I have been creating classroom websites for my students since the old GeoCities days in the late 1990s. Since then, I’ve moved across several different platforms as both the available web-page platforms and my job placements have both changed. Most recently, I created a classroom web page using WordPress.org, although as I have left the high school classroom to pursue a full-time career as an education technology specialist, my website is now designed for adult learners (Wise, 2017b). For my current personal web page, I also purchased a domain name, which became very convenient when I became a Google for Education Certified Trainer last year. As a perk of being a Certified Trainer, I have access to my own private G Suite for Education domain, which is housed through my personal domain. This is one of the hidden treasures of being a Certified Trainer; whenever I want to learn about how Google for Education tools really work from the inside, I don’t need to ask the technicians at my district office; rather, I can simply poke around the Admin panel of my own Google domain and find out for myself.
For this week’s Blog post, however, I decided to give Weebly a try. I was very happy to find that Weebly, like WordPress.org, supports building a web site on one’s own private domain. Because of my Google work, this is an essential feature for any web page I would ever want to build in the future. Byrne (2011) recommended the Weebly platform because of its intuitive, yet powerful, interface, and I must agree that, six years later, Weebly is still very simple to use. The drag-and-drop functionality and simple page formatting are impressive, especially to a seasoned internet veteran like me who remembers the tedious process of uploading images via FTP and hand-coding web pages using raw HTML.
I would like to use this Weebly site to build a quick-reference web site that curates the most common web-based educational tools, apps, and extensions that teachers in my school district are currently using (Wise, 2017a). In my job, teachers frequently tell me about an idea they have for a lesson or learning activity, and they finish their question with the oft-repeated phrase, is there an app for that? Administrators, on the other hand, often tell me about an app or extension they saw a teacher using during a lesson, and want to know more about the app, what it can do, and whether it’s the best tool for whatever the students were learning during the lesson. I believe both questions can be answered by creating a web page with quick-reference information for the apps and extensions that are most in use by our teachers. I think of it as a Field Guide to Educational Apps.
Ideally, I would like to make this resource available to both teachers and administrators, so that people from either perspective will find useful information that encourages them to think about how technology tools may be used best to support student learning. In addition to short reviews for each app, I would like to embed reflective questions that encourage educators to think critically about how to choose the best app with regards to safety, security, functionality, cost, ease of use, and ability to foster deeper levels of knowledge. One thing this web site must have is an interface that renders well on all devices and screen sizes, from teachers working on a classroom desktop computer, all the way to administrators accessing the information on their smartphones.
I will be designing this web site over the summer vacation months, with the hope that the site will be completed in time for the beginning of the next school year in August–assuming, that is, I can find the time in my already jam-packed schedule of kids’ soccer games, hiking, and relaxing. This is summer, after all.
Byrne, R. (2011, February 7). 10 ways for teachers & students to build websites [Web log comment]. Retrieved from Free Technology for Teachers web site: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2011/02/10-ways-for-teachers-and-students-to.html#.WT2szWjyvD6
Wise, B. (2017a). Field guide to educational apps. Retrieved from http://mrwisetech.weebly.com/
Wise, B. (2017b). Mr. Wise tech – a place for teachers using technology in the classroom. Retrieved from http://mrwisetech.com/