Thursday, June 6, 2013

Teacher As Web Designer

Most of us, as teachers, are required to assemble some form of website in order to advertise our school and interface with students and parents digitally. However, most of us also lack the time to do a great job at this as well as the know-how.

That's where Google Sites comes in. As part of the whole slew of Google Apps available, Google Sites allows you to develop a web page with very little effort. I built a site with multiple pages in about an hour. Then I slowly added and updated to make it better. The nice thing is, they have pre-made sites you can use and fill in, or you can make a very simplistic one from scratch. If you're also a user of Google Drive, you can embed documents, presentations, etc. from Drive into your site for some easy to update features.

Here's a few of the basics.
Choose a template.
  1. Go to sites.google.com
  2. Create an account, login with an existing google account, or use a school account linked to google if you have one.
  3. Click the "Create" button.
  4. Select a template. I prefer the blank template and editing on my own, but there are some great pre-made educator templates.
  5. Select your site name.
  6. Click the "Create" button.
  7. Click the "Edit" button (it looks like a pencil) to update the page.
  8. Or click the "New Page" (looks like a page with a plus sign) to create another page.
Sample page with "edit" and "new page" buttons.

 Some advice about your site: This sample site looks beautiful. However, most of us don't want to get locked into updates like "word of the week," "student of the month" or any fancy editing needed to update homework or announcements.

Try to keep your commitments to your webpage low and easy to accomplish. What is the best bang for your buck? What is the most useful to you, your students, and their parents? Depending on what we teach, these things can be different for all of us. You can Google search lists of what to include for a slew of ideas. Here are a few things that I find relevant:
  • Parents struggling with disorganized, non-communicative students can use my website to help keep their kids on track. Here's how I help them:
    • "How can parents help?" page which provides ideas for guiding a student through homework without giving away the answers or needing to know them.
    • "Communication" guidelines suggesting how parents can prompt students to talk to their teachers and how to let me in on it so I can help make sure it happens (and we can secretly make sure they are getting the right information back to their parents).
    • Most important: the "Homework" page updates my homework daily (without me ever entering my website structure).
  •  Resources: What extras do parents or students at your level need?
    • Parents of avid middle school readers struggle to keep up with what their kids are reading, but want to know they are reading safe materials - I have linked the "young adults" section of my Goodreads account to my school website with some embedded gadgets. When I read a book and update my Goodreads account, it automatically updates the information on my website.
    • Websites - textbook access, games, research resources, etc. are all beneficial to include on a website
    • At the elementary level a weekly schedule is a nice thing for a parent to have access to.
    • My mother, who teaches elementary, includes a weekly spelling list on her website.
    • Many teachers these days find it beneficial to post some version of the standards they teach on their website.
If you want to get a little fancy with your website, here are a few considerations:
  • Get a Picasa account (free) and make edit some pictures to give your website some flashy images.
  •  Embed web gadgets using the insert feature and an "embed gadget" tool or the "html box" you can insert directly from Googles searchable list of gadgets.
  • Embed documents, forms (for quizzes or surveys), presentations, etc directly onto the webpages (I use an embedded document for my homework page - I update the document and my website is updated, without having to even login to my website). If I embed a Google documents version of an assignment instead of uploading a document, I can edit it and those fixes will be automatically available to my students, no uploading new versions necessary. Google Sites makes this as easy as "insert document."
  • Create some different link functionality or link to outside websites using the "edit layout" function under the "more" button.
Note: make sure to link back to any district purchased websites, so parents and students can find your site!
My science website.
The sky is the limit! Keep playing and let me know if you discover something cool!

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