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Arthur Bio: Carol Mortensen has twenty-three years of educational experience.  The Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) named Carol the Classroom Teacher of the Year for her innovative and creative use of technology to create a 24/7 virtual classroom using her classroom website. Carol has presented at school districts throughout Texas as well as state and local conferences on a variety of technology integration topics. Her article on the use of websites as an instructional tool was recently published in the TechEdge Magazine.  In February 2011, her article, Lessons Learning In a 1:1 Classroom, was published by TechEdge.  The article was republished in ISTE’s Learning  and Leading magazine in August 2011.  She was named Fairmont Junior High’s Teacher of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year.

Educators often find themselves overwhelmed and stressed with a plate full of responsibilities that are literally flowing over.  While we may not be able to decrease the requirements that we encounter, we can take some steps to improve our efficiency in completing them.  When we do this, we are able to spend more time facilitating our students and less time on the organization and non-student contact activities.
Luckily, we all have a great resource available to do just that and it’s literally been sitting right there in front of us for some time.  Firefox Add-Ons are free extensions that can be added to your Firefox browser to improve its functionality in almost every area of teaching.  From improving your own organization to providing students with free tools that support the content areas, Firefox Add-Ons can almost provide an answer for every time we stop and think “I wish there was an easier way to do this” or “If only my students had access to…”  As a bonus, the Firefox add-ons can enhance the presentation of materials and content to students to that the learning experience itself is improved and students are provided an optimal learning experience. Below are just a few examples of what’s available for educators:

Clearly – How many times have you found a great resource for students online but the page ads or design was distracting for the students?  Clearly solves that problem by providing a one-click clean-up of the page so that all that remains is a clear, crisp article.  Whether displaying information in class or sending along a tutoring resource to your students, Clearly helps provide the information suitable for optimal learning.  Clearly doesn’t stop there, either. Once the page is cleared of distractions, you have the ability to change the text and background color and/or increase or decrease the font size.  For students with special needs, this is a huge benefit.

Fox Tab – If you’re presenting to a student either online or face-to-face, Fox Tab is bound to improve the experience. Fox Tab serves as a speed dialer for all of your favorite websites which you choose to include.  No more fumbling for forgotten URL’s or wasted time during website transitions because you simply click on Fox Tab and an eye-appealing layout of your selected websites is waiting for you.  A simple click and you are moving on to the next important concept with your students.  The layouts are dynamic and 3D and you have the option of styles to suit you and your students’ tastes.
Wired-Marker – Turn your projected or shared webpage into an interactive board that you can annotate with permanent markers.  Use them to highlight important information for your students and add important notes and information. Because the markers are permanent and will be visible upon returning to a previously visited website, you can highlight important information you don’t want to forget knowing that it will serve as a reminder when you return to the site.

ReminderFox – Don’t stop and write down notes to yourself when you think of to-do tasks or write an appointment time on a sticky note for a last-minute student tutoring session change.  Instead, use ReminderFox right from your Firefox browser to quickly note all important dates and tasks.  Set reminders and you’ll find yourself never forgetting an important task again with the most minimal of effort!
This is just four examples of the thousands and thousands of free tools that are available to streamline your work and improve the academic outcome for students.  You’ll find everything from graphing calculators to photo editing tools. There are tools to make browsing safer and faster.  Luckily, each tool is rated and the number of users who have downloaded the tools is shown.  User reviews are available on the page provided to each add-on, as well.
It just may be that the answer for many of your work needs is readily available at no cost within the Firefox browser.  A quick install of an add-on may improve a lesson, a teaching method, or a work problem in ways you might never have imagined.
If you are ready to give the Firefox Browser Add-On’s a try, check out my list of Firefox Essential Add-Ons For Educators.  I’ve included 51 of my tried and true favorites including the ones mentioned earlier.  You’ll find step-by-step instructions for customizing Firefox with these Add-Ons here.
Just a word of warning: Be prepared!  Once you realize the value and functionality that these tools have to offer, you are likely to be creating collections of your own!