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5 Great FREE Programs for Students

Posted by on September 7, 2012

When I started as a tech teacher, I pushed my administration for lots of software. I wanted a different one for each theme–human body, space, math. Now, they’re all on the internet–for FREE–which means we can use our tech budget for iPads, microphones, splitters… Wait–we have no budget. Good thing I’m addicted to FREE.

FREE online drawing program

FREE online drawing program

Here’s my short list of the most useful FREE programs:

  1. Google Earth. Absolutely Number One and the dot on the exclamation point. We use it starting in Kindergarten to find their homes (with lots of parent help). We also take the included sightseeing world tour, which kindergartners can maneuver by themselves. As kids grow up, I add specific locations that correlate to their classroom lessons, a tour of California missions, measuring distances with the ruler, adding facts about Wonders of the World, creating their own tour with overlays. All doable by fifth grade and all FREE. I’ve uploaded some of my lesson plans to (search ‘learn google earth’). If you can’t find it, comment here and I’ll upload them to the this blog.
  2. Celestia. I can’t believe how many people don’t know about this program. It’s graphics are amazing, detail and facts unlimited, with lots of add-ons (for FREE) that allow you to customize it to your needs. It, like Google Earth, has a tour function, which makes it available to all grades.
  3. Tux Paint–as good as KidPix and it’s a FREE download. Compatible with all systems. Check the picture in this blog, drawn in TuxPaint. Looks just like KidPix, doesn’t it?
  4. Typing Web–a graduated keyboard program which keeps track of your child’s improvement. Not as many ads as others. For more keyboarding programs, read my Time to Start Keyboarding blog.
  5. Starfall. Hands down, the most popular reading program for kids. When given a choice, my students often choose this site over any other. Don’t be afraid to send younger kids to the art galleries and music on the ‘It’s Fun to Read’ section

There are so many more which I’ll cover in future posts. As your school year begins (again), try these first. You won’t be disappointed.

Jacqui Murray is the editor of a K-6 technology curriculum, K-8 keyboard curriculum, creator of two technology training books for middle school and six ebooks on technology in education. She is the author of Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, Cisco guest blog, Technology in Education featured blogger, IMS tech expert, and a bi-weekly contributor to Write Anything. Currently, she’s editing a thriller that should be out to publishers next summer. Contact Jacqui at her writing office or her tech lab, Ask a Tech Teacher.

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