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Gee Whiz!
Great Site-Building Advice
From 'Web Wizards'

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Is this the year you're finally going to create your classroom Web site? Have you been admiring other teachers' home pages and wondering how they make it look so easy? Do you wonder why some sites are naturally appealing and others are simply overwhelming? To help those of you who are ready to add an online component to their classrooms this fall but are new to Web site creation, Education World turned to its panel of 'Web Wizards.' These educator-Webmasters have "been there and done that" -- and share their best tips for Web site success! Included: Tips to help you create and maintain an attractive and effective Web site!

As educators begin a new school year, many are eager to establish an online presence for their classrooms -- to show off student work, share class news, and keep in touch with parents and other members of the community. The only question they have is where to begin! Each week, in its Web Wizard feature, Education World tells the story of an educator-Webmaster who has created an exemplary Web site. Recently, we asked several of those experts to share their best hints for Web site construction with newbies who are getting ready to build their own classroom sites.

TIPS FROM THE EDUCATION WORLD 'WEB WIZARDS'

Look Before You Leap
"Begin by looking at lots and lots of other class and school Web sites," recommends Judy Carter. "Notice what you like and what you dislike about them. I find a free bookmarking service such as iKeepBookmarks.com very helpful. Having 'mobile' bookmarks saves so much time and helps you to be organized with your searching efforts."

Carter, who teaches second grade at Eastanollee Elementary School in Stephens County, Georgia, adds, "Focus on the fun and rewards, and never allow yourself to see "webbing" as a chore."

Have a Plan

More Advice from the 'Web Wizards'

* Create a map of your site design on paper. Use an outline or a storyboard of key elements. Write out your scavenger hunts, WebQuests, and other features.

* Develop a good working knowledge of the Internet -- its interconnectivity, how to maneuver through it, how you as an individual can fit into it, what's out there, what you can and cannot do with it, and so on.

* Set an example of being sensitive to copyright laws. Any photographs, Web graphics, and so on that you post on the Web should be in compliance with current copyright policies.

* Don't leave site maintenance for a rainy day. It can be an overwhelming task! Check links and make sure everything is up to date on a regular basis.

* Promote your site. Visitors won't come unless you tell them about it!

"Don't create a Web site just because others have one," advises Angela Ackley. "Have a real purpose and reason for doing it, and stick to that purpose. Don't try to do too much! Take it step by step and learn to do and handle one area very well before moving on."

Ackley, who teaches sixth grade at Sts. John and Paul Catholic School in Ashtabula, Ohio, has found that maintaining The Teacher's Desk with an eye toward its goals is her greatest challenge.

"In the early years, I used to try to update every week," she explains. "I drove myself wild! It was too much. Now I plan updates around my vacations and breaks, and I've gone back to my original purpose for having a Web site -- a repository for lesson ideas for teachers of grades five and six."

Keep It Simple
"Remember that many people still use dial up modems that can be considerably slow," suggests Susan Silverman. "Keep graphics down to a minimum and watch the size. Make sure the text is readable and not overpowered by the background."

An instructional technology teacher for the Comsewogue School District in Long Island, New York, Silverman says that accommodating various Internet browsers can be a struggle. As Webmaster of Mrs. Silverman's Webfolio, she views the scripts (fonts) she chooses through Netscape and Microsoft Internet Explorer to be sure they work well in all versions.

Ray Saitz echoes Silverman's theme of simplicity. "Try to design an attractive, but simple, site that anyone can use, regardless of modem speed or computer type," says Saitz, a teacher-librarian and facilitator of educational technology at Clarke High School in Newcastle, Ontario. "You have an international audience; don't assume they all use the most-advanced computers and cable modems. If you put sounds or special effects on the site, set a button so visitors can turn them off."

Content Is Key
"Make sure your Web site has value to visitors. Keep it simple. Don't get carried away with fussy design and razzmatazz!" says Bernie Poole, an associate professor of education and instructional technology. "Pay attention to detail -- layout, spelling, grammar."

Poole's The EdIndex contains nearly 500 pages. He enlists his students at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, to help him maintain the resource.

"Your Web site is you," Poole continues. "Present yourself to the world as an educated, cultured individual."

Ask for Help
"If you're using software, keep your user manual handy; it will become your best friend as you build your site," offers Carla Beard, Webmaster of Web English Teacher. "Don't hesitate to ask people for help. No one knows everything about writing Web sites, and everyone remembers what it was like to be a beginner. "

Beard believes that teachers who embark on new learning experiences, such as Web page creation, reconnect with the experience of learning in new ways and ultimately relate more effectively to their students.

"Creating your own Web page is a wonderful way to remember what it's like to learn new things -- the joys and the frustrations," she says. "You may become a better teacher because you are also returning to your role as learner. Understand that you will probably have to learn a little HTML code along the way too!"

Be Persistent
"Keep practicing your Web design skills. Diversify your skills to include different editing programs and graphics programs. Keep looking for opportunities to use those skills to share ideas with other teachers. Keep thinking about ways to integrate the Web with instruction," advises George Cassutto of Mr. Cassutto's Cyberlearning-world.com.

Cassutto's students at Sterling Middle School in Sterling, Virginia, have published their work for a global audience, received feedback from sources from all over the world, and shared their interests in the form of their own Web sites.

"If you run a K-12 Web site, remember your mission: to promote knowledge and learning through the sharing of student work," Cassutto explains. "If you can stay with that goal, your Web site will become a resource for students and teachers on a global scale. Oh, and have fun!"


 

Article by Cara Bafile
Education World®
Copyright © Education World

Updated 07/21/2010