What Powers The Classroom - My Software Recomendations

This is definitely the question I am asked most often. So here is my list. In order to make it into my classroom there are three criteria:

  1. It must enhance or encourage learning. As much as I love to "geek out" on technology, I feel that technology for technology's sake cannot be the sole criteria.
  2. It must be free (as in $0 in cost) and preferably Open Source (code is released to the public). Firstly, because classrooms cannot afford expensive software and secondly, because of my personal philosophy as a programmer that all software is made better when the world has the ability to look at the code and improve it.
  3. The only software that is not Free and/or Open Source is that which meets criteria #1 and for which there is no FOSS (free and open source) alternative. Although, I only encourage their use if your district can afford to purchase it. No technology is so essential that it should adversely affect the school's ability to be fiscally responsible.
I want to thank all of the bloggers, programmers, and IT managers I have worked with over the years to find these softwares. My current IT colleagues Dave and Daren work so hard to find great software and I thank them for it.

Without any further ado, here is the list with a link and a short description. If there is a cost associated with the program it will be indicated with a dollar sign ($). Disclaimer: I may mention that a software is a Free and Open Source Alternative to a certain software (e.g. Adobe, Microsoft). This is only mentioned because of how well known those products are so you can understand what they are capable of and should not be taken as a negative endorsement.
  • 7-ZIP - A file compression utility capable of working with many different file types like .zip and .rar, and .tar (A free and open source alternative to WinZip)
  • Audacity - A powerful multi-track audio editor. Create MP3s, Podcasts, music, and more.
  • Adobe Premier - ($) Simply the best video editing software out there in my humble opinion.
  • Alice - Learn the Java Programming Language through the creation of stories. Loved by all ages. Created by Randy Pausch of The Last Lecture fame
  • Blender - 3D modeling, animating. Great for making video games and creating 3D objects.
  • CamStudio - Screen Capture/Video Tutorials
  • Celtx - Script Writing Software for Film, Audio, Comics, and more
  • DownThemAll - Mozilla Firefox Browser Extension that allows you to download everything on a website with a couple of clicks. Extremely useful when you have a ton of links on a page.
  • Dropbox - Hands down, one of the best services on the Internet. Create a folder on your computers and phone that sync up with each other and the Cloud. Always have your files and information available!
  • Filezilla - File Transfer Program (FTP) use this if you have a large number of files to transfer from one computer to another. Free and Open Source. 
  • F.lux - If you or your students stare at a computer all day, this can be bad for your eyes and your sleep cycle. This software adjusts to your timezone and light to slightly modify the color of your screen (you will not notice the difference unless you are a Graphic Artist, and can disable it while you are doing artistic projects) so you are less affected by it. 
  • GanttProject - Free project scheduling and management. Great for you and the students to track progress on a long term collaborative project.
  • Geogebra - Mathematical software that will allow you and your students to "play" and interact with math like never before. (A Free and Open Source software similar to Mathematica)
  • GIMP - Photo Editing Software (a Free and Open Source Alternative to Adobe Photoshop)
  • Google Apps - Email, Video/Voice Chat, Document Collaboration, Calendar, Website, and more! Check out Google's tutorials on Apps.
  • Google Earth - Take a tour around the world, geography, topography, geocaching etc.
  • Google Sketchup - Create buildings, objects, theatrical sets, mathematical objects and anything else you can think of.
  • Google Translate - Freely convert from one language to another. I use it most often to convert a website from one language to another and to translate everything I send home into Spanish so all of my parents can understand it. Note: It is not perfect so you and your parents should be aware of this when you use it.
  • GraphCalc - Give your students the power of the expensive graphing calculators and be able to display a graph on the projector. Capable of 2D and 3D graphing.  
  • Greenshot - Quickly take pictures of your screen and annotate it (like I do for this blog). So many features (best of all is the "obfuscate" tool to hide your private information) that put this at the top of its class.
  • InfranView - Photo Viewer (Free to schools, educators, and individuals). There are so many photo viewers out there, this is just the one I prefer. Google's Picasa is also great.
  • Inkscape - Vector Image Manipulation (a FOSS alternative to Adobe Illustrator). This is the software that Patrick Yurick and the Graphic Novel Project use!
  • Kompozer - WYSIWIG (What you see is what you get) HTML editor. Make websites! (A free and Open Source Alternative to Adobe Dreamweaver)
  • Math-o-mir - Math notebook to quickly create and format math equations, graphs, and more. Blog link here.
  • Office Tabs - Many of us still use Microsoft Office and when you have multiple documents or sheets open it can fill up your task bar rather quickly. Office Tabs takes your multiple open files and creates tabs like your Internet Browser. This compacts it, making it far easier to naviagate and keep your sanity.
  • Open Office - Word Processing, Create Presentations, Spreadsheets, Math Equation Editor, Drawing (a Free and Open Source Alternative to Microsoft Office).
  • Python - A programming language that is far simpler to learn than Java or C++ while being just as powerful. Check out the Programming Tutorials.
    • VPython - The extension to Python that allows for great graphing or animation in 2 or 3 dimensions. This is the software I trust for my Slope Art Project.
  • Skype - Phone, Video Chat (Free if you are calling another person using Skype, slowly becoming more Open Source)
  • Tracker - STEM Video Analysis tool. Use this with your science, math, engineering class to collect data about experiments, robots, projects. Imagine being able to have a video of a catapult and create data and graphs with relative ease. Find the difference between ideal and experimental with this powerful tool.
  • Video LAN (VLC) - Video player capable of playing practically any video you can think of.
  • Visual Analyzer - A great way to have your students work with sound waves and learn about frequency and amplitude.
  • WinFF - Convert audio and video to various different formats. See my WinFF tutorial.
  • WinSplit Revolution - Easily move windows to split screen, different windows, corners, etc. Great for those who multitask and use multiple windows in the classroom.

This list will grow and be edited constantly so if you have any suggestions, questions, leave it in the comments!