Ten reasons every teacher should want a web site

I created my first classroom website ten years ago. Here’s a copy of it for you to laugh at courtesy of the Internet Archive Project. Back then, creating – and especially maintaining – a website was hard work that involved a lot of time and specialized knowledge.

Thankfully for educators, that time is over. Now, anyone can create a site instantly and easily. If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, you’re missing out on a lot more than just an online presence. Once you’re online, there are thousands of things you can do with your site and with the technology you’ve learned that will transform your classroom. If that isn’t enough motivation for you, take a look at 10 of the many reasons why you should jump in now.

10. It’s an easy way to meet the needs of many students who have IEP and 504 plans

Having a classroom website provides students with special needs – from Autism to hearing and vision difficulty – access to notes, clear instructions, review materials, and specific assignment details. When a teacher is in the practice of uploading classroom materials, students, parents, and special educators can more easily follow the events in the class on their own and better handle extended deadlines and any trouble that a student may be having. You’ll be surprised at how genuinely appreciative parents of all students will be with your site – but you’ll be even more pleased with the response of the people who support your students with special needs.

Plus, special needs students aren’t the only ones who benefit from clear communication about what’s happening in your classroom.

9. You’re creating an archive of your class – complete with the exact materials you’ve used

Not everything a teacher does fits neatly in a paper planning book anymore. With a classroom site, you can consolidate and make sense of files, links, multimedia sources, and prompts from anywhere into one place.  Then, each time you teach a class, you can refer back to the last time it was taught and grow as an instructor. Most teachers already take time to write down and chronicle daily lesson plans. Putting this online takes the same amount of time or less, is more useful for you, and it serves a greater purpose.

8. A teaching website keeps you organized and on track

As you take time to post and reflect on what goes on in your classroom, you’ll understand where you’re class is coming from and develop a more clear plan for where it’s going. You’ll find that you’re more accountable to your own plan and goals when they are clearly articulated each day or week and published online.

7. It’s getting so easy to do that it can actually save you time

With options like WordPress, Moodle, Google Sites, Edublogs, and Weebly, you can create a site for free and instantly. Teachers can go from having absolutely no online presence to a complete classroom website within a couple of hours. Granted, creating and hosting a website used to be a lot of work, but now, if you can send an email with an attachment, you can make a website without breaking a sweat. Plus, these sites look good and come with enough options to be as large or small as you’d like. With a little front-loading of work, you’ll find yourself creating content that enriches your classroom and your relationships with parents, educators, and students naturally and easily.

6. You have an easy answer to “What did I miss?”

With a classroom website, students who miss a day can stay in the loop and come back to class prepared to contribute and catch up. You’ll save the time of preparing packets of homework for students with extended absences or vacations, as well. Students who missed a learning target earlier in your class or who move in from another district will have a great place to refer back to to help get them back on track.

5. Helicopter parents have an off-site landing pad

With a classroom web site, you can communicate clearly with students and their parents. This informs parents of what goes on in your classroom and often gives them a chance to be more constructive with their feedback to you about their students’ successes and struggles. They also can educate themselves about your policies, goals, subject matter, and style – which allows them to help their students do better in your classes.

Also, parents will think of you as an organized, competent, and open educator. This can never be a bad thing.

4. Your contributions go farther than you think

A well-done classroom website has global impact. One day, you may get an email from a teacher 1,000 miles away who would like to thank you for inspiration or who may want to borrow one of your lessons. You’ll find yourself helping new and experienced educators locally as well, because you’ll easily be able to share resources with them. Your whole curriculum or a single page is just a click and an email away.

3. It’s okay to show off

You do amazing things in your classroom every day. Share what you do with the world. Include pictures of projects, announcements about major successes, and the impact of powerful learning experiences with your school, parents, grandparents, and the world. You can make your students into published artists, photographers, writers, and producers with a single click. Students get much more engaged as their audience grows.

2. It’s a two-way street

A class website isn’t just a way for you to communicate with others, it’s a way for others to communicate with you. Your students can respond to prompts, give you instant feedback, reflect on learning, and ask questions.

1. It’s your gateway to engagement

Having a classroom website is the best launching pad to using technology in truly engaging ways with your students. As you get in the habit of updating your site, you’ll find yourself bringing in more resources and expanding the borders of your classroom far beyond the school grounds. As the process becomes natural and easy, you’ll start thinking of teaching differently and begin searching for ways for students to create things with technology as well. Plus, you’ll get better at finding resources and connecting with other educators, which will only fuel your encouragement with technology use in your classroom.

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  • Penny

    I love this list of reasons for teachers to have a blog. My children’s teachers have had blogs in the past and as a parent I truly value them.

    http://web20parents.blogspot.com/2009/04/class-blogs-are-great.html

    My question is .. does this make me a “Helicopter Parent”? Judging by what you wrote in the paragraph explaining #5 in your list I do not believe that you really meant any disrespect to parents however I would encourage you to rethink the language in your heading. Using adversarial and demeaning language conveys a message other than what you intended. May I suggest .. #5 It helps parents be active partners in their childs learning or Gives Parents something to ask over the dinner table other than “what did you do in school today?”

    Thank you for the great list … I’m going to share it with the teachers in my school!

    Penny

  • mccallum

    Thank you for your comment, Penny. I really liked your post on class blogs – it is something that I am going to share with teachers as well. It’s a great reason for teachers to put in the daily or weekly effort for keeping their sites current, and it’s also a demonstration of how teachers can empower parents and work together with them to give students a more complete education.

    I don’t think your appreciation for a teacher or class blog makes you a helicopter parent. As a matter of fact, it makes you a genuine asset in your children’s education and a great advocate for your children’s teachers.

    I used the language as a way to motivate reluctant teachers whose number one concern is getting a return on their investment of time. Many teachers tell me that they have parents calling almost daily to ask questions, needing voicemails returned immediately. Some parents want to confirm almost every day what homework was given or clarify what their students bring home. I have parents who used to call me whenever a child did not have homework, just to make sure it was alright their child went out with friends. Every teacher has parents like these, and the appropriate response is not to ignore them or say that they deserve less than the information they require. The language in the post is addressing that type of situation, but I’ll grant that the language may be a little terse.

    I appreciate your suggestion. Perhaps I should build out that point to include a fuller description and a way to include the sentiment you express in your own blog.

  • Mary F. Brigman

    I agree especially with #4…Your contributions go further than you think. Last year I had a dad serving in the army in Iraq all year and his only way to hear and see what was happening frequently with his daughter in my classroom was through my blog. It turned out to be a very rewarding experience for him as a dad and me providing a form of communication with the girl’s father.

    • http://cleanapple.com Ryan McCallum

      What an amazing example of the true reach of a class blog. Some teachers wish they’d get more traffic to their blogs, but sometimes it’s one visitor that makes it worthwhile. Thanks for sharing.

  • Bobjocarter

    I really liked #5. I feel strongly about parent communication. This is an excellent way to show parents information to help them be more involved in their children learning especially their successes.

    • mccallum

      Thank you very much for your comment. I also believe that class sites empower parents and forge a stronger bond between home and school.

  • L. Gesky

    I am giving a presentation to my department next week, explaining why
    creating a website for their class is worth the time investment. I am
    basically scalping this post and turning it into a presentation. I will send you a link to the presentation when it is complete.

  • Cindi-Jonathan Bradshaw

    I appreciate #10, not that it is easy, but the simple fact that it is a way to meet the needs of these students and to help their parents/caregivers. With funding being so slim these days and textbooks being null and/or void so many are without any means of assisting their children with homework and or studies. Being able to have access to a website and materials that the teacher is using in the classroom and not having to fly by the seat of their pants is worth its weight in gold to a parent of a child with a special need of any sort.

  • Steve Oliver

    Great list! I’m teaching a workshop on creating teacher websites next week, and will be sure to share your list.