonstrations, or document online activity. Ambrosia is a robust but proprietary product whereas TechSmith is free but not as robust. Screenr is ideal for short screencasts or quick, how-to, walk-through demonstrations for students.
G. Print-On-Demand Publications
Print-on-demand publications are useful for students who want to create a portfolio or publish their final essay in book form. Students often work harder if the end result is a printed publication. The cost for a black/white book of 8000 words is about $12. Blurb is easiest for beginners to use as it requires no technical knowledge, but it does not allow for a free PDF version of the publication if one uses their software. Blurb reproduces color more favorably than does Lulu. Furthermore, Lulu does not offer simple design software.
Listen to lecture recordings from a large number of universities on iTunes U, or use Profcast to record slideshows with audio and upload them to the Web.
I. Mobile Platforms
Undergraduate students pay less and less attention to email. They pay more attention to class-related communication if you use SMS. Services like GroupMe allow you to create chat rooms for groups. This works well in small classes. Such services do not work well in large classes as they create too much noise. Use GroupMe to create one phone number for a group chat room and send text messages from your gmail account.
J. Content Aggregation
Use Google Reader to aggregate blogs from all over the Web and save time by viewing updates to all sites in one interface instead of traveling from site to site.
K. Personal Dashboards
Aggregate a variety of websites throughout the semester for your students to read, follow, and respond to.
L. Collaborative Topic Mapping
Ask students what they learned in your class. They can write concepts and names on Post-it notes and then group them in clusters on a wall. Finally, a group of students with laptops transfers these topical groupings to a collaborative map online. Students may be surprised how much they learned. Such maps are also helpful when preparing for exams.
IV. Collaborative Research
M. Platforms Facilitating Group Work
N. Instant Messaging
Use Skype to host guest lecturers for short, synchronous video lectures and conversations with students. Skype also allows for conference calls with multiple participants.
V. Organizational/Administrative Tools
O. Document Sharing
Use PB Works to create Wikis free of charge, bearing in mind that this tool does not facilitate tracking new information.
P. Text Expander
Use TextExpander to save and easily paste frequently used snippets of text.
Q. Google Docs
R. PDF Merging Online
S. Classroom Voting
Students in large classes can formulate questions and vote on them.
T. Share Large Files
U. Scheduling Appointments
W. Live Streaming
Temporarily block access to the Internet or selected social software services.
Y. Annotate Websites
AA. Archive and Reference Academic Work