Web Design for Teachers

I will be giving a little class in web design for about 8 of our teachers and principals in a couple of weeks. Before we meet I am giving them this Planning Sheet to help prepare them. Once we get together I want to show them the difference between static sites, blogs, wikis, etc. We will look at free made-for-teachers options, free for the general public, paid hosting sites like Squarespace, and finally, the option of writing the stie themselves in Dreamweaver or Frontpage.

I will blog later about Part Two.


Part One – Planning

THESE ARE SOME QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF AS YOU PLAN YOUR SITE — Jot some notes on this planning sheet before we begin.

1. What is My Purpose in Making A Site . . . With Each Level of Complexity I Get More Benefits Yet More Time/Money/Learning Curves Are Involved.

a. Who Am I Trying to Reach or, Who Is My Audience?

i. Kids, Parents, Colleagues, Content Area Team, Grade Level Team, Cluster Members?
ii. Is it Just For Classroom News, Homework, etc.
iii. A Professional Site To Represent Me, Share Professional Resources, etc.

b. Classroom/Teaching/Learning Site for Kids to Pick Up Resources, Announcements, Files, Assignments, etc.?

c. A Blog (online journal/diary with entries posted most-recent-first)? With Comments Allowed or Disallowed?

d. Something Else? All of The Above?

2. How Much Time Do I Want To Spend Per Day or Week On Updating and Maintenance?

3. How Tech Savvy Am I About This or How Tech Savvy Do I Want to Become?

4. Do I Want It Hosted on D-11 / Mann’s Server or Somewhere Else?

5. Do I Have a Specific Color, Design, or Theme in Mind?

a. Do I Want a Simple, Clean Look or Something Fancier?

b. What Flavor/Mood/Impression Am I Aiming For in the Aesthetics of My Site?

6. Do I Want to Invite Participation by Students or Anyone Else? For example, others would also be writing, editing and commenting with you.

7. Will I Be Having Students Doing Any of the Updating / Maintenance?

8. Do I Want Security Features Like Logins and Passwords For Anyone Besides Myself?

9. Have I Made A Rough Site Map / Flow Chart / Outline of my Site’s Pages? Have I Decided Which Pages Should Be Linked? See below.*

10. Do I Want To Spend Any Money on My Site Name or Site Storage (Hosting)? Either way, Heather will be making a link on the Mann site that leads to your site.

11. Do I Want My Own Specific Address / My Own Domain Name? (www.Mr.Smith.com) or is a Sub-Domain Fine (www.Mr.Smith.teachersfirst.com)? What is that name? **

12. How Important Is It To Me That The Web Address Be Easy to Remember?



** DOMAIN NAMES: You Have 3 Choices:

1. You Can Register and Purchase A New Domain Name – pick your own (i.e. www.yourname.com or www.mannlancers.org, etc. You have to find out if the name is available, then pay a small fee to reserve it. I pay around $10 for mine.

2. You Can Use A Free Sub-Domain – get a custom sub-domain on someone else’s server via the service you pick (i.e. www.teachnology.yourname.com or www.mannlancers.schoolnotes.com ). This will happen automatically if you use one of the many free services on the web.

3. You Can Re-Direct A Domain Name You Already Have – Point the custom domain name you already own to a host server (i.e. I have pointed a couple of my domain names to a sub-domain on www.squarespace.com but you only have to type in www.2020nexus.org instead of www.2020nexus.squarespace.com ).

Site Maps Credits:

  1. http://pbil.univ-lyon1.fr/RTKdb/rtkdb_SiteMap.php
  2. http://www.uvsc.edu/disted/decourses/dgm/2740/IN/steinja/lessons/02/images/site_map_sketch.jpg
  3. http://www.soe.vt.edu/oero/images/oero_site_map.gif

Meta-Analysis Finds Blended Learning Is Effective

Is Anyone Surprised?

The U.S. Department of Education has released an analysis of former studies comparing online and face-to-face instruction, technology use in the classroom, using technology to monitor student data, and the like.

labTo summarize, the analysis re-affirmed the effectiveness of online learning and “blended learning,” which is teaching face-to-face which incorporates some elements of online learning. The best results seem to come from blended learning, but it’s interesting to note that if researchers compared purely face-to-face teaching with purely online teaching, the online students showed higher achievement.

US Secretary of Arne Duncan has some things to say about the results:

“This new report reinforces that effective teachers need to incorporate digital content into everyday classes and consider open-source learning management systems, which have proven cost effective in school districts and colleges nationwide,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “We must take advantage of this historic opportunity to use American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to bring broadband access and online learning to more communities.

“To avoid being caught short when stimulus money runs out, school officials should use the short-term federal funding to make immediate upgrades to technology to enhance classroom instruction and to improve the tracking of student data,” Duncan added. “Technology presents a huge opportunity that can be leveraged in rural communities and inner-city urban settings, particularly in subjects where there is a shortage of highly qualified teachers. At the same time, good teachers can utilize new technology to accelerate learning and provide extended learning opportunities for students.”

The press release stresses that most of the studies were performed at the college level and that there are few studies comparing online learning to classroom learning in the K-12 arena, so we should not be too quick to take the results of this meta-analysis as gospel.

Original Source: http://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2009/06/06262009.html

The full report can be found at http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/opepd/ppss/reports.html#edtech.

I’ve Got A Google Voice Number!

Now the question is: how shall I best use it?

Google Voice

Google Voice

The purpose of Google Voice is to have one phone number to give others — I don’t have to decide whether to give out my private land line (I don’t have one), one of my cells, or my classroom number–or all of them, if I really, really needed to be reachable. (No, thank you.) However, the privacy of my Google Voice options is what appeals to me most. I don’t have to give anyone my direct numbers if I don’t feel it’s wise.

When I call from my Google number I can do it from any phone or from my computer.  I can hold a conference call, switch calls, and/or record the calls (this is only legal if I notify the other party).

When someone dials my Google Voice number they can speak with me, leave a voicemail, or send me a text message.  I can, in turn, program my Google number to ring anywhere I want it to.  I can even use custom ringing. For instance, when a contact calls my Google Voice:

  1. I can have it ring on all my phones at once.
  2. I can have certain contact’s numbers ring on only one of my phones.
  3. I can have certain numbers always go to voice mail.
  4. I can make it screen my calls.
  5. I can listen in on messages as they are being left.
  6. I can block calls, place calls, forward calls, and more.

One of the best parts is the way I can get my messages.

  1. I can listen to voice mails from any phone I want.
  2. I can use my mobile phone’s browser to check my In Box.
  3. I can get email or text notifications of my voice mails.
  4. I can listen to them online.
  5. I can send them onward to someone else or another of my own numbers.
  6. I can even get them in written words; Google Voice uses speech-to-text.

Now if I move schools, mobile providers, etc. I don’t have to change my phone number.  (This is the same reason I use a post office box instead of giving my street address to strangers or very important senders.)

And did I mention that this is all free?  If you live in the US (sorry, my international friends!) you can get a Google Voice number by invitation only, as the service is still technically in Beta.  Here’s how. Go to this site and fill in the form. In a week or two you’ll get a message from Google inviting you to pick a number.  You can search for personalized numbers or take a random number.  You can search by location or zip code to see which numbers are available.  I didn’t want to have a random number; I had several pre-chosen that I was hoping to get because I wanted something that reflected my personality and was very easy to remember, like my name or nickname.  Unfortunately, my first ten choices or so were already taken. So I settled on 7122NoFear.

Google Voice looks to be pretty amazing. Right now I doubt I’ll even need or use its full capabilities but I’m very excited about the potential.  I am already giving that number to my students, their parents, and visitors to my web sites, wikis, and blogs. I haven’t felt the need to give it to family and friends yet but it would be a good idea to do that soon or before I am faced with changing phone companies.

It will take some more reflection before I decide how else I can use this amazing service to its best advantage. I can see many advantages for business people yet I want to think through how educators can extract the most benefits.

What would you do if you had a Google Voice number?