Calc5Your smug, battery devouring TI-85 just got some competition. Calc5, a free Web app, is an online graphing calculator that lets you plot 2D and 3D graphs which you can zoom and pan. It performs simple and complex calculations, from addition to differentiation.

Though not as portable as a traditional graphing calculator, it could be a viable option for students taking calculus online, or anyone who only needs a graphing calculator once in a while.

Now that you’ve found Calc5, what should you do with your old graphing calculator? Here’s one suggestion. –BILL FERRIS

Calc5

Maps of WarGiven the volatile world climate, it is difficult to explain to kids why the United States is in such a precarious position on the world stage. Maps of War is a site that features short Flash animations detailing military history that could shed some light on the subject.

Take a look at the Imperial History of the Middle East map and prepare to be shocked at the sheer number of empires that have ruled the Middle East and its people. Then take a look at the map detailing the spread of major religions over time, and you’ll see a strong indication of cultures that have changed dramatically, sometimes over a period of just a hundred years or so. You’ll need to provide a lot more context than Maps of War gives, but if you need easy visuals to help students make some sense of history and its relation to the present, Maps of War should get you started.

Now, all we need are a decent impetus and some stunning visuals for a “Maps of Peace” site. –ROSS WHITE

Maps of War

Notely LogoIt’s that time of year again, so get your ducks in a row while you still can. But what happens when your ducks’ ducks aren’t in a row? This year, instead of hoping all your students have the organizational skills they’ll need to get focused on the school year, give them something that will make it easy for them.

Notely.net is an online organization site that allows students to keep notes in an organized and simple manner. It’s free to register, and the multiple features pack a wallop. Students can create folders for individual courses, add notes as often as they like in a WYSIWYG editor, and even download their notes in an array of formats like .doc and .pdf. To boot, Notely offers primo features like a calendar, to-do list, notebook, a friends list, a links list, and the ability to create a profile and interact with other users.

The site offers a tutorial and demo version of its applications, but registration is easy enough that you might as well sign up. Things are relatively new, so expect a few bugs here and there, but also expect some add-ons and upgrades in the near future. Notely is easily integrated with other sites and applications, so you can even access it from your phone or utilize the Facebook application. Export data with an RSS feature, or just use the online storage to keep useful files and sites right where you need them. Simple and effective, just the way we like it; hope your students do, too. –JEREMY S. GRIFFIN

Notely

MicrosoftLet’s face it– it takes a lot of visual aid to make history engaging. In order to really get your students focused on the American Revolution or the rise of Charlemagne, sometimes it takes an extra step for them to visually experience the lesson. Luckily for us, that’s what PowerPoint presentations are for. But amongst all the grading, lesson pacing and everything else, who has time for creating them? Well, as it turns out, even if you haven’t, someone has, and they’ve created an online database just for you.

PowerPointPalooza is a site dedicated strictly to History lesson PowerPoint presentations. With more than 180 presentations in A.P. European and A.P. American History, as well as Global Studies, there is more than enough to choose from. The presentations vary in length from as little as a dozen slides to upwards of 140. Topics range from things like “Life in Gilded Age New York City” to “How To Do an AP Euro DBQ” and each are extensive, yet generic enough that anyone can find a way to personalize the information.

There are also some student projects available for download, so don’t hesitate to give your own students something to aspire to. If nothing else, PowerPointPalooza might just give you the inspiration you need to create your own database. (Please use less Comic Sans, though.) –JEREMY S. GRIFFIN

PowerPointPalooza

Just in time for the back to school crunch, Education-World.com has a list of the things you might not have considered in the form of a “Tech-torial.” This Back-to-School Tech Checklist gives some great tips on keeping things clean and organized from a technology perspective.

Organized in a simple Problem –> Solution system, the tech-torial gives you the basics of everything from cleaning your computer to scheduling tech-support to accessibility options. Some things might seem a bit dated, (i.e. “how to clean your mouse roller ball” – come on, this is 2007!) there are some things you might not think about until it’s too late.

Take a few minutes out of your day to give yourself these reminders and do what needs to be done in order to get yourself tech savvy and tech ready for a new school year. –JEREMY S. GRIFFIN

Back-to-School Tech Checklist

Turkey SandwichThe best meals are the ones you make yourself. Blogger and dietician Clever Dudette extols the virtues of bringing your own meals to work in her post, Frugal Lunch. It’s healthy, and you can save big bucks. Her calculated savings of $988 per year are probably a bit inflated, since she bases it on spending $6 per lunch five days a week (though if you are spending $6 on fast food every noon, you should definitely start bring your own lunch and invest the savings in a treadmill).

The post also lists several inexpensive meal ideas that sound a lot tastier than the ham and cheese on white I made today. The comments section has great ideas, too, like making larger dinner portions and brining the leftovers the next day. There’s nothing groundbreaking here–most of the suggestions are rooted in common sense. That said, if you work at a school, you probably know sense isn’t all that common.

The unspoken benefit in all this is, of course, eating something a little tastier and healthier than the fare at the school cafeteria. Now, I don’t want to disparage your school’s hard-working food service staff. They’ve got the impossible task of trying to make food for hundreds of different appetites, many of whom spend their time in the lunch line complaining. So think of this as doing them a favor by lightening their workload.–BILL FERRIS

Frugal Lunch

ClockCollege can teach your students many important lessons – the satisfaction of broadening one’s mind, the transition from adolescence to adulthood, and the crushing burden of lifelong student loan debt. If you’re still paying for the bestest four years of your life, you owe it to your students to stress the importance of planning how they’ll finance their education. And since there’s nothing teenagers enjoy more than listening to adults’ advice, Instructify recommends you tell them to visit Bankrate.com’s Countdown to College.

Countdown to College is a month-by-month guide to students’ senior year, with the goal of maximizing grant and scholarship money. Advice includes registering for the SAT or ACT in September, harassing parents in January to file their taxes so kids can submit their darn FAFSA already, and spending February sucking up to civic and church groups who award scholarships.

Yeah, it’s a lot of work to cram into one year. Students are free to start following Countdown to College’s strategies early, of course. But if they’re that on the ball, they probably don’t need the advice.

As for everyone else, Countdown to College breaks up the nebulous concept of securing financial aid into doable monthly tasks. For kids bagging groceries for minimum wage at the local Try-N’-Save, asking total strangers for several thousand dollars probably never sounded so easy. –BILL FERRIS

Countdown to College

TutoromGrab some slick online lessons with Tutorom Beta. View flash-based tutorials on everything from biology to playing the drums. The site’s still a beta version, so the “School Education” channel doesn’t have a whole lot of stuff yet–mostly science and math, while us English majors get the shaft. That said, what is there looks decent, and worth directing your students to if they need a step-by-step explanation of, say, photosynthesis or algebraic expressions. In other channels, music students can access lessons for a variety of musical instruments, and you may want to send your economics kids toward the “Business and Finance” channel. “Languages” is pretty sparse with only a handful of French tutorials, but more courses will probably spring up as the site develops.

If you’re looking for a little professional development, Tutorom can help there, too. You can access tutorials on software like Photoshop or MS Office. Or you could brush up your public speaking skills. If you’re really feeling adventurous, you can check out a Tae Kwon Do tutorial. Hey, you never know when you might need it.

The site is free to view, but once they’re done with the beta version, they’re slated to have ads on the tutorials, and some courses may have fees. For the time being, though, it’s all up for grabs. So if you need an experiment on Bernoulli’s Theorem, now’s the time to get it.–BILL FERRIS

Tutorom Beta

Judgment is at hand–prepare thyself!

Like the apocalypse, the SAT, ACT and GRE tests seem like far-away tribulations we all prefer not to think about. But each of us must face the trials of standardized testing. Therefore, brothers and sisters, prepare your mind for the ordeal to come with free test preparation from Number2.com.

When you sign up at Number2, you can access their SAT, ACT, Vocab, and GRE prep materials–great news if you’re thinking about a Masters or PhD. The Vocab section starts pretty basic, but gets progressively harder. For the individual tests, Number2 covers all the sections of each, going so far as to discuss the reasoning behind concepts such as grammar and algebra. They do so in a friendly, conversational, and sometimes funny style that makes cynical jerks like myself feel right at home.

The folks at Number2 appear genuinely concerned with your well-being, to a frightening degree. I signed up to check out the site’s features, got distracted by something shiny, then forgot about it. Number2 soon sent emails nudging me to finish my set of grammar questions. Then to remind me I hadn’t logged in lately, and where had I been? I finally went to the site’s control panel and turned off emails before Number2 started calling hospitals to see if I’d been injured.

Email irritation aside, Number2 is an invaluable tool for both students and teachers. So the next time you or your students sacrifice a precious Saturday morning to the gods of college-readiness testing, put your faith in Number2. –BILL FERRIS

Number2