Do you have other favorite portal & web page starting tools, examples or ideas for using them in the library media center? Share them here.


What is a webpage starter?

Webpage starters or personalized portal pages provide a framework for providing the content you want on your own homepage. They allow you to access the page from any computer and to include the kind of content you want on that page: news, weather, links, RSS feeds and more. While some portal pages like Google News let you arrange the news you want on the page and include searches for news of interest to you, webpage starters go beyond that, letting you begin with a blank page and filling it with what you want and arranging it to suit your taste.

Some webpage starters are listed under aggregators for RSS feeds because that is where much of the content can come from, but you can also add your own links, photos, logos, images and more. This is often accomplished by using widgets or gadgets that do the work for you. Essentially, webpage starters help you design your own homepage--or a homepage for your library media center--without special web development software or knowledge of html.

idea2.jpgMedia Center Uses

Library media specialists are using webpage starters to:
  • To teach about webpage starters and webpage design
  • Help students and teachers created webpages for special projects or topics
  • Help teachers create classroom webpages for students and parents to access
  • Create a school library media center webpage with links to databases, catalogs, local news, curriculum links, policies, procedures, mission statement, special events, photos, book reviews and everything
  • Create a school webpage
  • To aggregate RSS feeds from library media blogs and news sites
  • To aggregate RSS feeds from student blogs
  • Keep favorites and bookmarks handy
  • Create a professional page for teachers to access: includes LMS schedule, coming events in the library media center, av lists, student book club information, links to databases, photos and recent favorites
  • Inform parents of assignments, policies, and media center happenings
  • Access links for frequently used personal and professional websites
  • Keep the library media center webpage updated with fresh content
  • Maintain professional bookmarks, calendars, blog feeds, twitter, YouTube content, email, search engines--a personalized professional tool that is easy to edit
  • Demonstrate starter tools and easy webpage generators to teachers and administrators
  • Create digital flyers and newsletters

five.jpgFive to Test Drive

The top five webpage starter tools used by school library media specialists are:
iGoogle Personalized Start Page

  • Google Sites is the easiest way to make information accessible to people who need quick, up-to-date access. People can work together on a Site to add file attachments, information from other Google applications (like Google Docs, Google Calendar, YouTube and Picasa), and new free-form content. Creating a site together is as easy as editing a document, and you always control who has access, whether it's just yourself, your team, or your whole organization. You can even publish Sites to the world. The Google Sites web application is accessible from any internet connected computer.

  • Tackk is a free, simple way to create beautiful pages and collaborate in the classroom. Teachers can use Tackk for assignments, presentations, blogs, discussions and more. Use like Google sign-in; tagging, built-in media search and app embed without needing tech or design skills. It is also very easy to embed, email and share on various social media networks. Grades: 6-12 (AASL Best Websites for Teaching and Learning 2015)

  • Smore is a website that allows users to design their own online flyers. With a free or paid Smore subscription, you can make flyers that serve as newsletters or promote events, products, or services on social media sites. Flyers can also be printed and distributed.The site offers easy-to-read analytics to help you track how readers are responding to promotional efforts. You can view how many visits a flyer has received that month; whether viewers came from Facebook, email, or other sources; how much time users spent reading the flyer; and more. A map shows where viewers live, and you can also print out an email report. According to Smore, more than 30,000 people use the site daily. The educator version costs $45 a year and lets teachers remove Smore logos and use custom backgrounds, including education-themed ones provided by the site. Teachers can send 5,000 emails a month, access reports that show who opened emails, and automatically make all flyers private, which helps make the experience safer for students. Teachers can test the plan out with a 30-day free trial. (Graphite)

  • Weebly is a platform that lets students build websites and educators build a classroom site for free. Adults and kids can use Weebly to create personal websites devoted to any subject, and lots of people use Weebly for e-commerce, promoting products and services. Weebly’s drag-and-drop functionality lets users select themes, place photos, add text and other pages, and publish their site. Users can provide a URL or house their site on a subdomain.
      • See also Weebly for EducationThe educational version of the site lets teachers set up an account that gives access to up to 40 students. Students log in using a password and username that can be assigned by a teacher. (Graphite)

  • Offers free account for education. Organize websites, videos, pictures, RSS feeds, notes, to-do’s and course materials in one place. Students can use it to organize research materials on a topic, favorite websites and more.

more.jpgMore to Explore

  • Netvibes a personalized dashboard publishing platform for the Web composed of widgets. Choose a theme, add widgets, arrange them the way you want to see them.
  • PBS Activity Packs: PBS recently announced Activity Packs, widgets for the arts, science and technology, health and fitness, reading and language arts, and social studies. Each one focuses on a curricular theme and includes links to great PBS resources and supplemental activities.
    PBS Activity Pack on The Presidency
  • ProtoPage
  • StHrt
  • Snack Websites Mobile-friendly and user-friendly website builder. Focused on beautiful, clean design. Free.
  • Widgpedia(widgets can be used on any web or starter page)
  • Widgetop
  • YourHomework

Webpage Creators

Each of the above tools works best with widgets, gadgets or RSS feeds. A new "breed" of tool is emerging that offers easy web page creation and design templates, hosting, and more and may be a bit more flexible for delivering your own content. Here are some media specialist recommended webpage building and hosting tools:

  • Carrd fully responsive one-page sites for pretty much anything..
  • Drupal Gardens offers easy site creation tools and templates.
  • Jimdo says, "It's really easy to create a free website with Jimdo: just sign-up, follow the link to your own page, integrate pictures, videos and texts in seconds, change the design with a click, add as many pages as you want." The site adds, "So easy your grandmother can do it." There are many templates available and you can customize those by changing the background color and imagee or the header and image.
Page created in Jimdo

  • LooseLeaves "was created to be a place for those writings that don't quite fit anywhere else..." No registration, no signup. Free.
  • SchoolRack is designed especially for education. "Use SchoolRack to create a classroom website or educational blog for students, parents, and colleagues to visit!"
  • SnapPages guides you to drag and drop content on your pages, or change the way your site looks by choosing one of many different professionally designed themes. Nice templates for calendar, blog and photo gallery pages, too.
  • Soup is another quick tool to help you publish to the web. Create webpages, publish your multimedia creations and more. From the site: "Post links, quotes, videos, audio and files. Make your personal remix of the web: When you see something cool online, just click a button(bookmarklet) to add it to your Soup." You can even email your content to your Soup pages.

  • Voog offers an all-in-one package including both web editor and hosting, or you can also design your pages and then download them to your site to publish anywhere you want. Multiple languages available.
  • Web Node Ad free, drag and drop to create webpages.You can use it as a standard website, blog, image gallery, e-shop, product catalogue,etc. Can include web mail and page statistics, all for free.
  • Webon allows you to build ad-free sites from a "kit"--blog, photo album, personal page, etc. Lots of templates to choose from for each, too.

Three different templates applied to the same content in Webon. There are dozens available.

  • Webs can include videos, calendars, polls, and a wide variety of third party widgets. Free web space and a GUI (Graphic User Interface) with which to create web pages. No need for HTML coding. The web builder interface is no more difficult then a word processor.
  • Wix helps you create dynamic flash-based websites. The tutorial and help sections called Wixipedia. It's built in a wiki so you can add or edit the information, learn how to create and edit pages, ask questions and help others.
  • Yola is a free webpage builder and hosting tool with professional looking templates and step-by-step tutorials ranging from how to create the pages to how to promote your website.

Learn More


More Info

For more info.gif about portal/starter pages in libraries and school library media centers, see:



Note: Rubistar is an excellent web-based source of rubrics for any project or topic.
Search by the specific type of rubric you want, or make your own!

Another good source of ready-made rubrics is iRubric. If you can't find what you want, you can create your own or modify an existing one. iRubrics can be embedded in webpages or wikis, too.
You might also want to explore Project Based Learning Checklists from To make a project checklist for your students, choose the grade level for the type of project you want your students to do. You can choose from writing, presentation, multimedia or science projects. Then choose from a list of project guidelines and add your own if you'd like,