District and school websites are ubiquitous, particularly in view of the reporting requirements on student achievement. For example, in California, a law was passed that dictates the type and quality of achievement data that must be reported and most districts report this via website. This is nice, but how are districts, schools, and teachers using websites for instructional purposes? In this post I will present two websites in some detail, but at the end of this post is a list of several websites that may be used as resources for your planning.
Mrs. Renz, Redmond, Oregon
Mrs. Heather Renz of Redmond, Oregon, has had a website since 2000. If you link to http://www.mrsrenz.net/ you will arrive at the home page for her fourth-grade classroom. On this home page, you can see choices of links for students, parents, and other teachers. You can also meet Mrs. Renz and find out about her 31 years of teaching, a little about her life, and her interest in establishing a website. There is also a list of awards that Mrs. Renz has won for her teaching, including Disney Teacher of the Year honoree for 2006 and Microsoft Innovator 2005.
Under links for students, one finds math website links, past classroom projects, pen pal project, class creed and a host of other topics to link to. On the “Stars Page” students can access both literacy and math puzzles and games. Under “Alex and Pearl’s Page” students can find science, math, and reading and listening sites to visit. Example of a science link: Trees are Terrific—a Movie (it is really an audio-enhanced slide show, which is new to the site. Travel with Pierre is a series produced by University of Illinois Extension, from their Urban Programs Resource Network.
Under the parents’ link, one finds information for parents, the classroom schedule, each child’s classroom projects and photos, tonight’s homework, field trip schedules, and other information useful to parents. There’s also links to the teaching team and awards Mrs. Renz has won. There is also an Open House handout and slides from previous Open Houses. There’s a place to contact Mrs. Renz.
Under the teachers’ link, there are a number of resources that teachers will find useful. With Mrs. Renz’ permission, I’ve made a screen shot of the teacher’s page for our information. She is incredibly generous in sharing her resources!
Mr. Coley, Murrieta, California
As we have seen, one of the uses of a class website is to share with parents what students are learning about. Instead of the teacher updating the website, students can be regular contributors, by asking students to write about what they are learning on a daily basis. Mr. Coley’s fifth-grade website exemplifies this (http://www.mrcoley.com/blog/index.htm).
Mr. Coley’s website differs from Mrs. Renz’ website in more than just the organization. There are many departments in the website and many of these feature student postings (http://www.mrcoley.com/blog/index.htm). Each day, a student in Mr. Coley’s classroom is assigned to be a “Roving Reporter” who writes a piece about what takes place in class on that day. The student may use a computer at home or one of the word processors in the classroom. Students word process the article and turn them in to Mr. Coley in several ways (email, CD, etc.). Students thus get an opportunity to write using technology and the teacher uploads them to The Daily Blog.
With Mr. Coley’s permission we include examples of the blog for May 13, 2011.
There is also a Book Blog on Mr. Coley’s site, a place where students can review and recommend Accelerated Reader and Literature Circle books that they are reading. Students log in to Kidblog.org to write a short post about the book. Kidblog.org is a free site designed especially for students by teachers. Teachers have administrative control over student blogs and student accounts when they set up a classroom site. The site is password protected for the students and only viewable by the teacher and classmates and no student email addresses are required. The site states that no person information from either the teacher or the students is collected and that comment privacy settings block unsolicited comments from outside sources. On Andrea’s blogsite the May 10, 2011 post is on The Secret Garden and a week later there are three student comments posted in response.
A productive use of multimedia that requires students to grapple with new ideas and content is to use podcasting for student presentations. A podcast is a digital recording that can be shared over the Internet, and there are many online resources for creating and sharing podcasts Audio podcasts, usually MP3 files, are easiest to implement in your classroom, even if there is only one computer. Mr. Coley’s classroom website hosts the ColeyCast section, where audio podcasts are posted. We believe that audio podcasting is also composing, because planning and writing must be done to make the audio podcast. At the time of this writing, there are 52 ColeyCasts posted on the classroom website with everything from parts of speech to Amazing America (fascinating facts about the 50 states). You can listen to the podcasts on the website or subscribe to them on iTunes. If you would like to listen to some of the ColeyCasts, please visit the website at http://www.mrcoley.com/coleycast/index.htm.
Like Mrs. Renz, Mr. Coley posts information about himself, the class, and specific information for parents. Mr. Coley also hosts his own blog.
Both of our featured teachers will tell you that establishing and maintaining a website is astonishingly challenging, but both teachers will also speak about their passion for teaching and learning. If we want to teach our students how to cope with 21st century technologies, then we need to lead by example. What are your thoughts and experiences with classroom websites or other technologies used in your classroom?
http://sites.google.com/site/educ436537/home/teacher-websites is hosted by Pacific University in Oregon and provides a great deal of information about setting up a website, including examples and discussion on the topic
http://webschoolpro.com/ A free site to make a website with examples posted.
http://www.education.ky.gov/KDE/About%20Schools%20and%20Districts/Kentuckys%20Schools%20and%20Districts/High%20School%20Web%20Sites.htm This website is hosted by the Kentucky Department of Education and shows various high school websites
http://www.ccsd.net/schools/schoolWebsites.php is hosted by Clark County Nevada School District and is a searchable site for teacher/school websites
http://www.sitesforteachers.com/ provides a list of popular websites to link to.
http://newyorkscienceteacher.com/sci/pages/teacher-sites.php Great resources in science for your website
http://www.readwritethink.org/ and companion Thinkfinity.org are sites for literacy and technology.
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