The programmers used to be the gatekeepers. If you needed a website, you had to know how to code.
As the web is getting more and more interactive, it’s also getting more user-friendly. Forget writing HTML or Java; these days, all you need to do to create online is just drag and drop.
For teachers, the list of reasons for having a place on the web goes on and on:
- Post class documents for easy access later
- Keep a calendar of deadlines and important dates
- Provide additional learning resources and opportunities for practice
- Include videos that amplify your instruction
- Attach photos of classroom content examples, of student work, etc.
- Keep links handy to commonly used sites in class
And on and on and on.
PAID VS. FREE
There are two routes to creating websites: paid and free. The reality is that there is no free space on the web; someone must provide a place for files to be stored so they can be loaded when a webpage is loaded (called “hosting”).
If you’re using a free site, instead of paying with money, you’re often paying with page hits and advertising. So, if you venture into the free website creation tools, be aware of how you’re really paying.
People who want a professional presence on the web pay for a self-hosted website, where you buy the domain name (the web address) and pay a hosting service to store all of your webpage files for you. Domains are often inexpensive (usually $15 or less, especially if there’s a sale), and hosting can cost $10-$15 per month.
WEBSITE CREATOR OPTIONS
Teachers usually don’t go this route, though. There are many options when it comes to free website creation:
And on and on and on. Check to make sure your choice for a site comes through your district’s Internet security before starting. The last thing you want is to do lots of work to create an online home for your content in a place where students can’t access it at school.
I have seen lots of educators turn to Weebly, Google Sites and Wikispaces for sites. If I need to create a free website, I turn to Weebly. The education version comes through our Lightspeed Internet filter with no problems, and I really like all the drag-and-drop options they provide. Weebly is what I’ll use for examples for the rest of this guide.
WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH A WEBSITE
Often, to create a website, it just takes a new account and a name for your domain. With Weebly, your site becomes “yoursite.weebly.com”. Weebly doesn’t publish ads on its sites, which was a necessity for me.
Weebly creates individual pages within a site. I have a separate page for each class and an additional page to list common websites we use in my class. You can name the pages and they’re listed in a clickable menu.
In Weebly, many elements can be dragged onto a page:
- Titles and text boxes for displaying text
- Individual images or slideshows of images
- Contact forms to let students e-mail you from the site
- Assignment forms where students upload files to you to turn in
- Videos embedded right on the site from YouTube
- Polls, surveys and discussions to interact with students
THE POWER OF EMBEDDING
If you can create it online, there’s a good chance you can embed it on a webpage. Embedding means taking web content from a different site and displaying it on your site.
Embedding involves using HTML code, but you don’t have to know anything about code to use it. Many sites provide an “embed” option where you copy a small section of HTML code to paste in your website. Some examples of content you can embed in your site:
The list, as those above, goes on and on and on. In Weebly, adding embedded content to a site is as easy as dragging an “embed” element onto a page and pasting the embed code from the site.
Now that you have the basics, get out there and create a free website! Trial and error is the best way to figure out exactly what you want in a site. Remember, there’s no way you can break it!
How have you used websites in education? How would you like to use them? Share in a comment below!
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