The exhibits at the National Educational Computing Conference (NECC) are housed in an enormous, loud room with vendors eagerly trying to grab your attention and pitch their products. They range from large publishing houses to new software companies and Web site purveyors to providers of full curricula for K-12 schools.
Along with hardware of every type and all the furniture and accessories imaginable, the conference exhibits showcased many high-quality items worth knowing about. I sifted through the ones I saw and will describe them to you in several blog entries. Where possible, I try to let you know how to try them out. The following are Web resources for teachers. My favorites are those that meet the following five-check criteria:
- high quality and interestingly displayed
- easy to use
- clear of advertising
- provide online safety of school-age learners
Here are some that stand out in the category of Web resources for teachers:
The Oracle Foundation offers Think.com, an online community builder for schools. Teachers and students can easily build web pages, take surveys, and engage in brainstorming, debates, and many other activities. It's so easy, you can learn it in ten minutes. Each teacher and his or her students get accounts and can store their work or their lessons on the Web site. Sample lessons are available. All is password protected and private unless published. It is free to schools and classrooms up to grade eight. Go to Think.com and click on the "Try it first" link. Fill in the information and use "edutopia" as your keycode. Communities will be able to collaborate on project-based learning starting in September 2006.
My Hero Project
If you want a standards-aligned project-based-learning community that uses technology and writing, you will like the My Hero Project. It offers lessons in creating your own hero essay, including images about a person who has been a hero to you. These become a Web page. You can also submit a short video about your hero to the film festival and have the opportunity to read stories of remarkable individuals submitted by others in the library, or view images in the gallery. A great site for social awareness and character education, too.
My favorite free online collection of tools and resources for teachers is from ALTEC. 4teachers.org, part of its network, offers some of the best teacher tools on the market, such as RubiStar, the rubric maker, TrackStar, with over 100,000 lessons, and tools such as Web Worksheet Wizard. Students should check out 4kids.org, also part of ALTEC's network, for educational games, a forum, and links to other Web sites kids enjoy.
We all need to be aware of the problem of Internet predators and how to protect teens and kids who participate in online community blogs such as MySpace. The Netsmartz.org Workshop is a must-see site for teachers, parents, and administrators. It has information, activities, and resources to help kids be aware of risks and the ways that predators can use the information to reach children.
The Library of Congress
Always good is the Library of Congress, with its huge repositories of all types of primary source material and other resources. I picked up a CD-ROM with a guided tour of some of the components, such as American Memory.
Kathy Schrock's Home Page
Kathy Schrock was not on the exhibit floor, but she presented two sessions on good Internet resources. Her lists can be found at Kathy Schrock's Home Page. She has been highly respected for years for her contributions to educational computing on the Web. Some of the sites are commercial ones such as eBay's, but you can use your judgment about those.
These are too new to rank, but take a look:
Teachade (the last three letters stand for "authoring dissemination environment") is a site just announced July 4, 2006, for teachers wanting to create and share classroom materials and collaborate with other teachers. Educators teaching in levels from kindergarten through college may join free. This is a new site for collaboration, so we will not know how useful it is until teachers use it and build it out, but I like its collaborative calendar for scheduling. There is advertising, but if the site suits your school or professional-development needs, give it a try and let us know how it works for you.
AOL and AOL StudyBuddy.com
AOL, offers educational resources for teachers, students, and parents for a monthly charge.