11 Free Tools to Boost Creativity in Online Assignments
If you’ve yet to explore new tools for your online courses, now’s a great time to start. We’ve peaked in on some neat tools in these categories: Storytellers and Image Editors, Open Software Suites, Video and Movie Makers, and Audio Editors. Check out this list of comprehensive, powerful, and free tools waiting to enhance your online teaching.
Storytellers and Image Editors
# 1 SketchUp
SketchUp is a fast, fun, and intuitive tool for making 3D (or 2D if you prefer) models. You can make your own model or download what you need. This program lets you model with precision, apply colors and textures, work on terrain, and even benefit from applying Google Earth (view all features). And this program is also ready to support its users with tutorial videos and the handy SketchUp Getting Started Guide.
For example: Rodney Kazenske remodeled this home with specific criteria, like ensuring the addition didn’t look like an afterthought and redesigning the roof to create shaded areas in the backyard.
“The ability to quickly analyze design changes and create various options in Sketchup led to some surprising discoveries and some creative solutions.” # 2 GIMP Edit your photos with the GNU Image Manipulation Program (GIMP), a freely distributed raster editor that competes with other raster programs like Adobe Photoshop, Jasc Paintshop, and Microsoft Paint. GIMP is an ideal program because faculty and students can access this program on campus or at home.
You can use GIMP as a simple paint program; or use its advanced features to retouch photos and compose and author images. GIMP can even serve as an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, and an image format converter.
Read about GIMP’s features and find answers in GIMP’s user manual. GIMP runs on many operating systems, including UNIX, Windows, and Mac OS. # 3 XMind XMind is open-source software for mind mapping and brainstorming. The program’s free version is great–granting access to XMind’s diagrams, Mind Toolbox, and the ability to share your maps (download it here). Review XMind’s features and get ideas from the Mind Map Library.
# 4 Scribus Scribus is a desktop publisher–you can produce press-ready documents and benefit from the latest trends in page design. Scribus is open-source and works on Linux/UNIX, Mac OS X, OS/2 Warp 4/eComStation and Windows systems. What makes this publishing program great: Scribus has a friendly user interface with professional publishing features like color separations, CMYK and Spot Color support, ICC color management, and versatile PDF creation. After downloading the program, be sure to check for any help on Scribus’s forums, answer specific tech questions on Scribus’s blog, or access Scribus’s Manual.
Office Software Suites
# 5 Apache OpenOffice Apache is open-source office software that includes word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, vector drawings and graphics, databases, and math function creators. Besides the price (free), what makes this office suite great is it can read and write files from other office suites, and it’s developed with a global approach (offered in many languages and for all common computers). Download Apache OpenOffice here. Read more about OpenOffice for Education, and find answers in OpenOffice’s Documentation Project, which includes resources like templates and user forums. # 6 Google Drive Google’s version of an office software suite (like Apache OpenOffice above or Microsoft Office) includes apps like Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Apps Scripts, Drawings, and Fusion Tables. You can also create, open, and share files from other apps in Google Drive.
Video and Movie Makers
Compiling videos and making movies is easier than ever. With a camera or cell phone, you already own the required equipment to make such visual content. You can create videos by shooting moving video or stringing along a series of still shots. # 7 Windows Movie Maker Windows 7 and 8 users should start shooting their blockbusters by downloading Movie Maker.
You can add photos and footage from your PC or camera into Movie Maker, then fine-tune your movie with edits like speed timing and adding audio. And so your movie looks polished, Movie Maker automatically adds transitions and effects. You can share your videos easily on social networks, YouTube, or by simply sending a hyperlink. Windows XP users should download Photo Story 3. # 8 iMovie Apple OS users should use iMovie to create videos and share them. iMovie is a great editor as well as a full-screen video-watching interface that houses all your videos. As an OS product, iMovie already comes with a clean, simple-to-use structure. Plus, you can drag-and-drop your film, combine still shots with moving action, fix shaky videos, and even make movie trailers!
# 9 Jelly Cam Here’s a simple video maker worth trying. With Jelly Cam, you create stop-motion films with snapshots from a webcam, stored images, or clay (yes, claymation!). You can also add music, and export for YouTube. Jelly Cam is for Windows or Mac. Watch this quick start tutorial for Jelly Cam.
# 10 Audacity Audacity is an easy-to-use and multilingual audio editor and recorder. With Audacity, you can record live audio, convert tapes and records into digital format, edit sound files, cut/copy/splice/mix sounds, and more (view all Audacity’s features). This program works on many operating systems, including Windows, Mac OS X, GNU/Linux.
# 11 GarageBand GarageBand is an interactive experience to making and editing audio. Among its myriad features, GarageBand lets you plug in your guitar or keyboard to play directly into the program, access any instrument, write and share a song, record/mix/master your music, and export your songs into your iTunes library by various formats.
And learn to play music in GarageBand. Learn the basics, learn from your favorite artist, and get instant feedback on your own recordings.
Share Your Experiences
Tell us how you’ve used these tools in your course. Have these tools helped your students express their work better than traditional paper or essay methods? Share with us in the comments section below.