Yahoo Inc. is developing a free online service designed to make it easier for educators to create, find and share lesson plans, worksheets and ideas. The product, Yahoo for Teachers, is a sort of social network that allows teachers to collaborate on course work and store information that they find online and want to showcase in class. The service, which has been quietly tested by teachers for several months, is expected to premiere in autumn.
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For Yahoo, focusing on teachers is a departure from its usual mass-market business strategy and may signal a new willingness to cater to more-specialized users. Doing so may be intended to make the company’s services more indispensable, particularly in social networking, a rapidly growing business dominated by Facebook and MySpace.
Teachers have long complained about a lack of time to prepare for class and of the difficulty in collaborating with colleagues, even those just down the hall. Curriculum requirements that vary by state have also complicated the issue. Yahoo started work on the service last year after inviting a group of teachers, librarians and media specialists to spend a week brainstorming at its Sunnyvale headquarters. After a year of working on the product, the company gave educators a sneak peek this year at the National Science Teachers Association conference in St. Louis.
Yahoo for Teachers will be accessible from teachers.yahoo.com, which features a brief description of the service, video tour and announcement that the site will soon be open to the public. A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment other than to confirm that the product is being developed.
The service allows teachers to create and store lesson plans, worksheets and projects online rather than preparing class materials using a Word document, for example. Teachers can also search lesson plans posted by others and leave comments. Queries can be narrowed by grade, subject and state, such as fourth-grade science teachers in California. Material that earns the most points by being viewed the most often will get top placement in the results.
Drag and drop To save material found on the Web, teachers can use what is called a gobbler, a feature that allows them to drag and drop text or images into an online portfolio rather than having to cut and paste the material. The gobbler may be expanded to other Yahoo products, according to a comment posted by Bradley Horowitz, a Yahoo vice president, on the blog of another Yahoo manager. continue reading