bigchalk.com offers a lot to teachers who dont want to pay for online content.
By Alex Beckett
In this space we usually make a point of highlighting Canadian sites, especially those developed by Ontarians. Frequently, however, we want to let you know about sites in which we think Ontario teachers would find real value.
U.S.-based bigchalk is just such an example. This site is many things, not all of them good from a teachers perspective. First, its a profit-seeking educational business hawking its subscription-based services. Second, its a vehicle for advertising other companies products targeted at teachers.
But underneath all that, bigchalk is actually a useful and engaging site. And perhaps because it is a business, the site is arguably slicker, better maintained and more extensive than most non-profit or government resources.
Resources are broken down into various audiences: teachers, librarians and media specialists, elementary school students, intermediate school students, high school students and parents. You can reach pages devoted to those categories of information by clicking the appropriate link in the navigation bar that horizontally spans the top of most pages on the site.
By navigating through these resources you can see that knowledgeable and diligent people maintain the site. Few of the links are brokenthe bane of most similar sitesand most link you to truly useful resources and class materials.
A standout is the Congo Gorilla Forest online adventure, developed by bigchalk, the Bronx Zoo and the Wildlife Conservation Society. Applications like this have no print equivalent. They are interactive explorations of converging themes. Students learn about gorilla behaviour, conservation, African geography and the process of scientific observation.
Humbler, but also useful, are the collections of links found in the Homework Central part of the site. This section includes almost all conceivable educational topics, including teaching specific subjects such as classroom management and curriculum design. These guides break down into great detail. The classroom management section, for example, breaks down into half a dozen categories, and includes a subsection on furniture and desk placement, which in turn breaks down into a set of links to sites that have resources on specific aspects of seating plans. The student-specific resources in Homework Central are even more comprehensive.
With a lot going on throughout this site, teachers might find it more efficient to use the site to find specific resources themselves rather than encourage students to roam through the site on their own.
Alex Beckett is the College’s web site editor. He can be reached at
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