To Portal or not to Portal - the Question of the day.

The term "web portal" began to be used to describe mega-sites such as Yahoo, Excite, MSN, Netscape Netcenter and AOL because many users used them as a "starting point" or "entry point" for their web surfing. The term "search engine" had become inadequate to describe the breadth of the offerings of these leading Internet destinations, although search and navigation are still pivotal to most people's online experience.

In a nutshell then, portals provide a single point of access to aggregated information. The portal concept has been applied to general audiences on the Web (so-called "Internet portals"), to organization-private Web sites ("intranet portals"), and to specialized online communities of practice ("vertical portals" or vortals) such as education. While all of this terminology may seem daunting at first, the principles behind portals are relatively simple.

The primary goal of most portals is ease-of-use. Besides having a single point of access -- a virtual front door -- portals generally try to provide a rich navigation structure. Portals using Web pages for their user interface will, for instance, often include numerous categories of hyperlinks on the front page.

One example of an Internet portal is (see above). MSNBC contains many elements one expects from a general-purpose portal including featured content, numerous hyperlinks, search capability, stock quotes, and customization based on user locale. offers guided tours of your favorite topics

Portal FAQ site

Visual Portal for elearning

A bit of Internet History

Tale alook at the first directory on the web - yes it is still viewable but nearly all the links are dead!

Homework Portals

BJ Pinchbeck's Homework helper - incredible site started by a high school student.

jiskha homework help - another site started by a student six years ago that has become a viable education portal

Refdesk is a must bookmark for all types of information.

Homework center of the Multnomah County Library - Divide resources into 40 logical categories, which makes it easier to use than refdesk above.

Kidclick - Launched by librarians unhappy with search engines for elementary school students, this directory features more than 6,000 annotated llinks.

Aplusmath - if math homework is the problem, this site offers simple interactive games to make math problems easier to do.

Martindale's The Reference Desk - research and information site

Specialized sources:

Fact Monster -

Pistcos Ask an Expert

SparksNotes - notes on literary works

Classic Notes -

Questia - bills itself as the largest online library

K12 Lessons and Web Sites

Portal Examples for education:

Librarians Index to the Internet - Superbly annotated and carefully selected gathering of valuable web sites on many topics.

About - A sometimes academic collection of "sites" on many subjects, each overseen by a "guide." Uneven quality but often worth consulting. Shopping, chat, and casual emphasis that can be annoying.

First Gov Portal - The first place to go to find info about the US Government - all branches, all levels, all states.

The Spots - A series of portals that have links related to various interest topics such as the libraryspot or the tripspot or the homeworkspot. -- free magazine searchengine/portal for a variety of topics.

Suite 101 -Their motto is "real people helping real people"

Federal Resources for Educational Excellence (FREE) - More than 30 Federal agencies formed a working group in 1997 to make hundreds of Federally supported teaching and learning resources easier to find.

Everything ESL - the comprehensive list of resources for ESL education

Career and Guidance Resources Homepage - a specialized portal for guidance counselors

The High School Hub - It features online learning activities, an ongoing teen poetry contest, general references, a high school directory, college information, and subject guides for English, mathematics, science, social studies, and foreign languages.

BigChalk Homework helper - Thousands of links all searchable and suitable for education.

Portals for Younger Web Searchers

Discovery Channel School--browse here by grade level or do a search for your topic

Encyclopedia Britannica-the clue here is to switch to a search of Student Encyclopedia

Favorite Government Information Sites--from the Wyoming Library Association, here's a set of links for kids.

First Gov for Kids--from the Federal Citizen Information Center--a terrific kids' portal

Firstgov for Kids--Science and Math

Fossick's Links to Kids' Search Engines

Incy Wincy Kids and Teens Directories--links to all sorts of searchable kid safe sites

Infoplease Homework Center--click on the subject area you're seeking

Ingram Library--Government Sites for Kids

Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators--known to most educators, this searchable database has thousands of links to good sites and information

Kidzone--from the Department of Energy, a whole page of links to valuable sites for kids

Nature Watch--from the USDA Forest Service specifically for K-12

USDA for Kids--excellent set of links for students

Yahooligans--Yahoos search engine for kids

General Examples

ThePocket Internet

Portal to the World - links to each country's web portal

Search Engint Colosus - International portal to search engines