Taking a look at online 'Portals'

Now that Internet-connected classrooms have become the rule rather than the exception, the focus is shifting somewhat from technology to content and services. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at a number of online "Portals" that can help to steer educators, students and parents in the right direction on the Web.Now that Internet-connected classrooms have become the rule rather than the exception, the focus is shifting somewhat from technology to content and services. With that in mind, we decided to take a look at a number of online "Portals" that can help to steer educators, students and parents in the right direction on the Web.

Gradeworks.com Helps Parents and Teachers Stay In Touch

Gradeworks.com is a new tool that gives any teacher the building blocks to easily create his or her own class Web site and provide a direct connection between teachers and parents. The service is stockpiled with class information regarding grades, announcements, personalized teacher comments and the due dates for tests and assignments. A Gradeworks.com site allows parents and teachers to exchange information at any time, privately and securely. The site is easy to use, and includes a class e-mail list.Gradeworks.com, Gaithersburg, MD, (301) 926-8455, www.gradeworks.com.


Free Service Offers Teachers Links, Home Pages

The online Teach, Learn, Communicate Center from www.alfy.com gives teachers all the Internet resources they need in one spot and at no cost. ALFY’s team of educators has created the center in order to help teachers effectively integrate and communicate technology. The site offers teachers an Activity Center, dozens of ideas for Internet-based lessons, a Web-linked activity section, and a compilation of age-appropriate lesson plans. In just twenty minutes, teachers can build a homepage for their class. Over 2,000 pre-screened links lead to educationally oriented Web sites. ALFY.com, New York, NY, (212) 968-0600, www.ALFY.com.


Web Service Connects Educators, Parents, Students

K12nation.net allows educators to communicate privately with parents and students using person-to-person messaging. Registered site users can use class calendars to list events, homework assignments, field trips and other occasions. The site allows parents to keep up-to-date with homework assignments, tests, events or class issues. Students can use the site to stay informed of their educational responsibilities and chat with college admissions officers throughout the United States. K12nation.net, Inc., Washington, DC, (202) 393-2099, www.k12nation.net.


Portal Offers Abundant Links for Educators

Sagebrush Corp. has launched Ednow.com, an Internet portal that gives educators access to current education news and trends, lesson plans, curriculum tips and book reviews. Among its offerings are links to education resources, search tools for materials, an online encyclopedia and dictionary, and free discussion groups that enable educators to share ideas. Sagebrush has partnered with leading education and information companies, including Bookreporter.com, The New York Times Learning Network, Northern Light, Publishers Weekly.com, Salon.com, Scholastic, Excite, Dell, and iSyndicate.com, in order to expand Ednow.com’s educational offerings. Sagebrush Corp., Burnsville, MN, (888) 753-7243, www.ednow.com.


Free Service Lets Schools Create Virtual Communities

SchoolCity.com, a virtual community, provides teachers, students and parents with a comprehensive array of online tools and services, curriculum-focused content, educational links, resources and e-commerce capabilities. The company focuses on middle and high schools, and aims to efficiently solve real-life school and classroom-related challenges through online collaboration and content. SchoolCity supplies comprehensive services and virtual communities to schools free of charge. Services include template-based Web site building tools for creating interactive online school stores and sites, Web site hosting, e-mail, education-related public and private forums and chat, and distributed publishing capabilities. SchoolCity offers several ways for distant classrooms to connect and share projects and information. SchoolCity.com, Santa Clara, CA, (877) 588-0710, www.schoolcity.com.

Free Service Lets Educators Create Course Sites

With over 800,000 members at more than 2,000 schools, the CollegeClub.com Internet portal site integrates free communication, collaboration and education services at one Web location. In minutes, instructors can create a site for a course. Features include the ability to link study groups, class message boards, related academic sites, instant messaging, voice mail, and photos to the course within minutes. Creating sites is easy and intuitive. Once a site has been created, the instructor can easily set up an interactive session with the author of a textbook, a guest lecturer, or another class anywhere in the world. Online professionals are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist students and educators. CollegeClub.com, San Diego, CA, (800) 617-8878, www.collegeclub.com.


Teachers’ Store Is Also a Resource Center

K-12 educators can purchase teaching supplies and find curriculum resources at teachersplanet.com, an online education community offering products, educational news and curriculum resources. The site’s format allows teachers to find lesson plans, conduct research, check out continuing education opportunities, buy supplies and share successes. Its Excellence in Teaching program honors a teacher each week for his or her contribution to the field. Teachersplanet.com, Pocatello, ID, (208) 234-9068, www.teachersplanet.com.


Resources For PreK-6 Educators

ProTeacher is a growing professional resource on the Internet for elementary school teachers in grades preK-6. The site’s editors are all experienced classroom teachers. Its highlights include a large directory of teacher-selected resources, a weekly poll, message boards and a bimonthly newsletter. All features are free of charge. ProTeacher’s Web directory is categorized by subject, is keyword searchable, and includes an integrated bookmarking feature permitting visitors to gather resources to a personal page. The site’s editor-selected listings focus on lesson plans, activity ideas, elementary teaching tips and classroom management strategies. Also included are links to educational publishers and school suppliers, education-related government sites and nonprofit organizations. Hundreds of new resources are added monthly. ProTeacher, Sunnyvale, CA, (408) 864-8387, www.proteacher.com.


Scholastic’s Web Site: "The Teachers’ Place in Cyberspace"

Scholastic.com is a comprehensive learning destination for teachers and students. With rich educational content and powerful interactive capabilities, the site brings teachers and students together to enhance learning. The site’s unique focus is on providing literacy skills for the 21st century, including information management, critical thinking, reasoning, problem solving, self-expression, and fluency in reading, comprehension and writing. The newly designed site features interactive tools and more than 12,000 pages that directly support the daily curriculum and learning goals of K-8 teaching. The Scholastic News Zone offers daily updates on student-appropriate current events. Scholastic Inc., New York, NY, (212) 343-6100 www.scholastic.com.

Test Prep Co. to Focus on State Assessments for Grades 3-12

From the Princeton Review comes Homeroom.com. The service links educators, parents and students to educational tools that provide immediate assessment and tailored instruction, enhance students’ abilities to meet high-stake state assessment standards, and improve overall learning. Aligned to the state tests, Homeroom.com allows teachers to chart whole-class performance, while individualizing student instruction. Through its innovative Web-based programs, the site helps teachers make better use of the time they devote to preparing students for state tests. Parents, too, can easily ascertain their child’s strengths and weaknesses and use immediate and tailored resources to help the child improve. The Princeton Review, New York, NY, 1-800-2-REVIEW, www.homeroom.com.


Hungry Minds.com Partners with Google

Hungry Minds.com has chosen Google to power its search engine. Google’s SiteSearch service will manage Hungry Minds.com visitors’ searches on its database of over 18,000 online learning experiences. The search engine enables Hungry Minds to feature high quality, site-specific search capabilities on its Web site to help visitors quickly and easily locate products and information. SiteSearch uses sophisticated text-matching capabilities to deliver accurate results, with the most relevant listed first. The Hungry Minds database includes online learning courses from partners including PBS, Women.com, UCLA Extension, Digital Think and the Princeton Review. The site will soon offer a variety of books, videos and additional online learning experiences. Hungry Minds, San Francisco, CA, (415) 348-8200 www.hungryminds.com.


Copernicus Offers Gateways to Schools

The Copernicus Education Gateway is building online communities for individual K-12 schools and school districts. The communities engage students and parents, return time to teachers, and offer educational content in an online, local community environment. Content can be modified to suit a specific district or school site. Copernicus offers several features and channels, including a Spanish-language channel, online classrooms, a virtual newsroom, the School Notes channel for posting homework assignments, and several interactive initiatives allowing students to participate in online projects and tours. Copernicus is available to any school district, school, parent or student in the United States. Copernicus, Washington, DC, (877) EDGATE-1, www.edgate.com.


LearningStation Offers Web-Based Learning for Teachers

LearningStation.com has launched Teacher LearningStation, a Web-based educational solutions and software package. The service enables educators to rent a wide range of educational software through the Internet, using any Web-enabled PC or device.

Teacher LearningStation combines a variety of software programs designed to help teachers incorporate the Internet’s resources into their curricula. The Classroom Planner component enables the teacher to digitize all of the elements of the classroom, such as lesson plans, calendars, seating charts and grade books. Also included in the package is ActionProfiler, an assessment tool designed to profile learners’ abilities in various school subjects. The profile produces a unique learning blueprint for each individual that enables students to work at different paces and on different levels.

Other software applications available in the package include ExploraSource, a reference site that provides teachers with quick access to grade-level learning objectives and state standards, and the Teacher Reference Center, an extensive online library full of resources. LearningStation.com, Charlotte, NC, (704) 509-6608, www.learningstation.com.


ThinkQuest Challenge Rewards Students’ Web Sites

ThinkQuest 2000 is an Internet-based education program that rewards students and teachers worldwide for their innovative Web site designs. Their competition offers more than $2 million in scholarships, cash and awards. Three challenges are offered: one for ages 12-19, one for grades 4-6, and one for educators, including future teachers. For the first two challenges, students work in teams to design interactive and educational Web sites.

The sites should fit in one of five categories: Arts & Literature, Science & Mathematics, Social Sciences, Sports & Health, and Interdisciplinary. The teachers’ challenge invites educators to build educational Web sites that can be integrated easily into K-12 classrooms and teacher education programs. In addition, ThinkQuest offers a library of entries, providing thousands of interactive and informative Web sites created by other participants. ThinkQuest, Armonk, NY, www.thinkquest.org.

Portals Let Schools and Campuses Link Online

Timecruiser Computing Corp. has developed two Web-based education community portals: SchoolCruiser for K-12 schools, and CampusCruiser for colleges. Both are designed to enhance student, faculty and administrative productivity by offering interactive Web sites on a collaborative platform for each school or campus. The groupware lets an entire community of students, faculty, administrators, alumni and parents collaborate and interact with one another, while sharing and publishing information about the school, district, or campus. The services provide information for individuals, and offer each individual user the ability to tailor a home page. Timecruiser Computing Corp., Fairfield, NJ, (973) 244-7856, www.timecruiser.com.


Learning Hubs Connect Students and Teachers to Information

iMind education systems are designed to help students, teachers, parents and administrators. The iMind school hub is an Intranet for classroom or individualized instruction. It runs a local content and database server, stationed at a school site and networked to workstations in classrooms, computer labs and administrative offices. Internet-based instructional material searches, distance learning content, and a range of academic information and services are hosted on the student hub, teacher hub and parent hub. These hubs also serve as gateways into a school hub, where all files are securely and safely stored, allowing educators and students to use passwords to access files and chat. In addition, the iMind learning hub provides affordable, individualized tutoring to help students achieve academic goals. iMind Education Systems, Mill Valley, CA, (415) 380-4660, www.imind.com.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.