Friday, August 16, 2013

Free Tech Classroom Helpers for Teachers

Sites for use in the digital classroom!

Check out How to Get Started With InfuseLearning by Infuse Learning on Snapguide.

Turn Smartphones/pads/laptops into "clickers" and other goodies for the Common Core

As many of my fellow teachers and I head back to the classroom, we're often faced with how to battle/integrate technology into our classrooms to meet the Common Core requirements and 21st-Century learning expectations. However, for many us the biggest obstacle is a budget, or rather lack of one. Well, here are a couple of helpers that allow you to easily integrate technology into your courses, they're free, and they're easy to use.

Phones as "clickers"

Rather than nagging your students to put away their cell phones, have them use those fancy smartphones they live by as "clickers." 
I'm starting with infuse learning's site first since so many teachers have used "clickers" or SmartResponse systems with Smartboards. However, if your school is like most, you probably have to share your "clickers" with other teachers, and you can't guarantee when you'll have them. While my school is pretty good about our use of these, the Infuse learning provides an even easier way to deliver formative or summative assessments and allow students to use their smartphones for it. Now, you may want to have a paper backup if you have students who don't have a smartphone, but if most of yours do and your principal is open to using phones, then this is a great option. You go to and log in as a teacher. You'll create a free account, then create your own questions in the Quick Assessment mode. Here's the link to the Snapguide on how to get started.


Another great tech tool to integrate this year, especially since ALL subjects must meet the Common Core Writing Standards which include publication, is the LiveBinder. This link will take you straight to the tutorials page which will show you what to do, how to search public binders for ones made by others for your subjects, etc. This site has a wealth of knowledge and you can use it for everything from virtual notebooks for your own resources and share with your students to having students create their own writing portfolios/projects. I'm making my students create one for their process writings for each gradinng period, broken down by modes. 
Another great thing about LiveBinders is that they allow you to insert Prezis, videos, pictures, etc. It's a great interactive tool for your students and your classroom.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Frugal Find of the Week: Freecycle

Score Free Stuff on Freecycle

So in the pursuit of frugality, I've recently joined a group called Freecycle. According to the site, it has over 9 million members worldwide, and it provides a great way for folks to easily reuse and recycle items. Here's how it works in a nutshell: you join for free, wait for approval, and then receive notices of what's being offered and what's wanted in your area. So rather than waking up at the crack of dawn on a weekend to hit up yard sales (which also work, but aren't free), you may score a random needed or wanted object. 
I've seen bicycles, clothes, furniture, computers, and yard equipment offered on this site, but I'm still waiting for a used desk I can refinish and add to our planned home office. This is a great way to clean out your closets--since organization is also one of our new goals as a family--and de-clutter. It's also a great way to recycle things you don't want without having to lug it to your local dump. Added bonus: you're being more earth-friendly keeping objects out of the landfill! So, you can get rid of things, find things, and feel good about doing something good for the environment!
The nice thing about the daily freecycle email is that you never know what you'll see offered. You could be very surprised at what you find. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Scored New Microsoft Office for Free with Purchase; A Word on Price Adjustments

Scoring Microsoft Office for Free

In preparing our little angel for her first year of college, we found ourselves not only needing to purchase a new laptop for said angel, but also Microsoft Office for it. Urgh!!! Her university had really marketed how we parents should purchase the software through them for $39--what we thought was a great deal--but neglected to tell parents that we'd have to purchase it as a CD only. See, this last little caveat really ticked us off because during the parent orientation I specifically asked what type of laptop our little angel would need and what capability was necessary for the software. Then, after inquiring of the university of the purchase link for the Office download only to be told it wasn't available through them, we needed another option. We carefully combed the sales for tax-free weekend in North Carolina to get the best deal on our daughter's new laptop, then found out literally the day after the tax-free weekend ended that we had to buy Office somewhere else!
To rub salt into that financial wound, our daughter received a coupon in her university email for free Office (a four-year, two-machine package) with touch-screen laptop purchases. Incensed we received the poor information from her school and the coupon a day late (it specified at "time of purchase"), I had an idea: try for a price adjustment.
For those unfamiliar with a price adjustment, it's essentially a refund from retailers. Usually if an item is purchased and then goes on sale the next day or a coupon is found within a specific period, a retailer will adjust a price and refund your money. I remembered this from my brief stint after college many moons ago when the store I worked for in our local mall would do these within a day of purchase.

Price Adjustment from Best Buy

So, I downloaded the coupon code for our place of purchase from the emailed coupon, then chatted the electronics' store's (Best Buy) customer service. They were very helpful and when I explained I had neglected to enter the coupon code at the time of purchase, the associate very helpfully provided me an 800 number to call to have the adjustment applied to receive the free Microsoft Office package. Now, I must warn that this required over 20 minutes of alternating being on hold, but by the time I was off the phone, I received an email stating that our free software key code for downloading the software was on its way. A week later, and I'm preparing to download!
So, I guess the university's discount problem turned into a blessing for our frugal little family.

**Special note: Most electronics and software can be purchased through the makers' websites at a discounted rate for all students and teachers. So, if you're a parent or a teacher, then don't forget to check those sites for direct purchases and discounts before paying those higher retail rates.

Other stores that do price adjustments include Kohl's, Macy's, Target, and many others. I've done price adjustments at stores like Express, The Limited, and Bed, Bath, and Beyond. For Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I always seem to receive those mailed coupons a few days after a sale, so I just take them in to receive back my 5-10 % off.

Ask for a discount

The most unusual discount I received was out of pity. That's right, pity. My lovely little angel shredded a tire this past winter, and when I went to purchase a replacement tire, I was asked if I was in the military to receive a discount. I told the salesperson that I'm not, but I'm in combat every day as a high-school teacher. After consulting with another salesperson, the clerk said that was good enough for her, and they applied a 10% military discount to my tire purchase!! So, even if it doesn't say you qualify for a discount, ask anyway. The worst that can happen is the store will say no.

Have a happy frugal week friends!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Good Ideas for Budgeting

I found this on Pinterest, and I just had to share it with my frugal friends. I'm not sure of the original source, but it's full of great ideas. The visual and color-coded make it very user-friendly for those of us who are visual learners. I hope you glean some great tips from this one.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Free Finds for Teachers

As a economically challenged high-school teacher from North Carolina (thank you, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report for your support) who perpetually runs out of room on our school's shared drive and number of photocopies, I've had to find tech tools and free books to survive. So, here are a couple of my favorites today to help all my fellow teachers find resources to use and adapt in your own classrooms. You can create an account for free and upload your own documents and presentations rather than lug around flash drives. Here's one of mine for my AP English Language students. I make mine public so anyone can use. I've had the perk of receiving thanks from kids I'll never meet in other parts of the country who found my presentations useful.
Another perk of slideshare: you can search for presentations from others to use in your classroom. Why reinvent the wheel? I believe this is one of the best ways for educators internationally to pool knowledge and help each other and our students. A word of caution, though: make sure you preview any material for accuracy and appropriateness. Some great presentations may be a little more permissive in content than your school will allow, so always check it out first and edit to your own needs. Also, I appreciate I can share them via other social media and use the embed codes to embed into my teacher webpage. Free and handy!

Ap lang q3 help from Wendy Scruggs

Free Books

I've tried to spread the word with my colleagues about the ability to score entirely free textbooks and teachers' editions, so I'll continue to spread it. I'm not sure why more people don't do this, but for a few minutes on the web, you can literally receive hundreds of dollars of material to use for your research and classroom completely free. Here's what I do to score them.
1. Go directly to a book company website. I just use the company names on the textbooks I either have an older edition of, or look them up on the web. 
2. Request a free review copy. 
3. Wait for the books to come in the mail.
Now, once I'm on the sites, I request review copies of everything relevant to what I teach, as well as what I may think a friend needs in a different course. I've received over $600 worth of brand-new teachers' editions for AP at a time. As any AP teachers know, our materials are rarely cheap, so this is definitely a score with trying. I've had great luck with Bedford and Holt. If you've never done this before, don't be afraid; the worst that can happen is that the company says no, which has never happened to any materials I've requested. I've filled an entire bookcase with free materials this way.

Free whiteboard apps

Friday, August 9, 2013

Frugal Fashion Find

Frugal Fashion Find for $5!!!!

Last Saturday the handsome husband and I attended a wedding. Well, I needed to pick out a dress, but being frugal, I refrained from a new purchase--it took lots of willpower for me and the husband. He loves for me to get new dresses. So, I went shopping in my closet for a past frugal find that I've never worn. I went to a local consignment store and found this great "little black dress" on a clearance rack for $5 cash, and it was in my size!! After inspecting it quickly at the time for any damage (because frugal girls still want quality) and realizing it was a Banana Republic, I shelled out the $5 and took it home to hang expectantly in the closet. Luckily last weekend, when I put this on, it won raves from my husband!! All for five bucks!! See, he looks pretty happy with the choice. To accessorize, I re-purposed a necklace from my daughter and voila! New outfit. By the way, this is one of the most comfortable dresses in spite of being fitted--it's very stretchy. Whew, it was a close call for staying frugal. So, with a little determination, a little time scouring the consignment racks, and very little cash, you can be frugal and still look like a million bucks for only a few!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Love of Vinegar

Love Me Some Vinegar!

While on this new "frugal" adventure, I've discovered a new love of vinegar. It may conjure sensations of tangy bitterness for some, but for me, it rouses an uncharacteristic passion for household chores. I'm amazed at its many uses and now have a new-found respect for this pantry staple of grandmothers the world over. Let me list a few favorite reasons why:

  1. Cheapest Rinse Agent Around: If you're like me (a little ADHD), then you can easily overlook when that infrequently used little bottle of dishwasher rinse agent runs low. It inevitably happens when it's late at night or really early in the morning--typically sometime when you really don't want to change out of your pajamas--and need to run a load of dishes. So, just take some handy-dandy vinegar and fill the rinse-agent dispenser. Voila! Problem solved. It also helps deodorize the dishwasher while it's at it.
  2. Weed and Grass Killer: See, in our foray into frugality, my perfect husband and I try our hands at yardwork, which we both, let's just say, don't particularly love. We decided rather than hiring out these cumbersome tasks, we'd do them ourselves. Like so many inexperienced gardeners, we jaunted off to our local Lowe's or Home Depot and purchased expensive weedkillers and groundclearers, but all to no avail. We were so surprised that two people who successfully can kill any cute plant in a mile radius can't successfully do the same thing with the unwanted ones. In our desperation, we decided to try vinegar. That's right: it kills unwanted grass and seemed to suck the life out of weeds, too! Channeling my inner wannabe chemist, I boiled big pots of water, added in vinegar (half a gallon), then put the concoction in a sprayer. We then decided I should add in some bleach for good measure, since we knew it kills mold, and sprayed away. Finally, the unwanted grass is shriveled up and can be dug up easily. We discovered an added bonus: vinegar seems to also kill pesky little spiders pretty well, too.
  3. Stain-zapper: I've heard mixed suggestions about vinegar and stain removal, so I'll share what worked for us. We had a mystery stain on this awful carpet in our den--we're frugally waiting to replace it with click-and-snap hardwoods when the daughter leaves for college. It just lurked there all weird and brownish on our already ugly pale-blue carpet travesty. So I soaked this old carpet stain (it came with the house) in vinegar. Then I placed a white towel over the spot and applied a low-heat iron over it. The vinegar and heat lifted the nasty booger and now it's barely noticeable.
  4. **To make your own "buttermilk" for cooking. I forgot this one, but my grandmother taught me to add a touch of vinegar (for this, I prefer apple cider vinegar) to milk to make it "curdle" so I can make my own buttermilk substitute for baking, particularly in her brownie cake recipe. It only takes a small splash to make it happen.
  5. To clean the microwave: I just saw this on a friend's wall on Facebook, and I can't wait to try it. Add 1 cup of vinegar + 1 cup of water and heat 10 minutes in the microwave to steamclean it! It says it zaps any gunk so it wipes out more easily.
I'd love to hear some more great uses for what I am convinced in this cure-all. Please post your ideas!