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ED-u-rate30-Minute Websites Reviews

30-Minute Websites for Teachers, from Online Solutions for Teachers, is a Web-based tool that gives educators -- with no knowledge of HTML or Web page design -- an easy way to create and maintain their own Web sites. Included: Teacher comments about the software.

Recently, Education World asked our reviewers, all teachers or educational technology specialists, to check out 30-Minute Websites for Teachers , using it in their classrooms and in their professional and personal lives. Reviewers were asked to use 30-Minute Websites for a period of at least one month, note specific strengths, weaknesses, and/or quirks of the program, record their personal observations -- both positive and negative -- and rate various qualities of the software on a scale of 0-4.

The results are in -- and this is what our reviewers had to say!

Click here to see educators' reviews of other products including Kidspiration, Timeliner, Graph Master, Adobe Photoshop, NetSupport School, NetOpSchool, FlashMaster, the Pasco Science Probe, and more!

OVERALL COMMENTS

Detailed ED-u-rate chart

I would definitely use this product to create a course Web site. I also would like to have both my undergraduate and graduate students work with this program so they have the experience of creating a class Web site. A Web site is an excellent communication tool!

Likes:

  • hit counter option.
  • quick loading.
  • reference page: included a hyperlink to the Web site and a brief description of the site's content.
  • calendar page: a description of each event also could be accessed.
  • the preview option.
  • photo optimization.
  • ability to create WebQuests.

Wished It Had:

  • holiday specific clip art on the calendar page.
  • more home page template options.
  • a clip art collection

In spite of some bugs, I thought that, overall, this was an excellent program. It's easy to use and allows the teacher to be somewhat creative about color, fonts, and so on. I also thought that it was a lot fun to use.

If I were in the classroom, I'd definitely want to use a program like this to communicate with my students and their parents. I would love to have access to this program in the teaching lab at the university where I work!

I strongly feel the name of the site, 30-Minute Websites for Teachers, should be changed to 30-Minute Websites for Educators. This is definitely not a site where Web sites will only be used or created by teachers, but instead by the entire professional staff. The templates offered are geared to administrators and specialists as well as to teachers.

My new Web site made it through our filter/blocking software; that is a definite plus! Free homepage sites such as Geocities are blocked by the filter (BESS). Creating a Web site on Geocities would be a waste of time if I wanted my teachers or students to access it from school.

There should be a way to include a revision date so students/parents/teachers know when the information was last updated.

The documentation does give the information needed to create a Web site. However, if a school district or an individual school wanted to give their educators an opportunity to design their own Web sites, a training session probably would be beneficial. All educators have differing computer abilities and, like our students, different learning styles.

After I completed a basic Web page (I do plan to add more information to my site), I used a Web site evaluation tool that I use with my students to evaluate Web sites. I tried to remain very objective as I worked through the evaluation, but I must say I am rather impressed with the evaluation. I feel anyone using this Web site to create his/her own Web page is only limited by his/her creativity and of course, by time. Thirty minutes is not quite enough time to get a Web page completed! Maybe the "30 Minutes" in the title of the site refers instead to the fact that, after working for only 30 minutes, the developer will be amazed at what he/she has accomplished!

As a library/media specialist, I've always wanted a homepage/Web site, where I could feature activities associated with my library and where I could centrally locate links/URL's being used in classroom activities. 30-Minute Websites for Teachers gave me the opportunity to create such a site. I view my Web site as a work in progress. I have included links for projects for several teachers, but I plan to add many more. This Web site also will give me the opportunity to share other Web sites that I think will be useful to my teachers.

This school year, my high school started a "Stop and Read" program for our students. I have posted links for accessing reading lists that students can use as selection aids.

This Web site truly can be a "one stop shop" for students and teachers.

I would purchase a subscription to this Web site and definitely recommend it for a school or district to purchase. This is definitely a very good product that gives educators an opportunity to develop a Web page. I feel the overall quality of my Web page is a reflection of the ease with which an educator can develop a Web page using the 30-Minute Websites for Teachers program.

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USABILITY COMMENTS

It was easy to access the Web site, although the Web address seems quite long, and could be hard to remember.

Logging in the first time and changing the password was easy.

Excellent documentation! I printed the Quick Start Guide for Teachers and used it as I worked on the Web site. The 30-Minute Websites manual was excellent. It was easy to read and thoroughly covered all aspects of the program. I think most teachers would have no problem working with this program. The computer skills necessary are appropriate for the targeted users and could be taught in a short workshop session. Because it is Internet accessed, the use of this program does not interfere with normal computer operations.

Users with minimal computer skills should be successful creating a Web site with this tool. "Point and click" takes you where you want to go. Links are well labeled. Links for all pages within the site are available on each page. "Edit" and "delete" buttons included in each section are very useful to the developer of the Web site. The pop-up message that appears when deleting... "Are you sure you want to delete this entry?"... is a good protective measure.

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PERFORMANCE COMMENTS

I worked with this program on a Macintosh G4 computer because many of the elementary schools I work with have Macintosh computers. I have Netscape 6.2.3 and Internet Explorer 5.2 installed on my computer. According to the manual, this program supports Internet Explorer and Netscape 5.0 or higher for the Mac. When I was accessing the program through Internet Explorer, however, I could enter text in the title box, but not in the content box. When I tried to delete text, I would get kicked back to the Web page. I tried copying text and entering it. That didn't work either. There were formatting tools, but they were useless, because I couldn't enter any text. I also tried inserting a photograph and clip art and that didn't work. When I accessed the program through Netscape, I could enter text, but there were no formatting tools or option to view text in html format. On the Classes and Assignments page, the text was in html format.

I accessed this Web site on different computers, MAC and PC, running different browsers. I found no problems using Internet Explorer for MAC 5.2 nor did I have any problems when using PC's running IE 6.0 or Netscape 7.0.

I added clip art and a picture to my site and they were very easy to load. The number of images you can add to your site is limited, but I view that as a positive feature. Too often novice Web designers get too involved with the "cutesy" elements of a Web site, rather than focusing on the content. Too much glitz and glitter can detract from the real purpose of a classroom Web site.

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USEFULNESS COMMENTS

The strength of this program is that it is easy to use. A teacher would be able to create an attractive class Web site in a short amount of time. It also would be very easy to keep it updated.

30-Minute Websites for Teachers provides educators with an outstanding opportunity to create a personal Web page that they can design to meet their own needs. Classroom teachers can post assignments and activities, as well as utilize the calendar to post due dates. Teachers also can post news of their class activities. A teacher's Web page is a great public relations tool to use to inform not only the parents but also the community of what is happening in our schools.

As a high school library/media specialist, I created my homepage with information for students as well as for teachers. I included links that teachers want their students to use as part of class projects. I also included links to booklists available on the Web and to MLA guidelines that I know my students need to complete research projects. I also provided my teachers with links to Web sites they can use to find lesson plans, projects, and activities. Having all that information available on one Web page will save me, my teachers, and our students valuable time.

The Web page available through Online Solutions for Teachers gives the Web page developer the opportunity to change the homepage template based on his/her position within the school. For example, there are templates for elementary, middle school, and high school teachers. There also are templates for administrators and specialists. In addition to the templates, the developer can change the colors of the font, links, and so on. That allows the developer to personalize/customize the Web page instead of creating a "one size fits all" site.

You are constrained by the templates as to where you can place your information. The template comes with three columns that cannot be changed or modified. Although pictures and clip art can be added, there is no option to import sound or video. That is not necessarily a negative, however. If your district's goal is to give educators a place to create a Web page to support/enrich their curriculum and showcase their class activities without the burden of training them in html or Web page design, then 30-Minute Websites for Teachers certainly delivers.

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SUPPORT COMMENTS

Lots of support is provided, which is another plus for this program. The 30-Minute Websites for Teachers FAQ is very useful. It contains a lot of information in an easy-to-read-and-follow format. The Quick Start Guide also was excellent; it had more detailed information. I think it would be helpful to have the Quick Start Guide open while you're on the Internet like the FAQ page did. I also thought the Chalkboard was a good idea, but I notice that teachers don't use that feature much. The most recent posting was in July. The site promises that support e-mail will be answered within 24 hours. I didn't check it out, but it would be great if that were true. When teachers need help, they need answers as quickly as possible. There also was a number to call for help. It would be nice if it were an 800 number, because most teachers cannot make long distance calls from school phones.

When I began creating my Web site, I had a problem changing the template for my site's homepage. I e-mailed tech support and received a very prompt reply. The reply was very thorough and helped me solve the problem.

If the program has one weakness it is the "Help Tool." When I first accessed my Web site, I looked and looked for the link to the Help Tool. Unfortunately, I spent two days looking for printed directions on how to use my site. Most of the site is rather self-explanatory, but I needed some directions for adding links, and so on. Finally, I spotted the "Support" button in the upper right hand corner of the site. I clicked it and again felt frustrated because no Help link stuck out from the rest of the text on the page. I started to read the text, hoping to find some link to directions for using the site. In the third sentence, I found the word "Documentation." The only thing that distinguished that word from the rest of the text was that it was in a blue font, indicating a link, but the font size was no different from the rest of the text. In my mind, "Documentation" does not necessarily mean "Help." I clicked "Documentation" and found the "Help" I was looking for. Finally, I had the information I needed to get started on my Web page! I think a well placed HELP button should be located on the homepage. I also would suggest that the button be labeled HELP, not SUPPORT. I impress on my teachers to look for a HELP button when they are new to a Web site.

The documentation is very thorough. There is a Quick Start Guide as well as a User Manual. Both are available as pdf files. In addition, there are separate user's guides for district administrators and school administrators. An informational letter for teachers, parents, school administrators and district administrators also is included. I thought that was a very good idea! For example, teachers can use the parent's letter to notify their students' parents of the Web site -- the URL of the site, as well as its purpose. The letters are in pdf and MSWord format.

This review is provided as a service to Education World readers. It reflects the observations and experiences of independent teacher volunteers, not of Education World editors. The review does not constitute an endorsement of the product by the reviewers or by Education World.


Education World®
Copyright © 2003 Education World

 

12/10/2003
 

 

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