Feeling overwhelmed? Here’s how you can streamline your communication and reduce stress with a simple (but effective!) site.
Newsflash: It’s 2016. Extending and representing your classroom on the web is more of a must than an option, at this point. Learners, colleagues, administration, parents, you name it — they’re expecting to find a certain presence online from you.
Explore any district or campus site, and it’s easy to put your mouse-clicking finger right on the teachers who have put some thought into designing their pages, those who are simply fulfilling their admin’s requirements and, well, those of us who have arrived in November and plan on, well, getting around to it at some point.
Where do you stand? Maybe you’ve got it all together and are running an award-worthy page, but you dread how much time and energy it’s leeching from your schedule. Or maybe yours remains a barebones wasteland because the idea of navigating technology gives you hives. Or maybe you’re looking at it as one more hoop to jump through.
Wherever you are on that spectrum, welcome. This is a judgment-free zone, and we have some tips to maximize your class website because — repeat after me — having a dynamic and user-friendly website does not have to be time consuming, and it does not have to be a hassle.
1. Set a foundation.
First off, does your campus have a designated platform for teacher websites, or is it up to you to select one? From Blackboard to Weebly, there are a lot of choices out there. Many are free and offer very user-friendly templates. Explore, browse, and chat up your web-by teacher friends to decide where to build your space. Wherever you land, you will need to play around with the site to get a feel for it. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, enlist a tech-savvy friend to show you the ropes.
2. Focus on the goal.
What’s the point in having a well-designed website? Simple: enhanced communication with students and parents. With so many of our parents and learners carrying the internet around in their pockets, a teacher’s website gives easy access to key information. Decide what information is most important. A good starting point may be what you’re constantly being asked for and repeating yourself in class, meetings, and emails. Here are some basics:
- Class calendar with important due dates, conference days, and school holidays. Advanced step: weekly themes and assignments.
- Class rules and policies. Advanced step: your classroom’s mission statement, tips for student success, and links to your syllabus.
- Contact info. How to contact you and the best times to do so. Advanced step: your class schedule, lunch time, and regular “office hours” when students can come see you for extra help.
- “About the Teacher.” Keep it all business and focus on your academic background only, or spice it up with your interests, accomplishments, and a few fun facts.
- Outside links to state and/or national curriculum standards. Advanced step: outside links to log in to an online gradebook or student portal, as well as helpful educational sites and resources.
3. Quality over quantity.
Prioritize what information you’d like to share, and share it well. Students and parents are frustrated by sites that lack professionalism — think typos and grammatical errors, links that don’t work, disorganization, and gaps in consistency (i.e. you offer a calendar or updates one week, but not the next). Hold yourself to the same high standards you expect from your learners. Time saver: Ask a volunteer colleague, parent, or older student to proof your site and recommend changes.
4. Save time and energy.
A class website should ultimately serve the teacher.
- Make a weekly reservation for you and your computer to update your site. Stick to that appointment. It doesn’t need to be long! After the initial launch, 10 to 20 minutes should easily do the trick.
- Make your site a destination that saves class time and keeps you from repeating yourself and making extra copies. Upload homework and project directions and worksheets on your page and direct students who lost theirs to read or reprint. Accountability increases drastically when deadlines, directions, and assignments are a click away.
- Got capable students? Have them take turns updating your site with classroom news, photos, and reminders.
- Take additional techy shortcuts by embedding QR codes, YouTube videos, calendars, and feeds for Remind, Twitter, or Instagram accounts — to name a few.
Designing a space to serve as a direct contact line between you, your learners, and their families is incredibly powerful. With a few deliberate tweaks to your current website game plan, you can streamline your class, improve communication, and save yourself some time and stress.
Are you looking to enhance your website, but need a little assistance? Register now for Camp Plug and Play 12.0, which has a Making Marvelous Websites strand.