I say easier because, no matter how easy the process of web creation can be made, the creation of an effective, attractive, user-friendly design that meets a high standard of functionality will always take time.
As an ICT Specialist in a school just getting started I am in the enviable position of getting to help plan and execute an expanding array of new initiatives including the creation of a new school website. Of course, being a strong believer in collaborative learning, I see every chance for me to continue learning as a chance to get my students involved.
Enter Weebly. This Flash based web design platform really evens the playing field. Hey you! Technogeek. Stop rolling your eyes. Yes, learning code is a noble achievement. In the meantime, the rest of us with more immediate needs want to play too.
Weebly offers us the chance to become published web designers today. And it’s free service to boot. Now, I would strongly suggest the Pro account. It is cheap and allows for a great deal more of the functionality I refer to above. You can add YouTube videos with just the share url and a few clicks. It is fun, easy and a powerhouse of collaboration inspiration. Get them started and watch your students learn together, teach each other and continue to bond as they explore and create.
Now, in my case, I have made and adapted a number of sites. Some brand new and some tweaked from previous work for use at my new school. I will not use Weebly as a platform for our new school website as it lacks database capacity and according to their service staff, “This is not likely to change in the near future.” So, based on feedback from colleagues at Tech Director, we will go with Drupal. If it is good enough for the White House, many branches and ofices of the Canadian Government & MIT it should be good enough to address our needs as well, more modest as they are.
Back to the Students
So yes, the students. As we are an IB World School we focus on developing internationally-minded individuals. This is aided by our focus on the attributes of the Learner Profile. It is not always easy to make this exciting. It struck me, however, that it could be made more interesting at the very least and definitely more engaging and cross-school if it were made into a website where students of all ages could share their reflections and support one another in learning how to create and publish them in new and interesting ways. Introducing The Learner Profile @DISK. A place where students share reflections in words, pictures, video form. We just got started September 7, 2012 with a few, mainly text reflections but the excitement in the room was palpable as students publish content to their own website, just in a regular class!
This is where transformation can enter the picture as well. Students now have the opportunity to not only share in this new and exciting manner but start doing new things in new ways. We are going to have CAS students act as mentors for the school by helping other students upload content to the site and help them reinforce skills learned in class.
Back to the Website & School Promotion
I have lamented not being able to use Weebly as a platform for the whole school website. I could be finished so much sooner and no one would ever need to now the low-brow end of the tech pool from which I operate. Other than the database issue I have not been able to find anyone who could explain why not to use it for this purpose.
In the meantime, I have created a variety of sites I would like to share with you now:
- Student Life @DISK
- The Learner Profile @DISK
- Responsible Use @DISK
- ICT @DISK Photo Blog
- A G7 homeroom page the students help create with their own personal pages
All Weebly. All proud. For a reasonable fee you can purchase a domain name and have the weekly descriptor removed from your URL as I have for my personal digital-age learning site, giveitaway.net. These school sites are all linked to one another for optimal potential viewing. If you find us somewhere we want you to see us everywhere!
I informally shared these at a meet-and-greet with parents at the start of the year. Everyone was very supportive and happy to finally have some examples of student work, life & activity online. I encouraged everyone to share the links to gain some greater exposure and share what we are doing.
I have, of course, added a Facebook page for the school as well. Feel free to stop by and like us some time.
Special thanks to Brendan Lea for introducing me to this incredible service.