I don’t think I have mentioned Start.io, and if I haven’t, I have been very remiss in not. Start.io is one of the constant web tools I use in my classroom and in the computer lab. Before I had Start.io, I was constantly worried about sending my students on searches for information using Google as I never knew what would come up in the search results. Any inappropriate results could cause huge issues with out parents even though I do believe students should learn to do searches. So, I would give them the links to specific sites to use but that also meant wasted time as students had to type in the addresses, invariably typing them in wrong and resulting in students saying that their computer doesn’t work and me having to go over and see what it was they mistyped.
Start.io solved that frustration for me and I have been using it ever since. Start.io is quite simply a one page website used only to display specific links you want to showcase. You create the categories for each set of links, then add the links that go with each category. It is easy to create your page of links, it looks great and is simple to navigate and it is free.
Here is how we use it in the classroom and the computer lab. In the classroom, I have three computers to use for extra time, our daily math program and for in-class research. For our science unit on Habitats, I had groups of students doing research on the computers. The day before I had found of links that were awesome resources the students could use. I added them to the Start.io page I had set up at the beginning of the year. When it came time to the research, I simply told the students to go to the computers, go to the class Start.io page, find the Habitats category and use the links found there. As the kids are well familiar with how to use Start.io and as I have set it as our homepage upon opening Chrome, students were immediately able to get to work. It is also a great tool for when I have students with extra time. They know that all the links on the start.io page are safe and can go to any of the links on there.
In the computer lab, students immediately, upon entering the classroom, login into a computer, open the chrome browser and go to our class start.io page. They then come back to the carpet and listen to the instructions. The website we are going to be using that page is already on the start.io page and is ready to go. As the website page url is easy to type, students have no problems getting to the page. There are no ads beside a very small, innocuous ad that none of the kids has ever really noticed. The ads served on there have always been appropriate with the ads more being on the techy side and not really noticeable.
As with all free services, I have always been worried that it will disappear or change to a charge service but I have been using it for about 5 years and there has been no sign of changes. Of course, no new features have ever been added but, in my mind, that is one of the appeals. It keeps it easy to use for all ages.
If you haven’t used start.io yet, I highly recommend you give it a try. I think you will find it to be well worth the visit and one of your essential web tools.