Thing 20: Tools for creating websites, pathfinders, portfolios and more (2013 version)

(2014/15 workshop begins in November 2014. These older pages will remain, but look for updated versions and new topics as the workshop progresses.)

Having a really good and useful web presence is no longer optional!

In a 2010 blog post, Joyce Valenza listed 20 things she wished that school librarians would “un-learn”. #5 on that list: “That having a web presence, no–that having a really good and really useful web presence–is optional.” Good advice!

Most school libraries have some sort of web site or at least an informational web page these days, often as part of the school district’s web site. Unfortunately, that could mean that library staff doesn’t have much control over what information they can offer through the site. And it might even mean they can’t update the site directly at all, instead having to send all updates and changes to the school’s webmaster.

While it’s understandable that an organization might want to maintain a certain look and feel for all the pages on their official site, it doesn’t give library staff much flexibility for quickly updating and adding content as student and staff needs require.

Fortunately, there are any number of great (and free!) web services that will let do what you want, when you want. And that’s what you’ll have a chance to explore in this final lesson of our Cool Tools For School project.

Pathfinders, Student and Professional Portfolios

If you’re already happy with your library’s website, then how about giving your own professional presence a bit of a boost. Or look into a new way to build pathfinders or sites to support a special projects.  And what about tools to help students create portfolios of their work. The tools listed below can help with these projects also

Keep in mind that most of these tools have additional features available for a fee. If you find a tool that works well for your purposes, then it might be worth a few dollars for additional features. Check for special educator discounts as well.


Web Site & Blogging Tools, and – Generally thought of as a blogging tools, these free services can also be used for many other purposes:

  • Web Site: Add any number of information and resource pages in addition to news posts and you’ll have a complete web site for your library
  • News Posts: Use as a blog to post news and updates.
  • Collaborations: Posts news items, ideas, questions, book reviews, etc. Invite students to use the comments feature to share ideas, their own reviews, etc.
  • Student writing: Students can use these for writing and reflecting.
  • Portfolios: Create a professional resume & portfolio by creating pages that focus on different aspects of your experience and skills.

Examples & Resources:


PBWorks and WikiSpaces are two popular free/cheap wiki tools. While wikis could be used as your main website, they’re not the most attractive and appealing looking sites, so might not be the best choice for an engaging main web site for your library. But they are very practical for storing loads of information and allowing for collaboration. If you need a tool to quickly create annotated lists of resources for a class or presentation, pathfinders, etc., then a wiki is a great tool. Check out the educator options for both of these tools. They both offer some premium features for free.

Examples & resources:

Google Sites

Google Sites has grown into a terrific tool for building all sorts of web projects, that’s why it’s getting a section all it’s own. It could be used to build a very functional library web site, to create pathfinders, project sites for classes, student portfolios and more. And of course since it’s Google, lots of Google services can be embedded in the sites. Templates make it easy to get a site started in a hurry. They come with multiple pages and lots of features already included. Handy when you don’t want to start from scratch.

Examples & resources:

And a few more tools… 

  • Smore – Smore is easy to use, free and has many options for colors and layout. Use it to create an attractive, single page website, e-newsletter, special events page and more. Some examples: Brighton High School Library, QuestarIII SLS. And lots of great Smore ideas and tips from Shannon McClintock Miller
  • – Great place to setup a simple professional profile for yourself. Describe your work, list activities, contacts, links to social media and more. Check out these school librarians.
  • LibGuides – Though it isn’t a free tool, many of you may have access too it through your school or BOCES SLS. It’s a robust content management system for creating guides to resources and can serve as your library web presence as well. Some examples: ONC BOCES SLS, St Georges School,
  • Face of your Classroom – a lesson similar to this one for another “Things” project.
  • Creating Blogs & Websites – Tutorials on using a variety of tools, including the ones mentioned in this lesson.


Pick whatever tool (or tools!) you’d like to explore and pick a project. Some suggested projects are listed below, but if you have an idea, go with it. The projects don’t have to be particularly complex, just make sure you explore a variety of features of the tool.

  • Build a short pathfinder
  • Build a site for a class project
  • Create a template/model of a student research project site.
  • Create a professional portfolio for yourself
  • Have another idea for a project? Do it!

BLOG POST: For your Thing 20 blog post, share what tools you explored and how you used them.

LOG YOUR LESSON: Don’t forget to log your blog post when you’re done! When you finish this lesson by fill out the log form. You’ll need the URL of your blog post to complete the form.




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