Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why should I have a web presence for my classroom?

I believe teachers, principals, and administrators should have a "web presence" - a place on the web where you put information for your district patrons, fellow staff members, or students. Some of you may be asking, "Why?" or thinking, "If only I had time!" Ed Tech Specialist Denise Hogan explains the importance:

"In a world where people can bank, order groceries, shop for a home, instant messenger friends around the world, and see exhibits from the Louvre online - I can understand why parents are coming to expect more information about their child's progress online. Even more importantly, our students live in an ever growing 'cyber-based world.'  The rich, interactive and authentic web sites that are out there, make us, as teachers, criminal if we don't get our students on them in meaningful ways."

When designing a web site, you must consider your audience. For a teacher, the audience will mostly likely be students and parents. For a principal, it will most likely be parents. For a counselor, it may be graduating seniors. The list goes on. Secondly, what will you put on your page? The idea is to publish information in a way that helps your day to day tasks. As a teacher, publishing your daily assingments on a web site eliminates the student excuse that they didn’t realize it was due (even though you had it written on the board for the last two weeks). Some parents have no idea an assignment was due, and that you assigned it two weeks ago.  

A teacher web page can also carry valuable information about instruction for students. I personally know of teachers who use SMARTBoards, Mimios, and eInstruction software (Clickers) to save information to pdf's from their whiteboards and link that to their web sites, especially in the area of math. These teachers can post on their sites not only lesson plans and assignments that are due, but also problems that were worked out together in class. If a student goes home and struggles with the homework, he or she can go to that teacher's web site and find the class notes from the day.

From a parent perspective, it would be great to know what my kids are doing in school. Yes, I can get their grades from PowerSchool, and yes, I can - and do - talk to them about what they are doing in school, but from a day to day point of view, I have little knowledge about what they are studying. If a web page was created for the class or classes they are taking, I could not only track their progress, but I could be more involved in what they are learning and ask them more specific questions. Young parents especially are used to referencing web pages. Before families move into your district, one of the first things they will do is look at your school web site. If teachers have a link from the district’s web page, parents can easily find information about your classroom.

Ultimately, as the web editor of your site, you will need to decide what to post on your page.  At the ESU, we have Manila that we use to host teacher-created web pages.  Some schools subscribe to a web site service like SOCS and allow each teacher space for a personal web page.  If you would rather create one on your own, there are services like Wordpress, Blogger, and Google sites that can easily get you up and running without much difficulty.

Here are some wonderful teacher-created web pages from teachers in our service area:


Friday, October 16, 2009

Where, oh where, has my desktop gone?

Google Docs, flickr, de.licio.usEduBlogs, Wikipedia: These are some of the most widely-used Web 2.0 tools on the Internet.  Gone are the days when my files were created, edited, and saved in one permanent location: my desktop computer.  Getting them from home to work (or vise-versa) relied on available peripheral hardware such as a flash drive.  And collaborating with others required using email attachments of a limited size.  The introduction of Web 2.0 tools has changed they way we create, organize, save and collaborate on our digital information. The Mac vs Windows ‘thing’ is not really that big of deal. If you rely on some of the tools mentioned above, then there is a good chance all of your documents for teaching and learning can be stored online. All that is needed is a browser that can get out to the Internet.

I recently read an article in which Microsoft has just released its web-based version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote. It is currently in testing, but look for it in the near future. Instead of running Word from your desktop, you'll be running it from the Internet, collaborating on documents with people from all over. In fact, that is how this article was originally published. I used Google docs to put it on the web, and then it was shared with my colleagues around the office for their editing. Another example of an education application that many people have used is Inspiration. Inspiration now has a web portal, called mywebspiration. You can get a free account and create the same things that Inspiration does without having it loaded onto your computer.

On many occasions I have been asked to present at some state conventions, like NETA. I lug my laptop, projector, and possibly extra electrical cords around so I can get everything ready to go before my presentation begins. With services mentioned above and my personal online dropbox, I can get my presentations from the Internet. I am even allowed to share files. Dropbox, with a free registration, gives you the ability to load files up to its servers. Upon registration, your dropbox is created, and you get 2 GB worth of storage for free. I refer to my dropbox as my free 2 GB virtual flash drive. I just upload my presentation files to my dropbox, and that allows me to have a backup in case my laptop decides to quit functioning. Dropbox even has a free application for your iPod touch that allows you to get your files on your iPod. It is a very nice tool to have in your web 2.0 tool box.

The future will tell for certain, but I would expect smaller, faster Internet-based machines, such as handhelds, to start gaining more popularity as applications become more and more web-based. Are you using some of the tools mentioned above? If not, climb on board the web 2.0 movement and start thinking about how you can incorporate some of these into your classroom. Comments are encouraged.