man and computer pointing at mapWeb Portals: Rabbit Holes to Grand Gateways
Explore the spectrum of educational portal possibilities and the continuum of portal options such as their focus, flexibility, and fees.

From very specific entry points to broad, general interest gateways, portals provide the starting point for millions of web users. This poster session examines the spectrum of possibilities and the continuum of portal options such as their focus, flexibility, and fees. The session also explores the specific needs of students and educators while providing a wealth of practical examples.

Portal Overview

Many people have never changed the "default" web page on their web browser (i.e., MSN, Netscape), while others spend hours carefully selecting the most productive entry point to the web. For nearly a decade, web developers have been competing to be the "starting point" of choice. Many services such as Yahoo, About, Excite, and Lycos that traditionally just provided search tools have expanded their offerings. Today, these are referred to a horizontal or mega-portals.

In the past few years, many new types of specialized, or vertical portals have emerged. Ketchell (2000) classified portals by diversity of content and community including commercial, corporate, and publishing portals.

School and Library Portals. Recently schools, libraries, and other institutions have begun designing their own portals to meet the needs and demands of their students, teachers, and patrons. These are often referred to as special interest, vertical, or niche portals because they cater to a particular category of user. They contain quality search tools; quality, organized, pre-selected local and remote content; tools for interaction and communication; and locally relevant information.

For an introduction to educational portals, search tools, and starting points, go to Electronic Materials for Children and Young Adults.

Enterprise Portals. Corporate, enterprise and administrative portals are most often associated with large organizations using commercial portal software. Universities and libraries often use these integrated systems for complex portal systems that are used as front-ends for many services including electronic catalogs, information retrieval, corporate management, scheduling, and other applications. These portals offer "a customizable interface allowing users to tailor their website desktop to fit interests, needs, and personality" (Johnson & Lamb, 2003).

Shopping Portals. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, ebay, CDW, Apple iTunes, and other shopping services are customized "just for you".

Portal Defined

The definition of portal was evolved over time. However, most people agree on some of the basic aspects. According to WhatIs, a portal is synonymous with gateway. It's a major starting point for web users and is used as an anchor site such as Yahoo or MSN. They may also be specific to content area interests. Typical services include web directory, search tools, news, weather, email, stocks, phonebooks, maps, and forums. Service providers try to make their portals "sticky" to encourage return visits by providing quality links and content (Miller, 2001).

The LITA Internet Portals Interest Group of the American Library Association defines a portal as a service that "facilitates organized knowledge discovery via information accessible through the Internet." Ketchell (2000) states that a web portal is the standard interface to aggregate resources and services through a single access and management point for users. The JISC defines a portal as "a network service that brings together content from diverse distributed resources using technologies such as cross searching, harvesting, and alerting, and collate this into an amalgamated form for presentation to the user." In addition, portals are often defined as "user-driven" and "customizable" interfaces to web resources (Morgan, 2001).

Some people refer to their favorite portal as their home on the web, home base, or starting point.

Not Portals

Many websites are not portals themselves, but often become an element of a portal. For example, gateways and hubs are websites that provide annotated links to web resources, but provide little original content.

A portal is more than a bunch of pre-selected information and links. There's a growing trend toward customization and personalization such as MyLibrary, MyCampus, or MyYahoo. These portals allow users to develop personal bookmarks, calendars, news links, and other features. It's a community of explorers and learners that place emphasis on sharing, communication, and collaboration.

Search Tools. Search directories and search engines aren't customized and generally don't include original content, so aren't technically portals. Search tools such as Alta Vista, Dogpile, Google and Metacrawler focus specifically on locating information and are often one component of a portal. Resources such as Google can be integrated into portals. However increasingly even these tools are expanding.

For more examples, go to Search Tools for Kids, Teens, and Teachers from Eduscapes.

Directories. Subject area lists and thematic tools are great resources for portals, but they aren't portals themselves. Directories such as Anywho, Open Directory, and WebRing are directories that help you locate resources, but only have a few of the elements of a portal. There are many subject area directories such as Cyndi's List of Genealogy Sites on the Internet. There are also good web directories for educators such as Awesome Library, and for kids such as CoolNetwork, CyberSleuth Kids, Homework Planet, KidsClick!, KidsKonnect.

For more examples, go to Pathfinders, Subject Guides, and Thematic Resources from Eduscapes.

Reference Resources. Reference materials provide good information and often answer questions. These tools are often selected as links and elements of larger portals. References such as All Experts, Ask Jeeves, InfoPlease , and WhatIs provide great information may be included in other websites, but aren't generally considered portals.

For more examples, go to Online Reference Materials from Eduscapes.

Subject Matter Websites. Content-rich websites may or may not be portals. They often provide quality content, but are unlikely to be the "home base" of most Internet users. These are usually the websites that become remote links for portals.

For lots of examples, go to Content-Rich Websites from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to Primary Resources and Real-World Data from Eduscapes.

Interactive Websites. Simulations, games, and activities are lots of fun, but not portals. However, they are often incorporated as links in portals.

For lots of examples, go to Interactive Websites, Games, and Activities from Eduscapes.

Communication Websites. Discussion forums, blogs, chats, and e-mail are often components of a portal, but are not portals themselves.

For lots of examples, go to Discussion Tools & Technology-Rich Learning from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to Email Tools & Technology-Rich Learning from Eduscapes.

Subscription Service Databases. Many large companies have databases of information. Although these might be integrated into the portal, they are only a part of a portal system.

For lots of examples, go to Electronic Databases from Eduscapes.

Portal Features

Portal Selection

It's possible that a portal already exists to fit your needs. Consider the following three areas: focus, flexibility, and fees as you explore the possibilities (Johnson & Lamb, 2003).

Focus. Consider whether the portal is for a general or specific audience or subject area. StartSpot provide a general entry point with subject area specialty directories. The US Federal governments' portal is called FirstGov and Canada's Canada Site. Most states (i.e., California with MyCalifornia personalization), state libraries (i.e., California State Library, Indiana), and state departments of education (Colorado, Indiana) have portals. Many area educational agencies (Iowa AEA, NCREL) also have portals focusing on their areas. There are many general educational portals such as Education World. Subject areas also have popular portals such as Web English Teacher and Sports Media for physical education and sports. Some portals focus on personal interests such as Enature from the National Wildlife Federation and SpaceDaily that called itself "your portal to space."

Flexibility. Look for flexibility in the user interface, while some are static and others are fully customizable. Eduscapes contains a static interface while MyYahoo can be personalized. Many libraries are personalized such as MyLibrary at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Fees. Some portals are free and others require a small or large subscription fee. Many websites provide some free areas, but require a membership and subscription fee for additional services. In some cases registration is free, but at other websites a fee is required. This fee may be charged by item downloaded, by number of logins, by month or year, or a lifetime. Most sites provide a trial membership so users can try out the service. Many services are sponsored by companies selling a particular product or a broad range of products. Others are supported by schools, organizations, churches, or corporations. It's important to know the sponsor to understand their purpose and intentions such as School Bus Information Council,, and Parenting from Parenting Magazine.

Use genealogy for practical exploring portals. Start at Ancestry and try the free trial. Also explore their partner, RootsWeb. Other genealogy sites include Family Search from the Church of LDS, and Genealogy from Family Tree Maker.

Examine a few examples including DiscoverySchool, Internet Public Library, Proteacher, WebQuest Portal.

Dimensions of Portals

Portals vary widely in terms of features and characteristics. As portal users and developers explore the options, consider the following dimensions.


There two aspects of portal content: depth and breadth

shallow vs deep information

Does the portal provide surface-level remote materials or in-depth access to quality, original content? Many portals are simply gateways to popular web resources. While these are useful, there's no reason to build a new one.

Portal designers should concentrate on the unique content needs of the audience. Is there content that isn't currently available online that would be useful for your users? For example, elementary schools often have an abundance of links at their website. However their real need may be original content written at the level of beginning readers.

Some websites provide a mixture of links and original content, while others focus on links. Explore the following examples:

Links Only. Portals such as StartSpot provide links to resources along with brief annotations in many different categories.

Blue Web 'N from Knowledge Network Explorer provides a library of quality, pre selected and rated Internet resources by subject, grade level, and format.

Mixture of Links and Content. Portals such as and specifically the education area rely heavily on links but also have some original content. Unfortunately, it also contains lots of advertising, popups, and sponsored links so it can be difficult to locate quality content. On the other hand, Internet Public Library has a mix of links and original content, but no advertising. ScienceMaster provides subject-specific resources, links, and advertising.

CyberBee provides a mixture of organized resources along with original content such as tutorials, interactive activities, lessons, and projects. 42explore provides links to resources related to thematic topics. Rather than just providing an annotated hotlist, it also includes definitions, activities, and organized access.

Original Content. How Stuff Works is a great example of a portal with original content in the areas of computers, auto, electronics, science, home, entertainment, health, money, travel, and people. Users can print pages, watch animations, receive free newsletters, and link to additional information for topics such as How Hybrid Cars Work.

Edutopia from the George Lucas Foundation and Apple Learning Exchange highlight projects and examples of exemplary learning environments. The portals include audio, video, text, and graphics. In addition, they provide other elements such as calendars or events and electronic newsletters.

Information Retrieval Elements

broad vs narrow information

Does the portal provide a wide range of resources or a specific set of materials? For example, while some portals archive information on every subject area in all formats, others focus on a specific content area or type of resource such as science videos, historical information, or lesson plans.

For example, is the most popular portal focusing on technology resources and reviews. The RealOne site's emphasis is on all-things that involve audio and video streaming including their popular players and programming. focuses on everything related to getting a job.

The Black History website focuses on products, events, and stories related to Black History. It generates new content by publishing stories and holding online discussions.

In the educational area, Learn NC contains a database of standards-based lesson plans as a component of their portal. These lessons can be browsed or searched. In addition lessons can be added. Other portals such as Artsedge Lessons, DiscoverySchool, EconEdLink Lessons, Illuminations Lessons, National Geographic Lessons, PBS Teacher Source, ReadWriteThink Lessons, Science Netlinks Lessons also have lesson plan areas.

Portal designers must consider the purpose of their portal and the information needs of their users. Before building a portal determine whether the content is already accessible through other portals and how the proposed portal would meet the content needs of the specific audience. Also determine whether the portal will be a tool for generating original content, a warehouse for data storage and retrieval, or a resource that simply accesses other resources already available on the web.

Resource Elements


diverse vs focused audience

Does the portal provide resources for a wide audience of users or a very select group of people? DiscoverySchool is a portal that would be of interest to all educators. An elementary school portal might provide resources specifically designed for its local students that might not be of interest to others such as news about local award winners, historical information for projects, or community activities.

TEAMS Distance Learning from Los Angeles County Office of Education is part of a professional development program and is aimed at a specific set of educators. For example, it provides group buy information, a way for people to subscribe, teaching circles that assist new teachers through online mentoring. However, it could be used by other K12 educators.

Portal designers with a focused audience may wish to link to more diverse audience portals rather than re-invent those resources. Then, create a few, quality materials for the focused audience. For example, a local community might post primary sources about their local history that might not be available elsewhere.

Community Elements


limited vs extensive interactivity

Does the system provide basic options for communication or do users have a variety of ways to cooperate and collaborate with fellow portal users? Does the portal provide a "sense of community" for the members of a course, the teachers in a school, or the patrons of a library? Some school portals provide threaded discussions, shared workspace, and other tools to facilitate sharing and collaboration. For example, chemistry teachers from all of the high schools in a school district might work together on shared laboratory assignments through the portal resources.

Many portals specialize in developing this sense of community. For example iVillage focuses on women's health issues, pregnancy, relationships, and other topics related to women. A major aspect of their website is message boards. Slashdot contains "news for nerds" and places emphasis on posting idea and sharing insights. MyFamily provides access to genealogy content as well as freewebspace for information sharing.

In the education area, a number of portals focus specifically on building interactive learning environments. The Global Schoolhouse promotes online collaborative learning by providing an area for project registry, an annual contest called CyberFair, diplomacy competition, news, and discussion list. iEARN, epals, JourneyNorth, kidlink, NASA Quest, NickNacks Telecollaborate, are other global networks that promote sharing connection building.

Portal designers need to explore the value of integrating interactive tools that promote communication and collaboration among end users. There may be pre-packaged tools such as blog software, as well as content that promotes interaction such as online professional development opportunities or distance learning courses.

Communication Elements


limited vs extensive services

Does the system offered limited services or a wide range of functions such as scheduling, activity supervision, and other coordinated features? For instance, many educational portals include a wide range of transactional services such as room and equipment booking, course registration, and learning management. In many cases portals also provide utilities and tools to perform specific tasks or conduct investigations.

For example, Illuminations contains an area called Interactive Math Tools that help students explore math. The ReadWriteThink portals contain collection of interactive tools such as a letter and poem generator. At Science NetLinks links are provided to a wide range of interactive tools. Geography activities are available at National Geographic Xpeditions.

Service Element


generic vs individualized customization

Does everyone see the same thing or do users have a truly personalized interface? This is the question of customization. Some portals provide no customization (LibraryHQ).

Resources such as MyLibrary Universities (MyWelch John Hopkins, NCState, VCU, MyLibrary UofLeicester, MyLibrary Calpoly, MyLibrary@CDL, MyLibrary Christchurch, MyLibraryMSU Personalized Eccles), MyCampus (MyUW, MyUCLA), MyLibrary Public Libraries (Hennepin, MN, Worthington, OH), Popular Portals (MyAOL, MyLycos, My NBCi, MyNetscape, MyYahoo), BackFlip, and others provide tools that allow web users to make choices about the look and feel of their portal as well as the content. In some cases this personalization is surface level such as choices of color or resource links. However sometimes the customization involves interactivity, adaptations to fit evolving needs, and user support.

Remember the first time your computer said "hi" aloud or the Amazon website used your first name in a sentence? Although personalization is "cool" there are questions regarding its practicality and need. Nielsen (1998) distinguishes between customization and personalization. Customization occurs when the user explicitly makes selections among options such as which cities to include under the current weather category, while personalization is driven by the computer as a way to individualize pages based on a profile of some type.

The MyLibrary websites offered at many universities provide customization and interactivity. According to Cohen et al (2000), Cornell University's MyLibrary system includes MyLinks for organizing resources, MyUpdates for staying informed, MyContents for journal delivery, MyCatalog for customized searches, and MyDocument Delivery for PDF files.

Customized Library Portals. is a customizable library entry point for students and other library patrons at Charlotte & Mecklenburg County Libraries. You must have a library card to use the premium section.

In an article titled "Issues to be addressed by MyLibrary adopters" (Morgan, 1999) discusses some of the issues to maintaining library portals. Topics include building a collection management policy, controlled vocabulary, a management/maintenance plan, and evaluating the system's effectiveness. These issues would be need to be addressed regardless of the type of portal.

Some portals provide tools for developing website materials as well as customized website. For example, Filamentality from the Knowledge Network Explorer provides a fill-in-the-blank tool that guides users through creating hotlists, treasure hunts, WebQuests, and other web-based activities. Other sites for creating websites include MySchoolOnline (30 day trial) is part of the MyFamily portal, SchoolNotes is part of the EdGate portal and the basic version is free.

Portal designers should explore the many types of customization. For example, some portals customize based on a profile generated by the user or by the system based on search patterns and system use. For example, Amazon personalizes the page based on searches, purchases, and thematic reading patterns.

Customizable Elements


provider vs user control

Does the portal system control the presentation of information and resources or does the user have control over the interface? Some provide a combination. For example, Amazon provides personalized reading suggestions based on purchases, but allows users to decide what goes into their shopping cart.


free vs fee-based service

Does the portal provide unlimited access and free resources or does it a fee-based service? Some provide levels of access depending on membership in an organization such as library or university. For example, many libraries provide open access to many service, but a library card is required for access to subscription databases. These are often referred to as premium services. Teachnology provides basic access for free and some services at a premium. Others include, abcteach, and Lesson Plan Page.

Some websites (i.e., Teacher Planet, ) require a registration process, but no subscription fee. This is generally used to provide statistics for selling advertising. In many cases, the pop-up ads and advertising support the site such as A to Z Teacher Stuff.

Many portals offer a combination of commerce and content. Symantec is the center of activities and information related to global online security issues including virus advisories. ebay and others specifically focus on commerce and building a sense of community for return visitors. Through usernames, rating systems and other mechanisms users become part of this commerce community. Many portals rely on advertising to supplement the cost of their content service. For example, and Suite 101 contains lots of information, but is also overrun with sponsors.

There are many portals for kids that are sponsored by particular products such as from Blue Bunny, Crayola Creativity Central, from Dole.

Some commerce sites for kids focus on web-based activities. Neopets is a portal focusing on Virtual Pets.

Design, Development, & Use

The design, development, and use of portals is an ongoing process. Is it worth the investment? What is the cost of the hardware and software associated with design, development, and maintenance? What subscriptions and other fees are needed to access resources? Crawford (2002) found that only a small percentage of a given population use the systems, about a 10% adoption rate. Before jumping into a portal project, it's essential to ask the "big" questions.

Needs Assessment

Before investing in the development of a portal. There are many questions that must be answered. The first step is to conduct a needs assessment to determine the potential audience for the system, their needs, interests, and characteristics.

Is a portal necessary? Thousands of dollars are spent on systems that don't meet the needs of users. Before investing conduct a needs assessment to determine the needs of the portal audience. Strauss (2002) points out that portals should serve a particular need. It might be more useful to develop a portal page rather than an entire website for a library or a school.

Create a powerful portal by focusing on the needs of a particular audience rather than try to serve everyone. Consider sections of the portal for different audiences such as parents, teachers, and students. For example, younger students need a portal at their reading and interest level.


Explore existing portals and select the features that are most important in an effective portal for your particular situation. Be sure to explore portal examples outside your area to see if you can draw ideas from other areas.


Once you've explored the options, it's time to make some decisions and formulate a realistic plan for design and development. First, develop a vision for the portal including the audience, mission, and general resources and services. Second, create a list of specifications for your portal. What do you need in terms of hardware, software, and content to meet the mission you've identified? Third, determine whether you can use or adapt an existing system. If not, begin exploring options for developing your own portal. This might involve your own staff as well as outsourcing technical aspects. For example, you may have people who can develop content and design graphics, but you might use an outside vendor to put together the site.

Outside Vendor Product. Although it's possible to develop your own portal from scratch, many large school districts, universities, and libraries use outside consultants and technical support to develop their system. For example, the Capistrano Unified School District (Sexsmith & Benham, 2003) used K-12Connection's ParentPortal, TeacherPortal, and Data Aggregator Modules to build their system. Teachers use the TeacherPortal for personalized class pages. A number of vendors provide tools for customized portals. Many of these are used by libraries and universities:

Open Source. There are many tools on the web that can help you build your own portal system from scratch. Unless you're a "techie", you'll probably want to work closely with programmers to implement this type of customizable portal. Develop tools such as uPortal and MyLibrary can be downloaded from the web. For example, the San Luis Obispo County Office of Education (Kindel, 2003) use the JA-SIG uPortal open-shell to create their own K-12 educational resource portal.

Dynamic On-Your-Own. A dynamic website is critical for the success of an ever-evolving portal. Software such as Windows and Cold Fusion on the Web Server and Microsoft SQL for the Database Server are often used to develop this type of environment. The Los Angeles County Office of Education uses this type of system for their web portal (Molter, 2003).

Static On-Your-Own. Portals can be developed using traditional web development tools such as Dreamweaver to develop individual web pages. Although some personalization is possible, it's difficult to incorporate the customized options into static web pages.

Portal Management and Maintenance

How will the virtual collection be managed and maintained? What will be included/excluded from the portal and how will these resources be selected/deselected? How many items will be included? How will resources be purchased for the online collection?

How is confidentiality addressed? Is the privacy of the user maintained? How is the information that is tracked being used for other purposes? This is a particular concern with portals that customize to meet user interests.


How are you going to convince busy educators, students, or patrons that the portal is worth the time? A plan for public relations and promotion is critical to the success of a portal.


How will the system be evaluated? Morgan (1999) and others have identified many technical, content, and usability issues that must be considered in evaluating the effectiveness of the system. For example, who uses/doesn't use the system? what are the most/least popular resources? what are the most common requests? how often do people use the system? how much do the profiles change over time? what hardware and software are used with the system?

Portals for Children and Young Adults

Look for the portals for children and young adults that are associated with larger, well-established companies such as educational publishers.


Alfy - The Web Portal for Kids
This portal for young children, parents, and teachers contains recommended resources, a clubhouse, a place to create, stories, surveys, postcards, music, games, and many other resources in multiple language. Contains lots of popups/advertising. Contains the "Alfy Shield" for filtering and resources with audio for very young children. Some of the website is fee-based including Clever Island, but a trial is available.

AskJeeves for Kids
Primarily a search tool, this portal also contains games, news resources, and study tools.

FEKids from Family Education Network and Pearson Education
Along with Funbrain, Fact Monster, InfoPlease, contains games and other resources.

Based in the UK, areas for parents, teachers, kids, and other materials including games, extras, information, and online clubs for kids. Limited advertising. from Bonus
Along with Bonus and NetScooter, contains information, games, features, and a friends section for kids. Contains lots of popups/advertising. Registration is needed for many of the interactive elements.

Internet Public Library
Includes information and resources for students.

KidsCom and KidsCom Jr
KidsCom contains games, adventures, chat, discussions, creation tools, and links to information. KidsCom Jr provides games, art, friend, and parents sections for very young children. Limited advertising.
Portal for kids with games, e-cards, contests, activities, games, sharing areas, and weblinks. Contains lots of popups/advertising.
Based in India, this portal contains stories (i.e., short stories, poems, folktales), discovery section, games, magazines, and activities.

Subscription-based resource for kids using the web including a personalized browser, games, music, websites, and discussion. This is a filtered, closed environment.

Contains games, animals. music, tv, cool pages, science, astrology, e-cards, movies, news, jokes, reference, and a directory. Contains limited advertising. from Kaboose Network
Along with Funschool and KidsDomain, it provides an entry area for kids to explore features, games, contests, web links, and interaction. Contains lots of popups/advertising.

Teens and Young Adults

This portal for young adults contains discussion groups, features, web links, contests, and other resources. Contains lots of popups/advertising.

Resources for kids, teens, and parents including movies in the classroom.

NCES Classroom
Contains activities and resources for children and teachers.

Educational and leisure games, references, and information for teens.

Portal focusing articles, discussions, games, diaries, poetry, and other resources. Contains lots of popups/advertising.

Portals for Educators
Lots of great tools and resources for educators.

Student and educator resources including lesson plans, tools, activities, and web resources.

Canada's SchoolNet
Great starting point for learning resources, news, features, and projects. Includes links to many other Canadian projects.


Educate the Children
Contains school guides, teacher zone, parent zone, learning zone, and a job guide. Features include email alerts, fundraising activities, and a registration area.

Education World

HERO - Higher Education & Research Opportunities in the United Kingdom

Learn NC

This portal includes a number of other well-known subject area portals such as Artsedge, EconEdLink, Edsitement, Illuminations, ReadWriteThink, Science Netlinks, Xpeditions,

Resources, news, diaries, chat, and links for middle school educators.

Resources, discussion groups, newsletters, and opportunities to share.

SBC Knowledge Network Explorer
Contains popular services such as Blue Web 'N and filamentality.

WebQuest Portal
Resources related to WebQuests and their use in the classroom.

For lots of examples, go to Educational Portals and Starting Points from Eduscapes.

Government Sponsored Portals
US Dept of Education government portal.

First Gov
Official US government web portal.

NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)
The NASA portal contains many areas including Education.

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration)
Great articles, news, magazines, graphics, and other resources.

School Sponsored Portals

Many schools, classrooms, and teachers have their own educational portals.

For lots of examples, go to Cool Schools on the Internet from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to Cool Classroom Pages from Eduscapes.

Library Sponsored Portals

The advantage of a library portal is that it retains the authority and quality of information delivery often not found in popular search engines and directories (Jackson, 2002). They may include access to local and remote catalogs, databases, pre-selected websites, subscription databases, and other services.

Library portals have gained popularity as starting points for a number of reasons. First, libraries have a reputation for providing access to quality, credible resources. Second, libraries are known for helping patrons avoid information overload through guided exploration of relevant information. Third, most libraries provide access to subscription-based services unavailable through free portals. The Digital Libraries Initiatives and Institute of Museum and Library Services are working on projects that provide digital access to a wide variety of materials. Zemon (2001) notes that librarians have unique perspectives and skills to assist in the development of effective portals. For example, librarians have skills in content selection, copyright, customer service, and customizing information delivery.

For lots of examples, go to Library Portals for Children and Young Adults or Library Portals and Starting Points from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to School Library Websites from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to Public and Special Library Websites from Eduscapes.
For lots of examples, go to Digital and Virtual Libraries from Eduscapes.

Museum Sponsored Portals

American Museum of Natural History

Children's Museum of Indianapolis

National Virtual Museum from the United Kingdom

The Smithsonian Institution website is a massive portal including an A to Z Index of websites. Within the site is a section for educators, families, and students called Smithsonian Education.

For lots of examples, go to Digital and Virtual Museums from Eduscapes.

Publisher Sponsored Portals

Many educational publishers (i.e., Prentice Hall, Glencoe's Teaching Today) maintain portals with resources for teachers and students.

Education Place by Houghton Mifflin
Contains K-8 resources for students, teachers, and parents in the areas of reading/language arts, math, science, social studies, and professional development. Users can subscribe for a free newsletter.

Family Education
Provides information and resources for families.

This popular portal for students, teachers, and families contains many resources and tools. Personalized pages, online discussions, and other interactive opportunities are built in.

Television and Radio Sponsored Portals

BBC portal including general resources, learning, and schools section.

Cable in the Classroom
Cable in the classroom is a great portal for all materials related to television viewing, teaching, and learning. Some membership level resources are also available. Specific cable station educational resources include A&E, Biography, Biography Channel, CartoonNetwork, HBO, History Channel.
Based in Canada, the page includes resources for preschool, afterschool, and teens including games, informations, and programming resources.

Discovery School
This popular, full service portal includes lesson plans, teacher's store, custom classroom, teaching tools, curriculum center, and homework helpers. Within DiscoverySchool, you'll find popular websites such as Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators, BJ Pinchbeck's Homework Helper, and Puzzlemaker. from Annenberg/CPB
Professional development materials, program materials, lessons, and resources are available. Services include electronic newsletters, streaming videos, and interactive activities.

The Public Broadcasting Service portal leads users to many resources including PBS Kids, PBS parents, PBS TeacherSource, PBS Campus, and many local stations such as WGBH in Boston and WNET Thirteen in New York. The portal includes features such as schedules, shopping, program archives, and PBS Program club discussions.

National Public Radio
The portal includes access to local stations as well as national programming archives, transcripts, discussions, schedules, and shopping.

This portal contains classroom and professional resources, search tools, mailing list, and other instructional materials.

Big Educational, Subscription Portals

Big Chalk
Provides teaching and learning resources, standards-based curriculum materials, and professional development materials.

Classroom Connect
One of the most established portals, Classroom Connect, part of Harcourt Education, contains Connected Tech, Connected University, and Connected Educator subscription services focusing on professional development for educators. It contains quality, content-rich resources.

Research-based educational technology resources focused on curriculum materials for a standards-based curriculum.

Curriculum Advantage
Curriculum materials and customized portals for schools.

Digital Curriculum from AIMS
Video-on-demand, curriculum materials, lesson plans, and other resources. Contains scientifically based evidence references.

This portal provides secure, personalized access to standards-based, organized, pre-selected educational resources and lesson plans. Also, it provides tools and space for creating web pages in an area called Schoolnotes. Subscriptions include a community education gateway and a personal edition. Prentice Hall integrates their content into SchoolNotes. A study in the Wyoming schools found an increase in student test performance in reading and writing after use of the EdGate educational portal.

Lightspan and Plato Learning
Teaching, learning, and professional development resources from PLATO Learning, Inc. are included in the Learning Network. Standards-based curriculum content, communication tools, and tutorials are part of the system. Studies of the Lightspan Achieve Now program have shown improvements in math and reading test scores.

A search engine for education.

Provide a wide range of electronic tools and resources including educational software (Learning Company, Broderbund, Edmark) and online amterials (Teacher Universe, Lesson Plans) for educators, parents, and students.

Provides subscription services that can be added to portals including netTrekker, WebMarc, and Sagebrush Pinpoint specifically for K-12 libraries.

TeacherVision from Pearson Education
Subscription required for access to lesson plans, classroom management ideas, email newsletters, and teaching tools (i.e., MyGradeBook, QuizLab, MySchoolOnline).

Free and membership services for educators including curriculum, lesson plans, and tools.

United Streaming
Video-on-demand service with videos, clips, and images along with curriculum materials. Contains scientifically based evidence references.

Related Articles

Boss, R. W. (February 2002). Library web portals. ALA. Available:

Butters, G. (2003). What features in a portal? Ariadne, 35. Available:

Cohen, S. Fereira, J. Horne, A., Kibbee, B, Mistlebauer, H, & Smith, A. (April 2000). MyLibrary: Personalized electronic services in the Cornell University Library. D-Lib Magazine, 6(4). Available:

Crawford, W. (April 2002). Talking 'bout my library. American Libraries. Available:

Dorman, D. (December 2001). Proliferating portals. American Libraries. Available:

Goodman, A. & Kleinschmidt (March 24, 2002). Frequently asked questions about portals (FAQs). Traffick. Available:

Jackson, M.E. (September 15, 2002). The advents of portals. Library Journal. Available:

Johnson, L. & Lamb, A. (April 2003). Portals: Rabbit holes to grand gateways. DataBus, 2, 8-9.

Ketchell, D.S. (2000). Too many channels: Making sense out of portals and personalization. ITAL, 19, 4. Available:

Kindel, S. (April 2003). The evolution of an analog media delivery operation. DataBus, 2, 12, 33.

Joint Information Systems Committee (July 31, 2003). Portals: frequently asked questions. Available:

Lakos, A. & Gray, C (2000). Personalized library portals as an organizational culture change agent. ITAL, 19(4). Available:

Miller, P. (December 2001). The concept of the portal. Ardiadne, 30. Available:

Molter, D.J. (April 2003). - The SMART Web Portal. DataBus, 2, 14-15.

Morgan, E.L. (November 10, 1999). Issues to be addressed by MyLibrary adopters. Available:

Morgan, E.L. (November 21, 2001) Portal webliography. Available:

MOUSS (2004). One-stop metasearch tools: Friendly time saver or confusing quagmire: Bibliography. Available:

Nielsen, Jakob (October 4, 1998). Personalization is over-rated. Alertbox. Available:

Sexsmith, S. & Benham, M.W. (April 2003). Apprehension motivates implementing a teacher portal. DataBus, 2, 10, 32.

Strauss, H. (November 2002). Library' portal: a minority report. School Library Journal. Available:

Zemon, M. (July/August 2001). The librarian's role in portal development: providing unique perspectives and skills. C&RL News, 62(7). Available:

Groups of Interest

Library of Congress Portals Applications Issues Group

ARL (Association of Research Libraries) Scholars Portal - bibliography of online portal articles

Web Traffic and Usage Measurement Services

Alexa - great, easy to use source for web information from Amazon


Nielson Netrating

Search Engine Watch - specifically focuses on search tools


Created by Annette Lamb, 4/04. All rights reserved. Originally presented at NCCE Conference 2004. Selected links deleted 2010.