I’ve been having more and more conversations with teachers and schools about the idea of digital footprints – both of students and teachers. One of the things I try to impress on teachers is that they need to be more intentional about having an online presence and controlling that presence. Like it or not, your footprint is already out there. You don’t have a choice on whether or not you have a digital footprint. The question really is . . . how well do you want to manage it?
And I want teachers to think about the idea of maintaining some sort of website. It could be a teaching blog using WordPress.com, a Weebly page, something on Edublogs, even a wiki. There are all kinds of tools available. But teachers need something that they control. That has their “brand” stamped on it. And it’s not that teachers don’t want to do that – it’s often that it’s too difficult or time consuming.
Often times they’re right. Some of the tools I use every day have fairly sharp learning curves. And for a 4th grade teacher without a plan period, a 15 minute lunch, and 28 kids in her class, trying to figure out the sweet spot of WordPress drops way down on the I gotta get this done today to-do list.
StartMe is not so much a specific social studies gadget but it does seem like a handy tool for those of you who are looking for a quick and easy way to share resources, create a very simple website, communicate with parents, and use with students.
StartMe is actually designed to be . . . well, a start page. The kind of page that’s the first thing you open up in the morning to catch up on news, read email, or check your calendar. Some of you may already be using this sort of tool. And if you want to use Start.me for something like that, sweet. I mean, it’s designed for that and it actually does a pretty nice job.
But I think you can use it for more than just a start page. Think of Startme as a drag and drop web site creation tool. And because it’s dead easy and free, you may want to give it a try.
To jump right in, head over to the Startme site and create an account. You can use any of your social media accounts such as Google, Twitter, or Facebook as well as the traditional email and password route. There is also an Education version – contact the StartMe folks using a form at the bottom of the ed page to get that set up. This seems like the way to go. The biggest difference for me is the custom domain and no ads.
Once you’re in (one way or the other), you’ll get a default page with news related links and feeds. But in the top left hand corner, you’ll notice that you can create multiple pages.
So right away, your brain should be going down the path of – Parents, 1st Hour, 7th Grade Geography. You can customize each page with widgets. These could be links of websites. Notes. Reminders. Current events. RSS feeds. Class calendars. Use the Notes widget to post writing prompts and exit cards. Create handouts using Google Drive and paste links to those on your StartMe page. Link to online primary sources.Use your imagination.
You’re able to drag and drop the widgets in whatever order you like. Change the background. Import bookmarks. And the real beauty? Sharing the link with others. So create your page. Get the short URL (or make one of your own using Tinyurl for the customization) and share that with students and parents.
Then update as often or as little as you like. Simple. Easy. Free. Digital online presence. Need a sample? I spent about three minutes creating a shared page. Three widgets. No sweat. If you get stuck, head over to their blog site for some help.
Check it out. Ask for the education version. And be sure to have fun!