Last week at the Computer-Using Educators (CUE) Conference in Palm Springs I saw a ton of great presentations. This week I am excited to share what I learned during a great presentation called "Extreme Makeover: Web Site Edition" by Brent Coley, a 5th grade teacher in Murietta, California. Read on for ten great suggestions for making your Web site interactive, informative, and useful with FREE, easy-to-use apps!
In my district, we are supposed to create a class Web site on the district server. Most of the teachers at my school have not maintained their site, mostly because we are all busy, busy, busy. But if you are tech savvy and would like some pointers on how to make your Web site interactive, informative, and fun, then this post is for you! Special thanks to Brent Coley, who presented this information at CUE.
#10 Embed a Widget on Your Web Site
Widgets are embeddable items such as animated movies or images that change on their own, without a lot of upkeep from you. For instance, BrainPOP and BrainPOP Jr offer a Movie of the Day widget for FREE. The movie, which usually relates to a featured historical or current event, plays for a day or two and then changes. (They also have a joke widget, and I know my 2nd graders love a good joke.)
As another example, I have been using the book carousel widget from Amazon here when I recommend books. I choose the books and then just copy and paste the code into the HTML in my post. You don't have to know what the codes and wacky symbols and numbers mean in order to have it on your Web page or blog.
#9 Don't Have Too Much Going On
If you want a good laugh, visit the World's Worst Web Site. Are you guilty of any of the design faux pas mentioned on the site? Don't play annoying, repetitive music. Don't have too many animated items. There are some good helpful hints on the World's Worst Web Site. Go check it out.
#8 Display Students' Artwork and Pictures of Them
Kids and their parents love seeing their stuff published online. SimpleViewer is a free, easy-to-use Web app that will help you showcase their talents. You just click and drag the pictures into SimpleViewer, and it does all the work for you. Photo Peach, a similar application, allows you to add music, captions, transitions, and even a quiz slide show for free. It also provides a cool looking spiral display for photos. Both SimpleViewer and Photo Peach give you an embed code or a URL, allowing you to share the results on Twitter and Facebook.
#7 Student Clubs and Recognition
If a student wins an award, prize, or contest, then post their picture on your Web site and write a blurb about it. Mr. Coley presents student mastery awards. For example, students who have memorized all of their multiplication tables get their name on a list on the Web site.
#6 Add Audio
In addition to an audio greeting, Mr. Coley has two different kinds of podcasts. One of them is student generated and the other is teacher generated. Many free programs such as Audacity, AudioPal, Cinch, and GarageBand make recording an audio file a breeze. In Mr. Coley's podcast, StudyCast, he goes over the material that will be covered on upcoming tests. Students can download the podcasts and listen to them over and over again. In the student-created ColeyCast, the kids review the week and announce upcoming events.
#5 Web Polls
I use MicroPoll, but there are a ton of free, quick polls out there. With MicroPoll, it's fast to put together a quick one-question, yes/no poll or a multiple choice answer poll. It aggregates answers and also gives you an embed code. Other sites, like Poll Everywhere, allow users to text answers on their cell phones and then graphs the answers!
#4 Add a Video or an Animation
I used Animoto and Blabberize when setting up my class Web site this year. For instance, I loved posting a room tour before school started in September. I also posted a cute Blabber introducing myself to prospective students and parents. (Blabberize takes a photo and allows you to animate the mouth and record a message, to create a "Blabber.")
In addition to a teacher greeting and classroom tour, try some math reteaching with Mathtrain, TeacherTube, Mathademics, and Khan Academy. They have wonderful math lessons that help teach whatever you are working on in another way. It's great for reteaching and reviewing, and also helps parents understand what you're working on in class.
#3 Post Project Directions, Homework Information, and Class Policies
Make your Web site a great reference tool for parents and students. Kids often lose or misplace project directions, and when they are posted online, they are easy to find.
Kids love seeing their names on the Web site, even in a Wordle or Tagxedo word cloud. They are easy to make and embed. To the left you can see the one I made with the names of the kids in my class. Mr. Coley has one like it on his Web site. You can choose how the words are oriented, the color theme, and the shape. I chose a star shape. This would make an awesome graphic for class stationery or a shirt.
#1 Daily Blog
The daily blog could be written by students to review what you did in class that day. You could have several students blogging throughout the week about what they are learning.
Well I hope that you found some fresh ways to make over your classroom Web site. Next week, Mr. Coley is guest blogging, so come back to read his words of wisdom!