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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

ThinkFree.com: An Free Office Solution
Carl Sannito

I've recently run into a great product that has the potential to support schools in their drive to integrate technology into their respective curriculums. Thinkfree.com is an excellent free resource that allows users to create Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents. It gives you 1 gigabytes worth of free storage for your documents online. It allows you to share documents with other users, so you don't need to worry about having your own server because everything is done online. And, it doesn't matter if you are running a Windows PC or an Apple operating system, because all the software runs through your browser (technically, it's Java based).
Did I mention that this is all free?

First of all, let me give credit to Digg.com, a great online resource for all things technological. It's a web site that I go to every day because it's filled with up to the minute stories that involve technology. The great thing about Digg is that the stories are all submitted by the readers, people like me and you. Basically, the web site is run by the readers.

Let's say you've run into a great article about, oh I don't know, using technology in the classroom by some up and coming genius named C. Sannito and you feel as though more people should get exposed to his brilliance. You could submit the article to Digg, get it posted, and BAM! Soon every one who goes to the web site can share in his genius!

What I love about Digg is that I get to read so many great ideas and stories that I never see in the newspaper.

Now, back to ThinkFree. As I stated, it runs right in your browser, using Java technology to give you a Microsoft Office type of experience, but without the hefty price tag, without having to do nearly as much installation, and with document integration built right in. I'm using Edit to create this article and when I send it to my editor, he can open it in Microsoft Word as if I created it in Microsoft Word.
You begin by signing up for a ThinkFree account with an e-mail address. I don't need to run through all the documentation, because the web site itself is very clear and straightforward, but I will share my experience with you.

I've used Thinkfree on both a PC and a Mac without any differences. The interface is the same, and this is great news for schools that have a mixed environment. I've saved documents at work and pulled them up at home without a problem. How many times have you worked on something at home, burned it to a disk and then forgotten the disk at home, only to have to redo your work all over? Never again. Granted, you're going to need to be connected to the Internet for all this to happen, but that's becoming a reality in more and more schools.

After your documents are created online, you can share them with other teachers (or students) very easily. You can even post them to your blog. I haven't done that yet, but I plan on sharing this software with the teachers at my school.

I have found that all the features I use in Word are here in ThinkFree's Edit software. My fonts are all there. I can create tables, and insert pictures. I can even print documents into PDF format.

I encourage teachers to check this web site out. If I taught older students, I would use this instead of the Microsoft-based products because students could create documents at school, save them, and pull them up at home, at the library, at a friend or relative's house, it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't matter if they didn't have the software, all they would need is a connection to the Internet. Of course, that's not to say that they can't save documents to a disk, because they can do that too.

Take a look for yourself; I think you'll love ThinkFree as much as I do.

By the way, did I mention it's free? :)


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