Free Resources for Trying Times

It started out as just three days tacked onto a long spring break weekend. Now it’s grown into 3 weeks with nothing certain at the end of that time. Yes, like so many of you, I’m home frome work for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By day, I work as an instructional designer. I spend a lot of time “putting out fires” at the school where I work. I plan, design, create, implement, and troubleshoot ways to learn. Much of this takes place on our learning management system or LMS, a digital learning system. In my “off” hours, I do some curriculum design for occasional clients. I am also a writer, writing everything from articles to nonfiction children’s books.

As a result, I’m getting LOTS of emails about “remote” services. Some businesses are just trying to make a buck, but I hear the number of scams are rising. So, it pays to be vigilant.

Other companies truly want to help. In these uncertain times, I’m certain that many of us are hesitant about spending money on anything but essentials. I understand. Here is a top 10 list of of free, reputable resources for you and your families. Note that there are many more. And when I hear of a good one, I’ll pass it along via Twitter at @Gibson4writing.

  • For “face-to-face” communication, you have lots of options: Facetime and Skype are most common. For group conversations, look to Google Hangouts. Zoom is a video conferencing product and an awesome way to hold group meetings, whether it’s a family, class, or office. It’s free for each meeting under 40 minutes and under 100 participants.  
  • Libraries. If you don’t have a library card, shame on you. Even though libraries are closed, most have online ebooks and audio books you can check out. Furthermore, having a library card opens up other options, like Hoopla and Kanopy, which will allow you to also stream music and video along with ebooks and audiobooks. Many libraries have a research/homework area as well.

Check out your state library as well. Just Google [state name] + state library. Mine offers lots of resources, including historical archives plus a research/discovery page where I can look up crafts, home improvement, business, and more.

  • Check out Open Education Resources (OER), a digital library of educational activities from preschool to adult.
  • Did you know that PBS is more than a television station? At you can look at resources directly tied to different programs that you watch. At PBS Learning Media (Google this as the url is tied to your local PBS station), videos and lessons are available.
  • Speaking of libraries, did you know that the Library of Congress is the largest in the world? And that they have loads of interesting things—photos, archives, recordings—on more topics than you know.
  • Check with some of your favorite publishers. One that I write for, Nomad Press, is offering free eBooks, projects, and classroom guides. Google favorite authors as well. Some are providing online readings and activities during this trying time.
  • Puzzles. There’s nothing like puzzles to keep the mind active. Obviously, there are lots of game/puzzle apps. If you go that route, be careful about spending all your time on addictive games like slots or Candy Crush. I know it’s fun, but you have other more brain stimulating options too. For non-app puzzles, do Jigsaw Puzzles with the Washington Post, online crossword puzzles at Merriam-Webster, or Sudoku.
  • Learn something by taking a class. MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses)  are free online classes. You can also take some classes through Coursera, and I’m sure other platforms as well. It’s free if you’re doing it just for knowledge and not credit or a certificate. But there’s usually a limit on what you can access. You can also start cooking or home improvement projects with help from YouTube videos.  
  • If you prefer book reading as a solo activity, set a goal to get through the 100 greatest books of all time. In 2018, PBS sponsored the Great American Read where readers voted on the best books of all times. Check the results. How many have you read? Now’s your chance.

Take care, and be safe.

About KB Gibson

I am a writer who writes a little of everything--fiction, travel, children's books and articles, copywriting, curriculum.My perfect vacation would be to sit on a beach or look out over the mountains and read books. I never get to read as much as I want.
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