As someone who has become enamored with open-source software and freeware, I have found some really good applications and programs that can save districts a lot of money.
Office: Why continue to pay the exorbinate site licesning fees for MS Office when you can use open-source platforms like Zoho, Google Docs, OpenOffice, Scribd, and NeOOffice? In fact, many of these open-source office applications allow for free storage, are compatible with users of MS Office that you may need to share the documents with. Zoho may be especially useful to techers of Accounting and Business classes as it caters to that audience offering invoicing and data collection tools.
Photos: Why pay for extra storage drives and servers when you can upload and share your photos? We already know about Flickr, Picasa, and Photo Bucket. But, as Ross has posted, you can now edit photos for free using PhotoShop Express. Saves lots of money indtead of purchasing iLife or iWork for Mac OSX.
Podcasts: Most districts have iTunes blocked (why? – no idea). Instead of searching for podcasts related to curriculum there, search for podcasts and audiobooks at MediaFly. Once you create an account, you can add the podcasts and audio books you choose to your RSS reader. Like blog posts, your podcasts will be sent to your feed reader. Teachers and students can literally create a library of podcasts and audiobooks for themselves. Best part is that your MediaFly files are downloadable to PC or iPod. I love this freeware application. You can also check out The Eudcation Podcast Network.
Live Video: Nothing beats Ustream for viewing and participating in live Internet boradcasts. I will actually be hosting a Ustream event on April 18 from 9AM to 11AM. Our school will be hosting a Global Warming and Environmental Issues Ustream allows us to broadcast our events and viewers can type questions and comments for the speakers and or moderators.
Other Interesting Web Apps: Bubbl.us for brainstorming interaction, Literature Map for teaching author relations, Jott for sending all of your email and cell phone contacts instant text messages, Celtx for pre-video production outlining, Free Classic Audio Books is useful for Language Arts and ESL teachers, and for free etexts, see:
So, as the budget crunches come and we begin the slash and burn of programs, texts, and supplies, keep in mind that the new collaborative and open-source way of the web may be a great place to go. For kickers, why not start by installing Linux based software on some computers. See Ubuntu for view and download it. It looks and feels like OSX. But costs $0.00.