One of my summer must-dos is to revamp and set up my teacher website. I have used Weebly.com in the past and it has worked well. My students always enjoyed it and it met my three requirements below. However, this year, because I am trying to go more techy, there are limitations to what I can do on Weebly without paying for it and it can get frustrating. I always have a few requirements for my websites:
- It must be free (teacher salary).
- It can’t be blocked at my school.
- It must look modern.
So lets look at how this is weeds out most of my options.
1. Any paid sites with cool modern set-ups and endless possibilities are out.
2. All blogs like wordpress, blogger, and tumblr or sites like facebook or twitter are out because they are blocked. They also make me nervous because a lot of my students already have accounts and most are not appropriate for school.
3. Now here’s where things get particular. I am a super snob when it comes to the appearance of my website. My philosophy is that the better it looks, the more students will be excited to use it and take it seriously. Now, i know, appearances aren’t everything, but I also know that in my personal life I judge businesses on their websites. If you have an outdated website for your salon that doesn’t look slick, I’m not going to your salon. Period. If your salon doesn’t have a website, there wasn’t even a chance I was coming to you. The way I see it, is that if you’re not investing time into becoming accessible in the digital age and you’re not constantly trying to improve your reach to your customers, then I don’t want to go to you.
I think the same is true in my classroom. If I am not trying to constantly improve the engagement of my client base (students), then I’m out of touch. So, with that in mind, sites like wikispaces and moodle are out (don’t get me wrong you can do amazing things with these sites, I just can’t get over how 2005 they look). Also, googlesites, although it would be perfect because we have the Google Apps for Education at my school, is just too ugly for me to bear.
So, after much obvious deliberation, I have decided to go with a free LMS (learning management system) called Schoology.com. Why I love it:
- You basically have an online classroom that is perfect for blended learning.
- It looks and functions like facebook.
- The platform is relatively easy-to-understand if you have a basic understanding of social media.
- Kids sign up for your classes and consistently receive updates.
- It connects with so much (googledrive, googlecalendar, powerschool, remind101)
- You can easily share documents, videos, links and you can post them to one or all of you classes/sections.
- You can write posts, assignments, discussion boards, tests, and quizzes, and it all posts to a shared calendar automatically.
- All upcoming assignments pop up in your feed as well as the students’.
- It is safe and private. Students create accounts and then parents get a code to log into their child’s platform.
- If multiple teachers in the school use it, the kids can manage all their classes in one platform.
In short, it’s fantastic. I highly recommend using this free LMS in your classroom. I have a feeling it will just get more and more amazing.