Friday, July 1, 2011

10 Ways on How to Make Your Classroom Website Interactive

As I look back over the last school year, I remember the first time I decided to make my own classroom website.  It was October 2010 when I sat with other educators listening to our administration share with us the importance of good communication with parents.  The minute we were asked to update our school pages, my face looked as though I just swallowed lemon juice straight from the fruit itself.  One million thoughts ran through my head as to why I didn't want to use the website provided by the county.  Finally, I asked if I could have the option of using a different source to keep in contact with parents.  It was that day that technology in education had a new meaning for me. 

First things first, I needed to find out what makes a class web page great.  Better yet, I wanted to find ways to also attract the students to it as well.  While there are so many blog platform options out there, I chose to go with Google Blogger because of the ease of use.  Now my search led me to sites at different grade levels and content areas.  I jotted down my observations, learned about HTML coding, and more.  Today, I have a personal blog, one for my parents, and one for my students.  Each blog page has features for the target audience.  Notice that I did say features because let's face it, no one just wants to read words all the time, especially our students. 

So what are the best features for making a classroom learning website more interactive?  I may not be the guru on this, but I can definitely say that the responses my students have shared about my web pages say that I am on the right track!

Here is a list that covers the mere basics for interactivity. Got your pen?

1. Polls - Students like to vote on how they learn best, what technology they'd like to use for an upcoming project, or interests. This is a quick way to gather up information when designing a lesson. (Flisti, SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, Poll Everywhere, Poll Daddy)

2. Quizzes - I like to add these when I start a new unit or when I want to provide students with an additional study resource. I like the online options that let students see their results after they've completed the quiz.  This way they are able to return to class the next day and tell you what they still need help in specifically rather than give you the "deer stare" when you ask. (Quibblo, Flashcards)

3. Video Conferencing - For some students, helping via email is sufficient. However, others might still require additional visual assistance. Set a regular time and day where students can meet you online for after hours support.  (Wetoku, Tokbox)

4. Links - Everyone loves links! While sharing information, hyperlink sites throughout the text so that students may visit those sites to gather valuable information.  Some tools like Snapshots will allow users to preview a website before clicking on it or even allow them to stay on your page and view the link right then and there. (Snap)

5. Videos - Whether the videos are teacher-created, student-created, or just embedded from some other source, they can play a valuable role in learning. (Youtube, Schooltube, Teachertube, Vimeo, Fliqz, Flow Player)

6. QR Codes - QR codes are on video games, plants in the gardening section, and your toothpaste, so why not on your website! Create a vCard, which is an electronic business card, so that parents and students can have your school contact information within thumb reach. (Kaywa)

7. Audio - Students love to listen to themselves, especially in middle school.  Share their discoveries through podcast recordings embedded on the class page.  You can also embed a text-to-speech podcast on your website so that students have the option of listening to the text while reading it.  (Podomatic, Audioboo, Cinch, AudioPal, Odiogo, iSpeech, Yakitome)

8. Photo Albums - Share student work. Need I say more? (Picasa, Flickr, Piknik, Photobucket, Slide)

9. Comments - Whether you do all the blogging or your students share in the effort, having a way for continuous dialogue to occur is essential.  There are many tools out there to keep discussions going, feature top commenters, and so on.  We all need a way to keep are kids reading! (Disqus)

10. Chats - While comment features and video-conferencing options are available, sometimes all our students need is some chatting in real-time.  I have the same recommendations for chat boards as that for commenting and video-conferencing.  Some chat tools will allow you to say discussion for archiving, while most do not.  You be the judge on what will meet the needs of your students best. (Tweetchat, Meebo)

Enjoy making your classroom learning website INTERACTIVE!

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