Personal Home Pages, or news aggregators, are (for the purposes of this post, at least) sites that allow you to bring together multiple RSS feeds onto one page. These kinds of pages typically allow you to scan the titles of posts from many blogs and if you move the cursor over the title it shows the first few lines, too.
They work well in a number of situations. For example, if you’re a teacher and each of your students have their own blogs, the feeds from all of them can be put on one page for greater accessiblility. Or, perhaps you want to create a page for colleagues at your school highlighting blogs you think might be most useful for professional development.
I’ve recently written about two of these kinds of pages — one includes blogs from twenty ESL/EFL teachers from around the world and the other is a similar page (with different blogs) from EFL Classroom 2.0.
There are quite a few of these kinds of tools out there. I personally think there two that are clearly the easiest for non-tech savvy people like me.
But before I share those picks, I would like to highlight the Learning With Computers Wiki on Personal Start Pages. Learning With Computers brings together ESL/EFL teachers who are experimenting with technology in their language instruction. This particular section of the wiki has links to screencasts, examples, and all the information you could need to explore how to use these kinds of news aggregators.
Now, for my picks as The Best Personal Home Page Creators:
Pageflakes seems to be the tool of choice by many ESL/EFL teachers. It’s extremely easy to set-up, and the two examples I cited earlier in this post use it.
Individ urls is a new one that might give Pageflakes a “run for it’s money” in terms of ease of use.
I know some teachers use other sites to create their home pages, particularly Netvibes, and they work fine. I’ve just found the two I cited to be the easiest to set-up.
Personal Home Pages have also been used to describe web applications that include sites without RSS feeds. These could particularly apply to student use. For example, English Language Learners (and other students) at our school have found Tizmos to be a particularly easy visual bookmarking site to save webpages they’re using to research their Senior Project.
Sqworl is another easy way for English Language Learner students to bookmark thumbnail images (and their related links) of sites they’re interested in. I’m very impressed with it.
I did find one problem with Sqworl, though. While I was testing it out, I tried to save the url image of this blog. It saved the url address, but the image it showed was the main Edublogs website. I don’t know if similar glitches might show-up when attempting to save other sites.
It’s very similar to Tizmos, another super-easy way for users to save thumbnail images (and links) of their favorite websites on one page. Twice a week I bring my Intermediate English class to the computer lab, and it would be an easy way for each student to identify their favorites from among the 8,000 links on my website. In addition, I can place a link to each student’s Tizmos page on my website so that the whole class can see each other’s choices. Many students in our school who are writing their “Senior Projects” (a graduation requirement) are using Tizmos to store webpages they are using for their research.
Tizmos is extremely easy to set-up and use. Sqworl appears even a bit easier. It’s especially easy to create separate “groups” of sites with tags, which could be handy for research and other tasks. Since it also lets you grab images off the web, it’s possible for students to create categories, for example, of images around a unit of study and write descriptions. I’m always looking for easy ways for students to use that kind of higher-order thinking skill.
StHrt is a new web application for creating personal home pages and, in many ways, is similar to both Sqworl and Tizmos. Those two tools are tools my students use for easily saving favorite links (either for research their doing or for activities they like from among the 9,000 links on my website) as thumbnail images and sharing them with others. The visual thumbnails and ease of use make all three of these applications particularly accessible to English Language Learners.
Toobla is a brand new exceptional tool where users can bookmark and display websites, images, and videos. I like it a lot.
Sitehoover is a new application that lets you create a personal homepage showing thumbnail images of your favorite websites. You can also organize them into separate “folders.” Unfortunately, however, you can’t write descriptions for each site. (oops, Stephen Ransom informed me that you can indeed write a description).
LinkCloud is a new tool to create homepages. It’s got a lot of excellent features, but it might be a little too complicated for some. I’m tentatively adding it to this list.
Quicklinkr lets you very easily collect websites, images, videos, etc — without requiring registration. They are shown with screenshots, and you can put them into “folders.” It appears you have to register if you want to come back to edit it, or to leave a comment about one of the saved links (registration is quick and easy). Unfortunately, that comment feature appears the only way you can add a text description to any link you save. There might be another way, but I didn’t see it.
I’d certainly be interested in hearing other suggestions, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section.