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Best Websites for Teaching and Learning: Looking back while moving forward December 6, 2012

Posted by Donna Baratta in Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, Check this out!, Committees.

Welcome to the American Association of School Librarians Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee blog post. Our 2012 list of 25 Outstanding Websites was released in June at ALA Annual in Anaheim, bringing our total number of sites to 100! The sample of sites chosen here cover topics naturally aligned to the AASL standards. We hope you will find many of these and other Best Websites helpful as you work within your own programs and with colleagues to meet the challenges of the Common Core State Standards.  Each site on this post includes the link, a brief description and an explanation of how it can be used in an educational setting.  Each month, one of the chosen sites will be highlighted in this blog by committee members.

The list covers the following categories:

Media Sharing: Web 2.0 technologies that enable sharing, editing, and creation of video, audio, mash-ups, and more

Digital Storytelling: Online storytelling in a digital format

Manage and Organize: Web 2.0 technologies that enable users to classify, take notes, brainstorm, gather data, etc

Social Networking and Communication: Group projects, across curriculum areas, locally and globally, using Web 2.0 technologies

Curriculum Collaboration: Tools that allow teachers and students to share materials with others and to make deeper connections with content

Content Resources: Lesson Plans and More: Sites that provide materials for teachers and others to build class content and lesson plan

The Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Award honors websites, tools and resources of exceptional value to inquiry-based teaching and learning as embodied in the American Association of School Librarians’ Standards for the 21-Century Learner. The winning websites promote the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation, and collaboration. The Landmark Websites honored sites because of their established histories for authoritative, dynamic content and curricular relevance. Together these websites provide dynamic resources that support 21st-Century teaching and learning.

You may find The Best Websites of Teaching and Learning here:


Websites are selected for inclusion using this criteria:

  • Allow Free Access for an extensive (majority) of the site
  • User Friendly
  • Low on advertisements; when ads are present they are age and educationally appropriate
  • Encourage curricula integration
  • Innovative
  • Promote collaborative teaching and learning
  • Promote collaboration among students and/or the global community
  • Facilitate a community of learning
  • No blogs, wikis, or search engines

Great ideas for using the AASL Best Websites can be found by using past blog entries to take a brief look back at a sample of some of the committee’s previous posts.  These entries will explain how each site can be used in an educational setting, either in the classroom or library, to enable student learning, professional development, collaboration and/or networking.  Search past blog posts for additional sites, information, and ideas.

Social Networking and Communications:

Twitter  Build a Professional Learning Network (PLN) using the social networking tool, Twitter (http://www.twitter.com), one of the first winners for Best Websites for Teaching and Learning. At the core of using Twitter as a Professional Learning Network (PLN), is choosing appropriate people, organizations, and companies to follow. These selections help make Twitter an indispensable tool to stay up to date on the latest and greatest in the field of library science, education, technology, publishing or practically any other discipline or interest.  Using Twitter is still a great way for librarians to reach out to students to advertise services, and announce library hours, new books, and programming. By building a following on Twitter, libraries can market services, resources, databases and programming reaching beyond the physical walls of the library.

Media Sharing:

Animoto (http://animoto.com)  One of our original 25 winners in 2009, Animoto, is a classic favorite.  This application still makes it easy to match content to music for professional presentations.  Animoto is a wonderful slide show creator that will excite your students as they create new visual projects for their classrooms and libraries. We have used it for our presentations throughout the years and still enjoy it and we hope that you will too

Digital Storytelling:

Piclits  (http://piclits.com) is a graphically dynamic site focusing on text and graphics as inspiration for writing. The idea for PicLits was sparked by word magnets that people typically have on their refrigerator doors a step further by transforming simple word tiles into carefully selected word banks paired with stunning photography that are sure to inspire the writer in students young and old! PicLits provides a wonderful opportunity for school librarians to collaborate with teachers in a variety of subject areas such as writing haiku, poetry, short stories, lyrics, or essays.

Manage and Organize:

 Evernote  This bookmarking tool (http://evernote.com) takes clipping websites and online tools to greater heights by letting users capture anything they wish including: keeps websites, notes, clips, files, and images. A winner in 2010, it has gone mobile and is available on a variety of platforms. Evernote syncs between all devices, so whatever is clipped or loaded on one is on all. Evernote has a web clipper icon that can be added to your desktop or laptop. When a website is useful or worth keeping simply click on the web clipper, decide on a tag for the site, and it is instantly loaded into your Evernote notebook. Users can edit, share, and even tweet their Evernote tags.

Landmark Site:

In 2009, the Best Websites for Teaching and Learning Committee members created a landmark list of sites to be released along with our first list of Web 2.0 best Websites.  The Landmark Websites were honored due to their exemplary histories of authoritative, dynamic content and curricular relevance.  They were then and continue to be free, web-based sites that are user-friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover while providing foundational to support 21st-century teaching and learning. Reacquaint yourself with these classic sites by visiting the AASL Best Website webpage

Discovery Education ( http://www.discoveryeducation.com/)  was then, and still is, a one stop shop of free high quality resources for teachers, administrators, teacher-librarians, students, and parents.  There are resources for teachers in all grade levels in language arts, math, social studies and science.  Puzzle Maker continues to be a favorite for students and teachers alike

Although not included in past year’s blog posts, the following sites have been recognized for excellence in the more recent categories of Curriculum Collaboration and Content Resources

Curriculum Collaboration:

Khan Academy  (http://www.khanacademy.org)  This popular fast growing math library provides thousands of videos with alternative, engaging instruction in math, finance, and history. Constantly expanding and improving, this is a rich resource for instruction and learning.

iEARN  (http://www.iearn.org/)  Be a part of the network and join the global community! Through International Education and Resource Network (iEARN) and an Internet connection, students and teachers from over 130 countries can transcend linguistic, national, political, religious, and social borders to collaborate on meaningful educational projects in hopes of making a difference in the health and welfare of people and our planet.

Content Resources:

Exploratorium (http://www.exploratorium.edu)  Dive into a unique exploration of science, art, and human perception in the Exploratorium. Watch, view, experience, learn and play using hundreds of web pages and activities. Take a gross-out walk, dissect a cow’s eye, make your own petroglyph…the choices and opportunities for learning are endless.

The National Archives’ Digital Classroom (http://www.archives.gov/education/)  The National Archives’ Digital Classroom offers a multitude of resources for the use of primary sources in the classroom. With access to copies of primary documents from the holdings of the National Archives of the United States, teachers can develop their own activities and lesson plans that make historical periods come alive for their students or choose from dozens of resources that have already been developed and are featured here.

All of our previous winners from 2009 – 2012, including Landmark Sites, can be found on the AASL website (http://www.ala.org/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/bestlist/bestwebsites)

This year’s blog posts will highlight a number of the sites that brought us to the last 25 of our Top 100 sites in 2012, including sites such as History Pin, Popplet and IWitness.

We hope that you will continue to submit your favorite websites, making sure that they meet the criteria listed at the beginning of this post and found with the nomination form at http://www.ala.org/aasl/guidelinesandstandards/bestlist/bestwebsitesnomination.  We look forward to hearing from you about your best websites for teaching and learning as we work together to gather and explore the next 100 sites!

Mrs. Susan Hess, Library Media Specialist, Retired and Dr. Donna Baratta, Library Media Specialist, Committee Chair


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