Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Not Just a Class Webpage: A Virtual Community

Our blogger today is Alissa Smith, a virtual kindergarten teacher with Hoosier Academy.

Using Weebly to its full potential:

Today many teachers have a class webpage; my personal site host is Weebly. I have blogged numerous times promoting its benefits and basic webpage building skills. Of course, what I love about the site the most is that it is free and simple to use.

But how do we take our class webpages to the next level? I have always told myself if I put time into a project, I am going to make it worth my while. It is not enough to just have a class webpage sitting out there for families, you have to own your class webpage. Make it a quality virtual community for your students and their families. In fact, after making this shift, I frequent my own webpage for information!

Think about it: what makes you revisit a website? Make a quick list.

My list was:
  • Frequently updated 
  • Quality information 
  • Easy to navigate 
  • Links, links, links 
There it was -- a paradigm shift in my class webpage. I changed my newsletters to a blog format so I always post new information there and I started posting a bulletin board with student work and projects. Also, I have shared student pictures as a class yearbook (with permission of course), parent tutorials, and I linked it up to every site I could think of -- the school site, the kindergarten team page (which linked families to each teacher on my team’s site), the school website, and resources, resources, resources. No matter where people wandered off to on my site, I wanted them to be able to get back to where they started, be it my home page, the K Team Page or the school’s website.

I also strive to make my webpage interactive. I have created a blog for my dog: Cappie’s Corner (the inspiration for my teaching blog). My students write Cappie letters, get letters from him to teach little life lessons, and he always responds. For older students, I suggest posting writing prompts and asking them to reply in the comments or create message boards. However, my favorite accomplishment of the year, my parent tutorial, had my families sharing tips and advice with each other. I switched my bulletin board page to a blog format, so that families could leave comments and praise and I always browse my co-workers' sites. I find wonderful ideas and inspiration from others in the virtual community, just as I would in a school building.

I may not be an expert web designer, but I did not realize how proud I was of my class website until I accidentally deleted it making the tutorials (below). Thankfully, I went through all the stages of grief and Weebly was able to restore it for me. I am always looking for new ideas, so be certain to share yours in the comments. Lastly, when all else fails, post a poll on your Weebly asking families for feedback and what they would like to see -- my best ideas for improvement came from my families!


Using Weebly for your Class Webpage:

Virtual Newsletters:

Creating Team Webpages:

The Challenge:

Start your class webpage and/or apply one new improvement each week. Don’t forget to share your best practices with others--you owe it to your past self when you were new to everything!

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