Teacher Tap

computer boyTechnology Tools and Resources

With millions of websites available, how do I select resources that are effective, efficient, and appealing for young people? Rather than wandering around the web, start with the "best of the best" for teaching and learning. Although you can buy fee-based services, you can locate many of the best resources without spending any money.

Rather than simply seeking "websites," think about your teaching style and the learning needs of young people.

Differentiation involves designing and adapting instruction to respond to the diverse needs of students. According to Tomlinson (1999), techniques of differentiation offer a variety of ways to address readiness levels, interests, and learning profiles. For example, teachers can vary the content, process, and product of instruction to meet particular needs. Resources can be provided at different reading levels, depth of detail, and varied communication channels (i.e, text, audio, visual) to meet the interests and needs of each member of the class.

This page provides a place to locate good starting points for your exploration of web-based resources including educational portals, pathfinders, lesson planning resources, subject area starters, and search engines.


Educational Portals

A portal is a gateway for Internet users. It provides a starting point or "home base" for resources and activities related to general exploration or specific activities. Portals contain web links as well as original content. Many portals provide tools for personal bookmarks, calendars, news links, sharing, and customizing tools. They contain search tools, directories, reference resources, subject matter web tools, interactive websites, and pathfinders. Go to Start Squad as an example of a library portal for kids, Scholastic Teachers as an education portal, PBS & PBSkids, BBC Schools and BBC Learning as television portals, as well as USA.gov and Kids.gov as portals for government resources.

Some people like to use portals and others prefer search tools. Consider the pros and cons of each type of tool. Choose your favorite portal and your favorite search engine. Which tools would be the most helpful in providing resources to differentiate learning? For example, which would help you find visuals, sounds, or videos? Which would help you find extra practice for special needs? Which would be helpful in locating materials for a particular reading level?

Read Web Portals: Rabbit Holes to Grand Gateways to learn more about portals.

electronic materials logoGo to Starting Points: Portals and Search Tools.
Explore Educational Portals and Starting Points from Teacher Tap.


differentiate activityDifferentiate! Portals help educators locate a wide variety of resources for teaching and learning. Seek out portals that reflect your teaching style and provide a range of materials to meet diverse needs. Pick three that are most useful in your teaching area.


Pathfinders: Thematic Starting Points

A pathfinder is a web page that facilitates student inquiry by providing links to resources and guidance for using these materials. They contain resources young people might find useful from primary source documents to local community members. It might contain Dewey Decimal numbers to locate materials in the library as well as URLs to locate materials on the Internet. In addition, it could include phone numbers, addresses, and email contacts for experts who might be able to address specific questions related to a topic. Think of it as a "super sized" bibliography for learners. It's simply a guide that leads learners to wonderful resources. Explore the following examples: African Culture, American Women in History, Biomes, and Fables.

electronic materials logoRead Pathfinders Defined. Explore Pathfinder collections and Web Subject Guides & Thematic Resources. These pages contain other background information about pathfinders, subject guides, and thematic resources.

Start with the 42explore site. Then, look for the same 2-3 topics in other thematic starting places. Compare and contrast the results. How would these resources be helpful in addressing the individual differences in children such as reading level, interests, and depth? Copy the URL of your favorites into your Word document.

42explore logo Explore 42explore Projects - topic or subject index.
For other pathfinders do a Google search for the topic and add the word pathfinder such as tornado pathfinder or biology pathfinder.

differentiate activityDifferentiate! Create a pathfinder containing resources with different reading levels, multiple perspectives, and media such as images, audio, and video. Keep in mind that web resources are constantly changing, so pathfinders often contain a few broken links. Don't worry about it. Instead, pick your favorites and create your own pathfinder to fit the needs of your students. When you have a student with a particular need, the resources will be ready.

Lesson Plans Resources

Why reinvent the wheel? Use online sources for lesson plans. Many organizations, television programs, schools, and states/provinces contain lesson planning tools and resources.

Go to Thinkfinity. Conduct a search for lessons. This resource accesses materials across subject areas: ArtsEdge, EconEdLink, EdSiteMent, Illuminations, ReadWriteThink, Science NetLinks, Xpeditions.

teach tapGo to Teacher Tap: Online Lesson Plans for many other examples.
Create a list of your favorite online lesson planning tools.

differentiate activityDifferentiate! Try conducting a search for topics you find difficult to teach. Explore lesson plans for different teaching strategies and approaches you might use with specific young people. Also, explore lesson plans at different grade levels. You might find an approach that will be helpful in challenging students with specific needs.


Subject Area Starters

Many resources we use in teaching and learning are designed specifically for education. Although these are effective, it's also helpful to provide content-rich materials to support teaching and learning. For instance, go to Enature. By entering a zip code, you can find the plants and animals in a particular area.

Use the following links to explore specific content area resources. Explore the general resources or click Resources for Children.

differentiate activityDifferentiate! Seek out content-resources to enrich teaching and learning. Explore the following resources, then create your own list of "best resources" for your content area.

Think about audio (i.e., NPR and EarthSky Kids, EarthSky) and video (i.e., SchoolTube, TeacherTube)

Search Tools

Although you can use search engines to locate materials, they can be time consuming. Rather than using a general topic search, be specific. Try tools such as Google (search engine), Clusty (clustering engine), and KidsClick for young people.

teach tapGo to Teacher Tap: Search Engines and Teacher Tap: Visual Resources for other examples.
Try the same words using different search engines. Add the word "lesson" to your search such as tornado lesson.

differentiate activityDifferentiate! Seek out images, audio, or video to meet particular learning style needs. Also, look for materials at a particular reading level to meet learner needs. Or, seek materials with concrete examples or step-by-step instructions.



Review the "big ideas" on this page:

Differentiation involves designing and adapting instruction to respond to the diverse needs of students. The teacher may adjust the content, process, and product of instruction. Technology can be used to provide resources at different reading levels, depth of detail, and varied communication channels (i.e, text, audio, visual) to meet the interests and needs of each member of the class.

When selecting resources that are effective, efficient, and appealing for young people, it's helpful to use starting points such as pathfinders to locate the "best of the best" learning resources.

A pathfinder is a web page containing online resources that facilitate student inquiry and learning.

A portal is a gateway for Internet users that contains original content, links to online resources, search tools, directories, reference resources, subject matter web tools, interactive websites, and pathfinders. They often provide tools to personalize content such as bookmarks, calendars, and news.

Go to Ten Tips for Differentiation.


Tomlinson, C.A. (1999). The differentiated classroom: Responding to the needs of all learners. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

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