What are the Best Free Online Tools for Students?
Thanks to the internet, we have an entire world of information and resources at our fingertips–and sometimes that feels like both a blessing and a curse.
Sure, we have access to archives, databases, tools, and up-to-the-minute commentary on current events, but finding and using this information requires that we wade through endless notifications, advertisements, and questionable content – not to mention the ‘fun’ online distractions that challenge productivity on a daily basis (we’re looking at you, Twitter).
One of the greatest struggles for many students — and teachers, if we’re being honest — is staying organized and on-task in this sea of information, and although there is an abundance of apps and software that promise to assist in this endeavor, more often than not, they just add to the distracting background noise and create more digital clutter.
“Using technology for learning makes sense. Technology creates access, transparency, and opportunity. Any smartphone or tablet is media incarnate–video, animation, eBooks, essays, blog posts, messages, music, games. The modalities of light, color, and sound all arranged just so to communicate a message or create an experience,” said our own Terry Heick. “But there is a difference between using technology and integrating it deeply into the learning experiences of students.”
This distinction between technology use and integration is an important one. The use of technology is almost a given in this day in age – however, knowing which resources to use and when is a skill worthy of exploration. Keep these resources in mind while planning your lessons and help students develop an online toolkit that will benefit them beyond the classroom.
33 Of The Best Free Online Tools [Updated]
IXL is a K-12 platform to help students practice and learn Math, Science, Social Studies, Spanish, and Language Arts. It ‘teaches’ through assessment (questions) and has diagnostic modes, suggested curriculum, and more.
You can also read more about how to use IXL.
Better Explained is a free resource that seeks to explain mathematical concepts through quick visuals.
3. Khan Academy
Khan Academy is the popular, online platform used to learn academic content–mostly STEM-based.
4. Google Docs
Google Docs is a word processor that’s part of a web-based productivity suite offered by Google within its Google Drive service. This platform also includes Google Sheets and Google Slides, the former a spreadsheet tool and the latter a presentation program.
YouTube is everyone’s favorite video platform and is one of the most popular websites on the internet for a reason: you can learn almost anything. Here is YouTube’s Learn at Home resource.
Quizlet is a free study app for digital flashcards to memorize, review, and learn new ideas. One of its best features is the ability to download other users’ cards to save a lot of time–or even learn content you might not have considered.
Audacity is a free, open-source audio file editor
Gimp is a free, open-source image editor.
OpenShot is a free, open-source video editor.
10. Microsoft Teams
Microsoft Teams is a project-management tool with a free tier feature-rich enough to use for students to plan out classwork, projects in project-based learning, plan businesses, or communicate with groups from and around school.
Slack is a project-management tool with a free tier feature-rich enough to use for students to plan out classwork, projects in project-based learning, plan businesses, or communicate with groups from and around school.
Trello is a project-management tool with a free tier feature-rich enough to use for students to plan out classwork, projects in project-based learning, plan businesses, or communicate with groups from and around school.
Project Gutenberg is a collection of over 60,000 free eBooks
Wikipedia is everyone’s favorite crowd-based encyclopedia. It is supported by donations by free for end-users.
MIT Open Courseware is a collection of MIT’s free course materials for public use.
Duolingo is a simple and free way to practice a foreign language.
Microsoft Translator is TeachThought’s favorite language translation app. Here’s a link to the main site but you can obviously find it in the iOS and Google Play store for mobile use, too.
Zotero is a tool to collect, organize, and share online research.
Wikiversity is a Wikipedia-sourced platform for free online course materials.
YouTube Channel: Crash Course is another useful channel for delivering free online learning resources in an engaging way.
OpenLearn is a free learning platform, delivered by The Open University as part of the “Royal Charter commitment to support the well-being of the community.”
24. Academic Earth
Like OpenLearn, Academic Earth is a collection of free online courses and materials.
National Geographic for Kids is a free online resource to learn about nature and animals through the familiar National Geographic approach.
Yale Open Courses is a collection of Yale’s–well, you can probably guess what this is. If you’re curious what one of the most expensive university’s look like in terms of courses and content, this is a decent start.
While there are many free graphing calculator apps, Desmos is web-based and free–a “suite of math software tools, including the Desmos Graphing Calculator and Scientific Calculator. Desmos claims these free online tools for students are used annually by over 40 million teachers and students around the world.
While this is an advanced learning tool, it’s really quite something. A Netflix-created open-source program, Polynote is a Machine Learning and Data Science workflow tool. Polynote is a “different kind of notebook. It supports mixing multiple languages in one notebook and sharing data between them seamlessly. It encourages reproducible notebooks with its immutable data model.”
Also an advanced tech tool, “Blender is the free and open-source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, video editing, and 2D animation pipeline.”
According to the developers, with this free online learning resource, you’ll learn the basics of using synthesizers (or synths). The box above controls a synth running in your web browser, but synthesizers come in many shapes and sizes. They can be physical instruments that musicians play on stage, noise-makers inside electronic devices and toys, or software running on a phone or computer.
There are free documentary resources across the internet and Netflix has joined the party, releasing thirteen free educational documentaries for learning. There are also some free Netflix documentaries, too.
CK-12 is a free and fantastic way to learn science by compiling your own learning STEM resources–either those that you upload or those provided by CK-12. Think online, custom STEM textbooks for free. With animations and interactive activities.