This is an updated version of an article published on July, 23, 2014.
There’s a lot of information that teachers need to gather, post and update for their students and parents. While the versatility of the web has made it easier to organize and share it all, those of us with class webpages know that keeping them current, accurate and uncluttered can be time consuming.
But it doesn’t have to be. We’ve developed a list of strategies and ideas for working smarter rather than harder on your class web presence. Reduce the time and anxiety it takes to maintain yours with these eight tips:
- A good class website is a timesaver in the long run. Although it takes a little upfront setup, a good class website will make your life — and those of your students and parents — go more smoothly. Here are just a few examples of ways your new class website will make your work easier:
- Responding by e-mail is often more convenient than taking a phone call.
- No more searching for that field trip permission form because it lives in the cloud!
- Flip your parent-teacher conferences by giving parents documents online to read ahead of time.
- If students can check what work is due and what is turned in, it may mean less after-class conferencing.
- Find a simple, flexible tool to create your web presence. We recommend Google Sites because it is free, simple to use, powerful and accessible from your iPad, phone or school laptop. The text editor is straightforward, you can embed links, and media and the menu structure on the left side of the page is easy to navigate.
- Work in teams. If a team of four third grade teachers works together on a common website, they can each reduce their personal workload by 75 percent. Consider collaborating on a set of common assessments, support materials and grading practices.
- Start with the information that needs updating only once a year. Teachers need not eat the elephant all at once. The first year, concentrate on getting basic info, such as personal information, the large outline of course content and commonly sought information, onto your site. Subsequent years — or whenever you have time — add materials based on parent requests. Check to see if there is a required building or district minimum web presence required, and don’t feel you need to start out with more than that.
- Don’t create. Link! Much of the information parents want is already posted elsewhere, such as the district website. Does every third grade teacher need to enter information about the reading curriculum when it is standard within a district? Do all world history classes in a district have common objectives and projects? Can your page link to descriptions of the state requirements? Your job in these cases is not to reinvent the wheel, but to curate the most important sources and help parents find them, which saves you time as well. It’s a win-win!
- Take advantage of your student information system. Our student information system allows students and parents to access individual student data, including grades, attendance, lunch information, GPAs and schedules. Teachers can also use the online gradebook to list project due dates, dates of tests and other information that parents like to know about. Rather than recreating these items on your class website, provide a link to the portal and make sure parents know about it.
- Give up the “old way of doing things.” If you make the shift to Google Sites and Google Docs, you don’t need to keep maintaining the paper and communication trail that existed before going virtual. Using Google Apps for Education should increase your efficiency and productivity, not add more tasks to your to-do list.
- Make sure support and training are available. Nothing helps a project succeed like great support, and nothing kills it faster than a lack of training and working equipment. If you’re in administration, it’s critical that you give your teachers reliable computers and networks. Schedule training during the school day or during inservice times. Give librarians additional training on webpage creation so they can provide in-building support to teachers when needed. If you’re a teacher, ask for the support you need.
Doug Johnson is the director of libraries and technology for the Mankato (Minnesota) Public Schools. He has worked as a K-12 teacher, is the author of nine books, has published articles and columns in more than 40 books and periodicals, and has worked with over 200 organizations around the world, including leadership positions in ISTE and the American Association of School Librarians. Check out his Blue Skunk Blog.
Marti Sievek is a former high school Spanish teacher and college of education university professor. He now serves as instructional technology coordinator for Mankato Area Public Schools in Mankato, Minnesota, where he is responsible for professional development planning and delivery, the braided alignment of district technology goals to the strategic roadmap, and addressing how this alignment impacts faculty, administration and support staff.
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