Monday, July 20, 2015

Back to School Series: Class Websites

Welcome to my new blog!! I'm so excited to start blogging on "Ms. Wu Teaches"!!!
To start off the celebration of my blog makeover I've decided to do a week of back to school posts!!

I know we don't really want to be thinking about going back to school, but unfortunately some of us have to. My new classroom will finally be open to me after next week so I sort of consider summer as coming to an end. Major sadness, but I'm also super excited to get started working on my classroom. I usually only get a week to work on my setting up my classroom. But this year I get two weeks!!! Yay!

The little things, right? help get myself back into school mode, I thought I'd write some posts about getting ready for school. So every post this week will be about something related to getting ready for the first week of school.

Alrighty, let's get started shall we? Today's post is going to be about....

Do you have a class website?

Depending on your parent community, the internet is a great way to communicate with them! 
I know it sounds a bit intimidating...making a class website??? 
But they are actually quite easy to set up! I guarantee it! I use mine to post announcements, newsletters (eliminates paper newsletters!), share pictures and videos of the students, provide volunteer signups, and more! You don't need to know anything about creating things or any html coding. All you need is to find the right server for you.

Below are some of the different websites host that you can use. They are all very user friendly and provide a variety of ways to help you get started to designing your class website. 

(Disclaimer: I have not been contacted by any of these sites to advertise for them. This is simply me sharing me own two cents.)

I always knew Shutterfly as a place to get photos printed, but had no idea that you could also make websites until I started my student teaching. My master teacher was creating her first class website and showed me her Shutterfly website. Of course that meant that I was going to make my own once I got my own classroom!

Click on the screenshot below to see my class website for when I taught second grade!

Looks fancy, right? The thing is...I didn't create the background layout or design out of scratch! Shutterfly had plenty of templates to choose from! I simply chose the template and layout I wanted and worked from there! It was VERY easy to use. If you are worried about privacy, you can also make your website password protected and share the password with your parents in your first day letter or at Back to School night so that only parents from your class can access the site. My site was originally password protected because I would upload pictures and videos of the students on to it. However, I've taken the password away and just privated the "pictures" tab so that you can take a look through my site. 

Speaking of pictures...I think one of the best advantages of using Shutterfly for your class website is that parents can directly order prints of any pictures you upload onto the site. I thought that was pretty cool since many people already have Shutterfly accounts for printing photos or photo gifts. I honestly don't know if any parents ever did order any prints, but my room parent gave me a personalized photo mug for my end of year gift that was ordered through Shutterfly so that function was put to use at least once!

I've used Shutterfly to make my class website for three years. This year, I decided to try out a different server after seeing some other class websites out there. I had heard about two other different servers out there...Weebly and Wix, so I decided to take a look at both of them before choosing which one. 

Weebly vs. Wix

Working with both of these sites definitely felt like moving up a level from Shutterfly. While still pretty user-friendly, I definitely had to fiddle around with both Wix and Weebly before I was able to create something that I somewhat liked. They both have way more options than Shutterfly in terms of designs and layouts. You also have more options for customizations like fonts and other apps that can be used on the sites. 

I eventually ended up choosing Wix for my class site server simply because I was able to figure that one out first, but Weebly is a server I may try next time! 

Below are screenshots of what I was able to create from both servers.

I only got as far as to creating an about page on Weebly so that's all you get to see. Click the screenshot below to see it in more detail.

Wix is the server I ended up choosing for this coming school year so it is more complete. It's obviously still in the works though, but go ahead and click the screenshot below to visit it!

So there you have it! Now you know about three different servers you can go to for creating a class website! I know I didn't go into too much detail about each server simply because I feel like you really have to try it and fiddle with it yourself to get to know it. If you are a beginner with fairly little experience blogging or just with technology, I would recommend starting with Shutterfly first.

Besides the three mentioned, there are some other servers out there that I haven't tried like Teacher Web (paid service with a 30 day free trial) and Google Sites (linked to your Google/Gmail account. I have used it for my teaching portfolio, but not for a class website). I would love to hear your thoughts about those if you have used them before.

Of course, the best thing about these servers, besides Teacher Web, is that they are all FREE! We love to hear the word free, right? ;)

Do you have a class website? Which server do you use?
If you haven't created a class website before, are you going to try to create one now???
Leave a comment with your answers! :D

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