Put that hour glass or kitchen timer into your desk drawer because there are much better ways to get a handle on how long classroom activities take. Whether it’s for timing a test, making sure that nap time doesn’t stretch into reading time or competitive fraction work, an accurate clock or timer is key classroom equipment.
The good news is that there are a bunch of free programs available that can turn your computer, regardless of which software it uses, into an Olympic-class time keeper. Some are just electronic stopwatches while others can also count down a preset amount of time, such as for recess or a play rehearsal. Each app is different and has its pros and cons, but the one thing they have in common is that they all can keep a class on time.
For the PC—PC Chrono
While it’s been around for ages, PC Chrono is still a great PC program to get a handle on time in the classroom. The program is free, is only a 1MB download and takes less than a minute to get and install. In addition to using it as a standalone clock that shows the time and date, the app can be a stop watch or a timer that’s accurate to one-hundredth of a second. You can even set it to play an audio file of your choosing when the timer has run down. On the downside, the app’s window is tiny and can’t be run full screen so that the whole class won’t be able to see it.
For the Mac—Apimac Timer
By contrast, Apimac’s Timer can run full-screen on a computer, making it a great way to let kids see how much time remains in the current activity by aiming the computer’s screen at the class or using a projector. Unfortunately, it’s a data heavyweight that requires a 5.9MB download, but Timer works on recent Macs that use Intel processors and OSX 10.4. The software mirrors most of the features of PC Chrono: it can be a clock, stop watch or count-down timer that can play your choice of audio files when time’s up. The basic version is free, but the $20 Pro version adds the ability to set the timer to blank the screen or run a script when done.
For Android—UltraChron Stopwatch Lite
Of these four classroom clocks, UltraChron is the best looking, that is if you like neon green. It looks like the screen on a sports stop watch, complete with segmented numbers, The software runs full screen and you can add descriptive text to its operations. While UltraChron’s stop watch shows hundredths of a second, the timer displays only tenths of a second. Just press the green bar on the right to start and the red bar to stop. When the timer reaches zero, its alarm can sound, but you can’t use your own audio file. The app takes up only 666KB of storage space and is good to go for Android 2.1 systems or newer. To be able to change the default audio file you need to upgrade for 99 cents, a small price to pay for such a valuable app.
For iPad—Chronolite Timer
While the other timers are calibrated to fractions of a second, this one only shows whole seconds. For most uses like a spelling quiz or playground time, it should be fine, but it might cause a ruckus if you use it to time a sentence-completion competition on the board. The interface shows the date and time, and Chronolite can put up to four timers on its screen at once. These different timers can be named, which is a big help when sorting out the winner of a fill-in-the-blanks contest. The app keeps counting in red after the time has run out and there are several time-over alerts, but you can’t use your own. Like the Android-centric UltraChron, the free Chromolilte app can be used with an iPhone or iPad, but also an iPod Touch and eats up only 1.5MB of storage space.
For the Web—Online Clock
If you’re looking for a basic count-down timer that will run on any connected computer, the Online Clock is for you. It’s great for making sure that every classroom computer has the same software or for Linux computers. You can pick a count-down length from 90 minutes to 30 seconds and display the clock in any of four sizes and five colors. Need a stop watch as well? You’ll need to go to the upper corner of the screen and hover over the stop watch icon; you’ll find Online Stop Watch and a slew of other timers and online clocks. It’s available in the same size and color combinations but records the elapsed time in thousandths of a second, precision that goes beyond any of the others. It has the bonus of being able to time an unlimited number of different items at the same by tapping the split icon.