Earlier this year my school site had to make a decision. Should we provide Microsoft Office to our students? At around $50 a license and with 300 new laptops arriving at the end of the summer we made the choice not to install it on student laptops. Our school can do a whole lot more with $15,000 than give it to Microsoft. We already had access to iWork 08 which includes Word-like Pages and PowerPoint-like Keynote, along with two other open source (read FREE) options including OpenOffice and NeoOffice. I can only imagine we aren’t alone in this train of thought. With diminishing education budgets and many high-quality free options, Microsoft Office is becoming more and more difficult to justify.
Along this theme of free Office alternatives, I read about SlideRocket on the Sylvan Technology Leadership Blog this week. I gave it a whirl this morning and I have to say I am very impressed. SlideRocket is a web-based presentation tool like PowerPoint or Keynote. The only items a user needs to create SlideRocket presentations are an email address and an Internet connection. For the low, low price of zero dollars and zero cents I was able to create a very nice looking presentation in a matter of minutes. The interface is easy to use and very clean looking. SlideRocket is designed for collaboration with multiple authors, contains an online library where users can store presentations, and even a way to host a webmeeting without WebEx. Check out the Product page. I am amazed at all of the features, especially since it is FREE!
For as long as I have been in the classroom I have worked with students who have computers with Internet access at home, but on those computers they don’t have Microsoft Office due to its high price. This is a perfect web alternative for those students. SlideRocket even lets users upload PowerPoints. So if you do have Office in your classroom students could work on their projects using PowerPoint at school, store them in a digital locker (or email it to themselves), and complete the project at home using SlideRocket. I haven’t been able to figure whether users can download their completed SlideRocket projects as PowerPoint files, but it does look like they provide a stand alone offline player. Give SlideRocket a whirl and let me know what you think by posting a comment.