by Kindy Segovia, OTR
Assistive Technology Coordinator, Kent Intermediate School District
Creating a classroom or program website used to be difficult, time-consuming and required some tech-savvy skills. Well, times have changed and new tools allow anyone to build and host a website – even you!
You might be asking, “why do I need a website?” There are many reasons every teacher or service provider in education should maintain one:
- Foster collaboration with co-teachers in general education, ancillary staff, classroom paraprofessionals, and others
- Provide 24/7 access to content, resources, assignments for students
- Reach those students who may have been absent
- Provide access to differentiated materials for your diverse learners
- Engage students with digital access and tools
- Increase communication with parents
- Keep yourself organized and save time (yes, believe it or not!)
These, and other benefits far outway the initial effort to get a website up and running. Before you begin, put some thought into these considerations
Often, teachers simply use their name, others try to be more catchy, such as morrisonmath.weebly.com, richardsresources.weebly.com, or fontellsfun.weebly.com. Think carefully about the website name, as this will become the web address.
What types of information and resources will you provide
Content may vary depending on your role – teacher with a classroom, teacher providing primary support in others’ classrooms, ancillary staff, grade level team, etc. Common areas to include:
- Schedule – daily, weekly or annually
- Assignments including copies of handouts, worksheets, etc.
- Homework supports
- Practice tests or quizzes
- Links to additional resources, video lessons, etc.
- Parent resources, permission slip forms, conference schedule requests, etc.
- Links to other classroom or support staff websites
- Showcasing student work
If you’ve never built a website, where do you start? Using one of two stand-out platforms, both free, are a great place to start.
To create a Weebly website, simply go to weebly.com, click on “Create Your Website”, and register with Weebly. The site walks you through each step, beginning with choosing a theme. Don’t see a theme with an image that fits? No problem, you can change the background or header image later! Once you have a theme, simply click on the “Start Editing” button in the upper right. This is where you will name your website, in the format of something.weebly.com. Find the steps in the support area of Weebly’s website: Weebly Support Tips
Now, it’s just a matter of using the tools and features on the left, dragging them into the website space, and filling in content.
When using Weebly, don’t forget to click “Publish” each time you edit, to make sure new information is visible to users.
This is a great option if your district is already a Google district. Google Sites are accessible from a student’s Google Drive, and you can easily link to Google Classroom. It is also very intuitive when embedding other Google Suite features – documents, slides, YouTube videos, images, etc. It can be a little finicky when embedding features outside of the Google environment.
To create your site, simply go the Google menu in your Chrome browser.
Click the small “+” in the lower right corner and you can begin to build the homepage of your new site. Drag and drop features from the right column onto the website space, and fill with content.
And, don’t forget to click on “Publish” following all edits, to make new content visible to users. For more details on getting started check out Google Sites Support.
Here are a few Google Site examples:
Hosting and maintaining a classroom or provider website assists all students, especially those with special needs. From Autism and Learning Disabilities, to hearing and visual impairments, a digital space allows access to notes, review of materials, assignment details, extension activities and more. In our world of digital documents, and use of web-based content, a website can become to new “file drawer” for materials. Get yours up and running before fall!
Kindy Segovia, OTR, is currently the Assistive Technology Coordinator at Kent Intermediate School District, Grand Rapids, Mich. She has worked as an occupational therapist in both schools and pediatric rehabilitation for over 25 years. She has provided educational training for teachers, parents and administrators over the past 15 years with a focus on adapting curriculum, classroom accommodations, and integrating technology into instruction. She is also an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University.