for Teachers | Presentations

I’ve long been a believer that teachers should explore open source edtech tools as an alternative to all the free, freemium, ad-supported, and privacy-invading web applications that are marketed to us. In addition to all the great open source desktop applications, there are a lot of open alternatives to the cloud apps we all know and love — Dropbox, Evernote, Google Docs, SurveyMonkey, Twitter, etc. Open tools can match the power of these commercial offerings, while protecting you and your students from invasions of privacy. They also hold the promise of allowing schools to roll out a coherent ecosystem of cloud tools without a huge outlay of licensing dollars.

Open cloud apps require people to run their own server space, which, while empowering, is admittedly more work than the average teacher wants to do. But what if it were as easy to run your own cloud server as it is to keep your smartphone apps up to date?

Servers for People Who Don’t Want Servers

I was an early backer of the Indiegogo campaign for, a project that aims to make it easy for anyone to run their own private cloud server.

In Sandstorm, you have your own personal space online where you can create your own blogs, wikis, to-do lists, notes, collaborative drawing and writing tools, cloud file storage, and on and on and on. You have your own cloud workspace, and you can plug as many apps into that workspace as you want, allowing you to run all your tools (blog, wiki, social media, learning games) from one screen.
I see this as a simplified way for teachers and students to access the wide world of open source self-hosted cloud software without the hassles of running one’s own server. You can use a Sandstorm account to put up your own website, collaborative documents, discussion boards, file sharing and more. I can see institutions investing for all their teachers and students to have access to a Sandstorm account, simplifying the logistics of rolling out a powerful tech toolkit across their campus.

One of the features I’ve been using lately is the HackerSlides HTML5 presentations.


HackerSlides : Presentations

One of my favorite tools in Sandstorm is called HackerSlides — a user friendly version of Reveal.js Presentations that lets you write beautiful presentation slide decks using a simple markdown text document.

Markdown is great for presentations because you can create slides and bullets without ever taking your hands off the keyboard — this removes the barriers to get your ideas out. Add bullets with a - and the tool converts them into graphical bullets. Add images from the web with a simple copy-paste of the URL.

It also makes it super easy to add YouTube videos and interactive surveys right into your presentation. Believe me — after a quick learning curve, writing markdown presentations is faster and more efficient that any other slide deck software. The results are pretty attractive too, and they’re native to the web, already online for students to find.

Check it out

There are lots more interesting tools you can play around with in Sandstorm. I’d advise you to get a free account and see if you find the tools useful. Can you see this being rolled out across your school?

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