This past summer, I corresponded with Fawn Nguyen, mathematics teacher at Mesa Union Junior High (CA). Also, I browsed her class web site and found several attractive elements:
I asked Fawn if I could discuss her site as an example of how a mathematics teacher can (should) set up a classroom web site. She agreed, as it was her "labor of love."
- Clearly designed for her students and their parents, rather than a forced response to a school request
- Had a focus other than obligatory course syllabi and some sample links
- Included new information on a regular basis, rather than being static for year
- Showed students enjoying efforts to make math fun and special (see slideshows)
First, Fawn mentioned that she has just switched to MyTeacherPages, after being located on TeacherWeb for many years...and at the same cost, making it "an easy decision to switch." Then, I asked some specific questions...here is a copy of our dialogue:
Question: What were the key things (e.g. products, links, resources, information) you "had" to include on your web site?
Fawn: Key items are on my homepage, left side bar. I'm very conscious of how many links I put on homepage and try to keep this a minimum; too often teachers make it so busy
with tons of images and links that make it not useful at all because there's so much to sift through, not to mention how long it takes just for the page to load up.
Question: How long did it take for you to create your current web site?
Fawn: I've had the website for at least 5 years now and update it regularly....
Question: How much time do you spend (i.e. weekly, monthly, yearly) maintaining the information on your web site?
Fawn: The "homework" link is daily,
"resources" probably weekly to monthly, and the rest is just whenever I have more stuff to add to.
Question: Do your students (parents) utilize your web site...and how do you know?
Fawn: I wouldn't maintain this site is they hadn't. Parents tell me often that they really appreciate the website, the kids like
to check on the blogs and homework. I will have specific assignments that they need to go to my site to complete....
Question: What is still missing from your web site that you would like to include?
Fawn: I'm sure it's still missing some things and could be improved upon, but for now it's enough, I'm already spending a lot of time on it. I honestly have not seen too many teacher websites that are as "thorough" as
mine. I've seen lots of poorly designed sites that offer a bunch of links without any organization or thought.
Question: What suggestions would you give a teacher who is planning to build a useful web site to support their classes?
Fawn: It has to be well organized, efficient (no fluff), and serves its purpose. When my administrators saw my site..., they immediately asked me to teach
the teachers at school on how to build one, but they made it mandatory, so teachers who really had no need for the site resented having to learn this. Only a handful of teachers really maintained and updated their sites, others
spent two days on it and forgot it ever existed. And this is key, no one ever wants to visit a "dead" site where information is not up to date. Visitors will not care about a site that was created without CARE to begin with! Many teachers think this is one more task they don't have time for, but the initial investment to build the site is well worth it because it
really does not take much to update it and it's accessible anywhere, I tell other teachers that my website is my lesson plan book without wasting any paper.
Browse Fawn's website, learn from it...and try to set up your own. Plus, if you know of other teacher websites that are good models, please send me the links so I can try to include them as well.