Pencils? Check.

Notebooks? Check.

Online word processor application? Check.

In addition to standbys like pens, pads, and the ever-popular Trapper Keeper, today’s learners need a new set of school supplies, too.  These tools enable students to take advantage of the new learning possibilities the Web has to offer, such as making research easier, or finding better, cheaper ways of doing what they’re already doing.

In that spirit, here’s my top 10 new-school school supplies (all of which, by the way, are completely free).

  1. OpenOffice — Why pay a bunch of money to Microsoft when you can get top-quality, MS-compatible programs for free? The OpenOffice suite packs a word processor, spreadsheets, presentation software, graphics software, and a database program. The open-source OpenOffice can do pretty much anything Microsoft Office can do, except drain your bank account.
  2. A Cell phone — Whether it’s for podcasting, conducting surveys, or staying organized, the cellular phone has a huge amount of educational potential for those who know how to use it.
  3. Remember the Milk –Back in my day, I wrote inky scribbles on my palm to stay organized. Today’s kids have Remember the Milk, which can keep track of assignments, activities, chores, and all applicable due dates and priorities. It also has fewer smudges.
  4. Diigo — Invaluable for research, Diigo lets students bookmark and annotate webpages so they won’t forget why they bookmarked a page in the first place. They can also read other folks’ notes or annotations for further insight. Like any good Web 2.0 tool, Diigo lets them share their bookmarks and annotations with friends, too.
  5. BibMe — Once students have found some great sources on Diigo, how do they cite them? Nobody has the time or energy to leaf through their MLA style manual to find the proper citation format for a newspaper article or whatever. If your students can muster the effort to enter a title, author, or ISBN number, BibMe will do the hard part and churn out a citation pre-formatted for the bibliography. If only the entire research paper process was this simple.
  6. Google Docs — Does many of the things OpenOffice does. Google Docs also adds a collaborative element, as multiple students will be able to edit a document, spreadsheet or presentation.
  7. OpenDrive — No more excuses about hard drive crashes. OpenDrive offers 1GB of storage online. Students can sync it with files on their hard drive for backups, collaborate with friends on projects, or use it to store their ever-expanding music collection. And for the time being at least, it’s free.
  8. VoiceThread — A slideshow with a soundtrack, VoiceThread lets students tell stories visually as well as textually. Easily upload video, audio, even record narration via their cell phone (I told you those things were handy), with any luck VoiceThread will replace PowerPoint.
  9. Adobe Photoshop Express Beta — If you thought Microsoft Office was expensive, check out the price tag for Adobe Photoshop. Fortunately, Photoshop Express Beta performs most of the photo editing functions students will need without costing a cent. They don’t even have to download anything. Now that’s express!
  10. PB Wiki — Wikis are great for class projects and to cross-reference other pieces of information. And PB Wiki makes setting up a wiki a breeze, even if you don’t know a wiki from a blog.

As with any top 10 list, I had to exclude other worthy applications. Now’s your chance to tout your favorites (or to tell me what a jerk I am) in the comments. -BILL FERRIS

UPDATE: Okay, so cell phones aren’t exactly free. However, your students probably own them already, and most of the educational uses for them won’t cost you anything to implement.

Photo credit: jgodsey on flickr

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