Tuesday 1 July 2008

Creating a personal homepage

Creating your own personal homepage / feed reader can be really simple to do and can also help you to save time and stay in touch with what's going on in your professional and personal life.

My own personal home page is something I use everyday and have open for most of the day. It brings me the news from all my favourite websites, blogs and yahoo groups and allows me to scan content from 20 -30 different sources within a few moments. This would otherwise take me a few hours!

So when I was asked to design a course to help teacher trainers use Web 2.0 technology in their teaching, I decided that a session on RSS and personal home pages was an essential.

I've been using a yahoo reader for more than 4 years now, but I've become increasingly impressed with some of the other readers on offer and so I decided to have a look around at what else was available. Some of the main ones that impressed me were:
Of these my favourites turned out to be Netvibes. So I produced this task list to help teachers set up their own homepage and explore some of the capabilities of Netvibes. Feel free to print and use this yourself if you want to set up your own homepage or use it with other teacher if you would like to help them set up their own page.
What I like about Netvibes
  • It is quite easy to add feeds from sites and blogs
  • The visual design is really nice and quite clean and modern with simple block colours
  • There is a nice assortment of widgets to add including ones to enable me to check both my Apple DotMac email account and my Yahoo email account from the same page.
  • There is some nice localisation of content
  • The interface is generally pretty simple and intuitive so a good one to use with people who aren't too IT savvy
  • I particularly like that you can set up the 'Web search' widget to search across multiple search engines and a variety of different formats from text to video.
  • You can add and name different pages for different topics (one for ELT and a separate one for technology etc.)
  • You can have private pages and also have public pages to share with your students.
So why should teachers use a personal homepage?
  • There's lots of functionality all in one place, so it can save you loads of time
  • You can keep in touch and up to date with blogs and other sites that change almost every day / few hours.
  • The Flickr creative commons feed is a great source of images / flashcards to use in class or online.
So how can you use this with students?
  • You can have your own personal homepage and add public pages for different students / classes to feed them information or publish their work or links to their projects. There's a great example of this which Gladys Baya created http://www.pageflakes.com/gladysbaya
  • You can get students to create their own home pages and use the range of resources and widgets to help support their learning. Things like 'to do list' can help to set learning goals and remember homework. Sticky / web notes can be used to help them remember new vocabulary words and definitions.
  • There are a host of different widgets from dictionary / thesaurus ones to word of the day, idiom of the day etc which can help our students learn.
  • They can set up their homepage to supply them with the kind of English language content they are interested in, from sport to lifestyle.
Well I hope you find the task sheet useful and if you don't already have a personal homepage, you try this out. It really is a time saver.

I'd also be very interested to hear comments from anyone else who has their own personal homepage and to hear what you are using to create it. Any other Netvibes fans???


Nik Peachey


Unknown said...

Try Feedly (for Firefox) if you have some others social tools.

Paul Beaufait said...

Hi Nik,

Thanks for sharing examples of, and suggestions for personal homepages - both in this post on Creating a personal homepage (2008.07.01), and in your Camtasia production entitled Keeping Up to Date (no date?). In return, I'd like to make two suggestions: the first a minute point on form, which often catches the eyes of language teachers, and the second about another web app., Flock, which you may have touched upon elsewhere already.

First, in the paragraph following the list of RSS readers that you've tried out in addition to Yahoo!®'s, I believe that you meant to suggest the use of your Netvibes homepage creation guide with "other teacher[s]... to help them set up their own page[s]" (Creating a personal homepage, ¶5). I'm looking forward to taking a look at your Netvibes tasks (How to create a personal homepage, no date [PDF, 1.3 Mb]), because I've never tried Netvibes, and will need a learner-friendly guide for whatever RSS reader I ask students to use.

Second, I feel that Flock, an extended utility web browser, deserves attention as an easy to set up and use RSS reader, too. Though I currently use Flock version 1.2.6, which is available in 15 supported localizations (Linux, Mac, and Windows versions), English version 2.0 for Mac is available already (it just finished downloading). What Flock may lack in widgetry that both Netvibes and Pageflakes setups seem to offer (to-do lists, for example), it more than compensates by unifying browsing, RSS reading, webmail, and blogging functionality.

That is for individual educators trying to keep up on the web. Personal page sharing, publication, communication via, and collaboration upon Pageflakes, and perhaps Netvibes, too, is another story, one that Learning with Computers community members are incubating on their blog (Personal Start Pages, 2008.10.15).

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Pab

Thanks for the very detailed posting. I haven't tried Flock, but I may download it and give it a try.

One of the things that has put me off trying it, is that it involves using and downloading a new browser (when I'm very happy using Firefox 3 and Safari) and both the browsers that I have now do a similar thing with RSS to Flock.

One of the big advantages of services like Netvibes and Pageflakes is that they are independent of any browser and being web based I can access them from anywhere on any browser. If you work from lots of different computers, this is a huge advantage.

I think another point that can be drawn from your posting (and mine) is that once you start using one service or another, it becomes quite difficult to change and involves quite a bit of work and changing of habits, so it's well worth trying to get your first choice right (of course there is always something new and better being developed for next year!!)

Thanks again for you comments.


Nik Peachey

Gladys Baya said...

Wow! Got here planning to thank you for your mention of my Pageflakes in your video tutorial on personal startpages and RSS, and then realised you've referred to it here again!

No words to express my gratitude. It's funny now to realise that (unaware that Pageflakes was supposed to be a "personal startpage"), when I first tried it (under the lead of Carla Arena, who pointed to Vance Stevens's example in turn), I saw it as an easy way to help others follow me! :-P! I'm really pleased about what it has allowed me to achieve so far: it's a blend of sites I watch and content I myself -and my classes- create on the Web. Besides, the different pages (and their different settings for privacy) allow me to organise content effectively for my different audiences!I haven't tried the other tools here, but from what I've seen Netvibes is quite similar, whereas none of the other options appears to offer all the advantages pondered here (namely, variety of widgets plus accessibility via different browsers, which should not be overlooked if you want to use this page as a personal website as I do!).

Apologies for the long posting!

Nik Peachey said...

Hi Gladys

I'm glad you enjoyed the posting. It was great to see the way that you used Pageflakes with your students, so it was my pleasure to be able to point a few people towards it.



My eBooks and Lesson Plans