This template-driven web tool for teachers provides rich functionality for a very low price.
TeacherWeb is a company that provides “template websites” for teachers to use in the classroom, which parents and students can also access at home. While the company provides a collection of pre-defined — and highly usable — webpage formats and layouts ready for teachers or helpers to use, those who know a little HTML and CSS can customize their classroom websites to their hearts' content.
TeacherWeb allows teachers to delegate access rights to parents interested in supporting such websites. I got to know TeacherWeb when my son entered first grade, and I volunteered to act as the classroom website administrator on the teacher's behalf. It's a simple form-driven Web system that makes it easy for teachers or volunteers to make homework assignments, forms, documents, images and other information readily available to teachers, students and parents alike.
Founded in 1996, TeacherWeb is intended to make classroom websites accessible and easy to build and maintain, even for those who know nothing about markup languages such as HTML. By getting themselves organized and asking for parents to volunteer to assist with classroom websites, teachers can offer students and parents a friendly, effective and productive classroom experience throughout the entire school year.
Setting Up a TeacherWeb Trial
It's simple and free to try TeacherWeb out for yourself. Simply visit the company's website, and click the green tab at the upper right that's labeled “Start Your Free Trial!” This guides you through a selection process where you'll identify your school by region (and by school name, in larger states such as California and Texas) and the teacher's name. I also chose the “bus stop” design type (which invokes a specific design template, with color scheme, layout, and graphical elements), identified the class as “elementary school teacher”, and picked the only color themes entry available (“multi-color”). Those selections appear in Figure 1 below. To complete the site creation process, select “free limited trial,” provide your name, e-mail address, and a login password, then click the “create your TeacherWeb” button.
The next time you login, you'll see the “update index” page, which lists all of the pre-defined pages for classroom use. These are referenced below.
TeacherWeb Update Index Pre-defined Pages
Following this basic design, working through the process may best be understood as following two big steps:
- Initial site set-up: This is where much of the initial work occurs, because all of the foregoing pages that you wish to use (I've seen sites that omit some or all of the wish list, fundraiser, and FAQ entries, for example) must be populated with relevant textual information. Once you've built such a site, however, you can cut-and-paste contents into text files to store on your own computer to re-use (or edit and re-use) in subsequent schools years.
- Site upkeep: As the school year proceeds, you'll need to keep updating those pages that feature current or time-sensitive content. TeacherWeb allows no more than 25 items per download page (like homework, for example) so you'll probably want to consolidate homework from the first semester into a single zip file when the second semester starts, or maintain individual ZIP files for homework by subject (reading, writing, math and so forth) or category. For an elementary school class, as the person responsible for maintenance, I found it took 1-2 hours a week to keep everything up to date after initial data entry was complete. Most of that effort involved uploading homework documents, calendar and announcement entries, and photos for a “classroom photos” page for snaps from the teacher's iPhone she would email to me regularly.
Creating a New TeacherWeb Site Page
From the update index page, you can click the “add new page” button. This produces the list of new page type options shown in Figure 2, which presents a dizzying array of choices (there's an article about these page types for those who might be curious to learn the details about all 24 of them). Here, I call attention to a handful of particularly interesting items:
- Calendar (grid-style enhanced and events listing) types support a variety of different calendar displays.
- Enhanced Text offers a rich text entry page with controls like that found in many word processors or online content management systems. Lets you build nicely formatted documents online.
- Gallery (photo display) and photos/documents provides two ways to supply document or image collections, the former in a gallery format (like the image viewing options in Windows Explorer), and the latter in listing format (like details viewing option in Windows Explorer, used for the default homework page).
- Response (quiz maker) lets teachers build multiple-choice testing instruments with automatic scoring and score recording.
- Grades lets teachers post grades or scores for student and parent access and inspection.
TeacherWeb lets you define nearly every kind of page you might want from this list of mostly pre-defined options. And for those who know some markup, there's also an HTML pages option that lets you incorporate pages of your own making into your site, with the same look and feel as the other pre-defined pages.
What Are You Waiting For?
Given the many available options, there's plenty to do with TeacherWeb as it stands. It's certainly worth exploring and getting to know, particularly if your school district or system already has a general license. Even on a pay-as-you-go basis, the system currently costs only $39 a year. Discounts apply if you sign up for multiple years at a single go, which makes it affordable for most educators. I predict that if you try it, you will soon be convinced that it's worth using, even if you must pay for it yourself.
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