The latest and greatest Web 2.0 tool, in my humble opinion, is probably not what you'd expect, but please . . . at least read the first paragraph before you dedide this tool will not help you teach school this year!
It's Floorplanner.com. And no, that's not the end of the first paragraph. Keep reading. Floorplanner (as was pointed out to me by a Mrs. Hutchins---thanks Vickie) is FAR more than just a really REALLY nifty eat-your-weekend tool for planning your decorating or remodeling project (which it is, BTW), it's a fantastic way to learn just about any math concept. The lesson plan Vickie shared with me included students creating a house with a given number of square feet (say 2000) that would get four people separate bedrooms and included certain amenities like bathrooms, a kitchen, a family room, a place to eat, etc. The house also had to have certain characteristics, say a circular entryway. (Pies are squared anyone?--Yes, that's a joke. Don't email me about it.)
If you're a language arts teacher, you probably have already stopped reading, but just in case you still are, here's the language arts aspect: Create a house, then advertise and sell it. You'll obviously need to do screen shots so people can see the looks of this incredible creation! There are SO MANY more things you can do with this. In my classroom, I enjoyed what I called the "Practical Research Project." This is where instead of writing about an academic topic, students actually researched how to do something, then wrote a research paper with the review of research that also included pictures and descriptions of a real project. Actual projects included retiling a kitchen, redecorating a bedroom, building a kit car and, one of my favorites though a little scary, building and finding the best propellant for a potato gun. (True story. Wayne Fishback wrote it like a CIA document including "Eyes Only" notifications. He's in the military now!)
So back to the topic. Floorplanner.com is an incredible tool. My own experience with it goes as follows: I wanted to redecorate the front rooms of our house, which due to poor design and decor were rarely used. I THOUGHT (silly me, lived here 6 years) that I knew the rough dimensions of said rooms, so I logged right in to Floorplanner and proceeded drawing some rectangualr boxes. See below:
However, I noticed that something was amiss. There was indeed not as much room on this wall or that as my drawing showed. What was up? I took out my handy tape measure and started measuring walls and openings. Low and behold (yes, I feel stupid), my rooms actually look like this:
(Many furniture stores give exact measurements of furniture on their sites, OR, you can just use the built in furniture pieces in the software, which are fairly average sized.) And then, maybe the coolest thing of all happend. I clicked the 3D button in the top right, and got a really TRULY amazing view from all angles and THROUGH MY OWN WINDOWS. OH MY GOSH! If I could have found anyone who cared, I would have called them to tell them about it!!! Look how COOL!
So, just in case you are not able to drive by my actual house and get the REAL view, BUT you still really care and want to know how it turned out, here is the (I think) astonishingly accurate result of my many hours of learning about measurements using Floorplanner.com: