Tune Into Technology: Class Websites

Blog on a Sunday, out of character I know. 
But I went to Walmart to buy spray paint for a project and perhaps also bought a blow up pool to entertain myself with today. I get home and there is a black cloud over my neighborhood and it started pouring, Walmart was across the street. WTF?!?

I should include that the Mister was very anti-blow up pool. 
The grass. The water bill. Yaddda Yadda. Yadda. 
Perhaps this an omen I should return the pool.

Regardless I have been trying to find time to link up with Learning to the Core and iTeach IT for their Tune Into Technology series so today seemed like the perfect chance.

This week's topic was classroom websites which left me giddy with excitement. 
I HEART my classroom website, I think it was one the best things I have done for my classroom so far and many of my kids agree.

Here is a very brief, I promise, history lesson.

When I first started teaching my room was already set up and I started two weeks into the year so it was difficult to move around the furniture at that point. The layout was 7 round tables in the front with the projector and 30 computers crammed in the back behind shelves. 
I wish I had taken pictures at the idiocy of this. 
I went with it and started class in the front at the tables: warm up, note taking, review project and then the students went to the computer area.

And here is what I found: my magnet kids resented starting up front, most of the kids forgot the project once they logged in and the biggest thing of all a majority of the kids refused to log in. 
I was mind blown, teenagers who didn't want to get on a computer. WTF?

Before you think I am crazy: I teach at a Title One school, 90% english second language school in the inner city. Most of these kids don't have computers at home, don't know how to log in and when given the opportunity would take a worksheet over computer work any day.

So after one year of this craziness I knew I needed something different. 

ONE. I rearranged my computer lab and did away with the small tables. Now the students would be forced to sit at the computer and actually be able to watch me on the overhead and mimick my actions. Revolutionary in a computer lab.

TWO. I eliminated as much paper as possible so the idea of worksheets in my class just doesn't exist. They have planning packets sometimes for major projects but that is usually when there is math involved and I need to check their progress. 

But I still needed to hold the students accountable for warm ups, wrap ups and other items my campus requires.

THREE. I started a class website. I did this through wix.com which is a free site with templates almost like blogger or you can create one from scratch. I already was using the site with my web design students as the final project so it is actually a really easy site to use. I created my site from scratch because I am a control freak.

 Please ignore the black ugly boxes, I like to keep my school name and phone number private.

On my home page I have: campus and CTE mission statements, my contact information and a rolling slideshow of pictures of my classroom.

I have a separate tab for each prep I teach to keep things simple for the kids.

I also include a Technology in Action page for pictures and work the students create and a Important Links page for links we use all year long in all three preps.

Above is an example of my Robotics prep. 
I have the CTE course description, weekly objective and then what we will be learning throughout the year. As we get to a unit I insert their weekly worksheet, project rubrics and any links they will need during the project.

Their worksheet is their weekly agenda essentially. 
It is broken down by days includes: warm ups, places to take notes and directions for what the expectations are during independent or group work. I also embed links for them to be able to use which is such a time saver. At the end of the worksheet is the rubric for the ongoing project followed by the TEKS, essential questions, vocabulary and objectives. Campus requirements.

The student is required to save it on the campus drive and access it everyday. 
I can quickly know when I have a student with 'low' tech skills because they spend the first six weeks going back to the website each day rather than saving correctly. 
Or when I have students off task: I don't see the worksheet open.

Every Friday the student is responsible for emailing me their worksheet through their campus email, a career skill that I think is super important to learn, along with any other items I require. I often just give daily grades on if they can properly email me, include the correct attachments and answer the thinking question in the body of the email. For some students this takes four emails before they get me all the pieces to me. Then every Monday they go back and get a new worksheet.

This is definitely one of those routines that I spend a lot of time teaching but the pay off is big.

I never spend time at the copier making copies. I don't have to take home loads of papers to grade. And the students are learning real life skills that they will need for their future careers. I also feel like the amount of student engagement has increased ten fold.

FOUR. One thing I had to do once I got the website up and running was shorten the URL to make it easier to access for the kids. I used http://tinyurl.com/ and then just added my room number at the end.

FIVE. I should also include that for my web design students we use http://kidblog.org/home/ as well. I HEART blogging, obviously, so I wanted my students to engage in positive digital citizenship. After hours of searching I found that kid blog fit my needs the best: it's free, I can control what each student posts by approving it and it is not visible to the public.

This is the public view, but you will notice none of the users have avatars visible and if you click on any posts you have to log in to read them. Once logged you see all of their cute avatars and you can comment on any post.

I think you could be very successful using kid blog as your main website but with three very different preps I needed something that allowed for more separation.

For me my website is not for parents or administration, it is to help my students and a way to improve my classroom management and student engagement. Some of my administrators know about it and think its really neat and for the most my parents don't have computers at home so they won't be accessing the website. 

I know every campus and demographic is different but hopefully you found some of this long winded babbling useful for your classroom.

By the way...its still raining!

- The Babbling Box!


  1. I like how your website is totally student-centered. I'm going to try out Kidblog for the first time this year and I cannot wait! Thanks for linking up with us!:)

    iTeach 1:1

  2. Can I come co-teach with you? I'm not joking.
    Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'

  3. I love all of your ideas! I have a classroom blog that the parents love and check more often than the kids. I use Edmodo with my kids and they love it! I love the kids blog idea. That is a Language Arts teachers dream!