Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Web is My Website

I started my first website for teaching when I got my second job as a teacher. It was 1999 and I had just started in Massachusetts as a middle school math teacher. I wanted to post my homework, and so I did. Within two years I had several teachers joining me (somehow it still lives!)

Over the years, my use of a single home-base website has had its ups and downs. There have always been some teachers that I look up to who create and maintain immaculate websites. Mine, on the other hand, has always tended to be a mess of links to documents and maybe a calendar or two. I recently added my Twitter feed. While I still have a website, and it still has important documents, I don't know that it serves a major purpose in my suite of online classroom tools anymore. Instead I find that I am finding several different tools to fill several different needs.

Edmodo (link): Currently I use the site as a homebase of sorts. While it does not provide me with a face for the public, it does give me a great online launching spot for all of my classes. I post assignments, related documents, classroom discussions and much more. My online presence doesn't stop there.

Google Docs (link): I also use Google Docs. I now create all my new assignments in Google Docs. I am slowly uploading and converting all of my old assignments. From Google Docs, I can share whatever I want and I can grant editing access to various people, students included. The collaboration and interactivity are what make this tool so enticing. I also use it for the free storage. The tool continues to grow and is now getting integrated into other websites. See Edmodo's latest integration

SchoolTube (link): All of my video students have accounts with and all of the videos they upload fall under the umbrella of our school channel on that site. It is one more place for students to post and for me to observe, comment on, and enjoy the growth of my students. I moderate everything they post. If I don't like something, I block it, have a discussion with the student, and have them resubmit the video based on the outcome of that discussion.

Twitter (link): Twitter is allowing me to interact with professionals from all over the globe. I can share thoughts with people who have similar interests in education and in technology. It is an amazing platform that is only becoming more powerful. Two years ago I was ready to dismiss it as a fad, yet it is not. I strongly encourage others to check into Twitter. I have integrated my Tweets into Edmodo so students can see tweets relevant to our discussions. I keep it professional, and it is not always on topic for students, but it is a great way for them to see me as a professional.

Blogger (link): This blog is a place where I can voice my thoughts and people can read or not. This is a natural tool to transition technology into the classroom. Students can create blogs, write stories, summarize learning, share insights, and comment on other blogs. Whether it is Blogger, Edublog,  Wordpress or some other platform, the interactivity of these writing spaces is raising the education bar. Students are reading, sorting, and developing critical thinking skills when the tools are applied properly.

CONCLUSION: I have accounts on dozens of websites for various purposes. Many are educational, some can be educational if I wish, and others are just for personal or entertainment purposes. What has been lost in the abundance of quality options, is my classroom website. I am not ready to abandon it just yet. There are still a few things that work about it, and when a parent wants easy access to my expectations and grading policies, all the information is right there. However, reality says it is only a matter of time until I abandon it for something better and more fully featured, something that makes me say "That's what I've been looking for!!" Until then, the web is my website.

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