With so many free, well developed resources out there are we paying out unnecessarily from our small budgets?

Thanks to twitter and all the educationalists I now follow I have been overwhelmed by the amount of free, easily available resources for the classroom. As a maths teacher I have been using graphing software and question banks which the school has purchased from the budget year after year. For example we have paid for a licence for a piece of graphing software, but there is geogebra and this web resource which are more intuitive and have most of the functionality for day to day lessons.

We have also purchased access to a site which offers video tutorials and practice questions in the past few years, however I have not renewed our subscription thanks to khan academy and mathscentre. Both provide extensive resources for students to develop their mathematical skills, yes, free of charge. It is worth mentioning that the paid resources can provide more structured resources that reflect specific exam board specifications but for free I’ll happily spend a few hours arranging the correct links to guide students to the ones they need. QR codes are helping me do this, for free.

This shows a few subject specific examples of free alternatives that can have the same impact on learning in and out of the mathematics classroom. If we start to think from a school-wide perspective the savings can be even greater. Every school I know of is trying to find a virtual learning platform (VLE) to fulfil their obligations to make resources accessible to students and parents. Most of the VLE’s I have experienced are difficult to navigate and essentially serve as a file dump. I can only assume this is the case because educational ICT development has a tiny fraction of the funding that companies such as Google can donate to development. Therefore I feel that in education we can lag behind in the technology we offer our students.

I have found my wikispace sites, Google sites and Google documents perform the very same function, in a more usable and effective way for free! My google documents can provide the opportunity for students to collaborate in a way the VLE’s I am aware of cannot. My wikispace gets more hits each day than our VLE and the students speak positively about the wikispace, which is immeasurably easier to update and manage. I am considering using Google docs to make information available to parents…for free! I can embed widgets into wikispaces easily making the site more interactive than our VLE, most successfully demonstrated by my lesson evaluation form, which my students are completing regularly, giving me valuable feedback on my practice, for free.

The school I work in has issues with data storage as teachers start to develop pod-casting and other data rich activities. Is a ‘cloud’ the cheaper option? I pay very little for a reasonable amount of storage online, with all the savings that can be made can clouds be the answer to storage issues?

I am sure I have only scraped the surface of the plethora of free resources that could unburden our tightly squeezed budgets. I hope you are discovering this too and we can all share our free resources. Let me know your thoughts here or by tweeting your ideas @mr_brouse using #edtechforfree. Maybe I am being naive, if so let me know why.

Ben Rouse (if only I was this determined to save my own money)

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