September 09, 2014

3 Tips for Deciding if You Need a Class Website

Everyone is building these pretty class websites.
Do I need to have a class website too??? 

It's a valid question, because websites take time and your time is the MOST valuable thing you have as well as the thing you're most short on. This whole website business can go either way; it can be a drain on your time and psyche -OR- it can be an invaluable resource that actually saves you energy, effort and time in the bigger picture.

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself BEFORE you expend the effort to build the dream!
And really, it's just this ONE question you need to ask.

 1. Will Parents use it:

  • To access important forms, information, and schedules
  • To get to know you and your classroom
  • To interact with one another through comments, etc

 2. Will Students use it:

  • To access homework links and/or worksheets
  • To find out schedule information
  • To showcase their work and interact with an authentic audience about that work (parent/student comments)

  3. Will YOU use it:

  • To post / store important documents and links that your families need
  • To organize class projects and links
  • To keep the class calendar updated and accessible
  • To showcase your student work and classroom activities. 
Look twice at this last one,  because the most important element is YOU.

If you will use your website as a central gathering place for information and interactions with families, then your parents and students will use it. But if you will not be updating and posting the important things regularly and reliably, then your website will NOT get used and you'll be wasting your precious time building it!

 So-- you've thought about it and decided that you really DO want to try having a website (or your school is requiring you to), but you really don't want it to be a wasted effort.

 Here are some ways to make sure your Website is worth your time: (ie. gets used by you and them)
  1. Don't email class news to your families. Post it to the website instead and email them a link to the post! -Keep a calendar on the website and ALWAYS keep the calendar up to date. Refer to the online calendar often in conversations with students and families.-Post your forms (permission slips, reading logs, etc) on the website. Refer to their location whenever you mention them and link to them in emails. Other things that will help:
  2. Parent Tech helper: have a parent whose job it is to keep an eye on your website and alert you if any of your information is outdated or links don't work. You can also give this parent permission to post updates, pictures, editorials about your class if you wish
  3. Student Tech helper: (either in place of or along with the parent helper) who writes weekly updates for your class and posts calendar items or links to homework, etc. when necessary. (This is not just another classroom job. It is a critical part of the writing/communicating skills you are teaching them. Taking the time to set student(s) up with this sort of responsibility and practice will pay dividends for you and them!)
  4. Post Pictures: It's like the music in your favorite movies...without the music, the scene is dead, but with it your emotions turn on and you're engaged. So it is with pics on your website (and the younger the student, the more important this is). People will come back again and again to see what their kids are up to in class. And while they're their, they'll probably glean some valuable information you've been trying to communicate. Use Pictures like they're candy!
The payoff on your classroom website will come gradually over time, but you will have moments of brilliant success that will make you wonder how you got by without it 
--like when you forget to send the permission slip home, but every student shows up with one anyway because it was on the website! 
--Or like when a struggling writer gets positive feedback on his classroom post and wants to write again next week!

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