Saturday, 23 August 2014

Creating a Class Website Part 1 - Developing a Template

At the end of last year, I was asked to work with another colleague from the East Campus and an early years teacher on a new website design for classroom teachers by our education technology department. Little did I know at the time how this would have the impact that it did.

Off we went in a Google Document writing about what was working, what went well and what could be changed. The ability to collaborate across the city without having to meet in person constantly really allowed us to maximize our time and focus on the task at hand. It was very easy to see trends across and within campus but also places where what we wanted as teachers were different.

While my opinion of what I wanted to see in a website was able to shared, I felt that my site impacted a lot more people than just me. It was important that I asked others who would be using the site for their thoughts as well. I created a Google Form and sent it to both the parents and students from my class to get their feedback. Ultimately, everyone said it was most important for it to be simple, user-friendly and updated regularly. There were things like a calendar tab that parents didn't use but yet knowing the dates of events was still important. My students felt the class resource section was the best part of their site so they could refer to it often. This information became very valuable in tweaking the sites as we progressed.

Our team of three decided to sit down and draw up what we felt would be the best design and easiest for parents, students and teachers. We decided to keep the tabs to a minimum and focus on teachers regularly doing a few things really well than many things on a site in a mediocre manner.

We met with the education technology team who would bring it to life. Of course there were a few things that weren't possible but for the most part, the design became what we wanted. The layout started to take form. We focused on having pages for home, important information, media, classroom resources and homework. My favourite part is and has always been the classroom resource section as it provides students with the support they need both in and out of the classroom in a fun and enjoyable way.

It's hard to find a one fit model to meet the needs of all teachers, students and parents. However, providing a framework of expectations allows teachers to know what to focus on and then those teachers who want to adapt to fit their needs can do so. Just like we can't teach every child the same, we can't expect every teacher to use the same template in the same way. But it is a starting point which allows for consistency and helps those that are not sure where to begin.

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