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Monday
Sep272010

Revisiting web-based class information

Ten years ago this month, my article Teacher Webpages That Build Parent Partnerships appeard in Multimedia Schools magazine. Based on the plans our district was making at the time, I shared a rollout timeline and tables of suggested information teachers could provide to parents that parents would find of value.

Table One: General class description

Information

Schedule for updating

Possibilities

Teacher name and contact information

Annual

Name, school phone number and extension, and email address. Home phone if desired. Best times to contact. A personal note of welcome that includes encouragement for parents to contact teacher if there is a question or concern.

Class rules and expectations

Annual

Policies on classroom behavior, homework and extra-credit assignments. Carefully articulated and agreed upon by parents and students as reasonable, this information can reduce misunderstandings during the year.

Link to school calendar

Check annually

Building-created calendar based on district calendar. Should show beginning and end dates of school, holidays and breaks, days in which students are not in school for other reasons, and events and activities (athletic events, open houses, field trips, science fair, testing dates, etc.)

Supply list

Annual

Paper, pencils, calculators, etc. School policy on how students without financial means can obtain these items.

Field trip information

As necessary

Descriptions and printable permission form. Costs and call for chaperones when necessary.

Class news with photos and descriptions of current class activities

Monthly/weekly

What’s going on? Current projects and interests of students. Special events. Careful with this area – if not regularly updated it will make the class pages look old and tired. Make sure parental permissions are on file if student photos are used. No last names of students should be published.

Requests and guidelines for parent volunteering

Annual

While the district or building may generate these, teachers with special volunteer needs may want to let parents know.

Drop folders for student work.

Annual

If students have access to this page, a write-only drop folder for turning in work electronically has a logical place on the class page.

Class electronic mailing list

Annual with updates as necessary

An easy way for a teacher to communicate quickly with all parents who have an email address, and if desired, for parents to communicate with each other.

A counter that records the number of visits to the page.

Reset annually.

Of value to both teacher and parents if they wish to see if the site is being used and useful.

 

Table Two: Unit outlines and timetables

Information

Schedule for updating

Possibilities

List of units taught in each subject area (elementary) or in each class (secondary)

As dictated by curricular changes.

A general outline of the major areas the students in the class will be studying.

State requirements met by class or units

Annual update or as needed

If part of a state mandated curriculum, this reference should be made. Indication of any testing the state requires to show mastery.

Projected dates of units beginning and ending.

Annual

Advise parents that these are approximate. “We will be starting our unit on rocks and mineral just after spring break.”

Major goals for each unit.

As dictated by curricular changes.

Simple declarative statements of what the student should know and be able to do. “By the end of this unit, I expect your child to be able to identify the major landmasses on earth and be able to locate the major countries in Europe, Asia and Africa.”

Samples of final projects from previous years.

Annual

Helps give parents examples of exemplary projects as a quality indicator for their own children’s work.

 

Table Three: Information about specific units and projects

Information

Schedule for updating

Possibilities

Learner outcomes for units

Annual with adjustments as needed.

A detailed list of skills and information that students need to have mastered.

Major activities

Annual with adjustments as needed.

Projects, readings, tests, experiments, papers, etc.. Best if linked to assessments (below).

Homework assignments and due dates.

Weekly

Disclaimer needs to be added for parents that due dates are subject to change. (They might be later, but never earlier.) This could serve in lieu of a lesson plan book.

Vocabulary words, spelling lists, number facts, formulas, etc..

Annual with adjustments as needed.

Lists that call for memorization with which parents can help students practice.

Assessments/ evaluations for unit and projects

Annual with adjustments as needed.

Checklists and rubrics for major projects can be useful to parents to help the student self-assess work.

Online practice tests.

Annual with adjustments as needed.

Practice tests that come with standardized tests or teacher generated tests. This can be created so they can be taken online or printed out. Amazing how much better students do with practice.

Active links to online resources and webpages

Annual

Online lecture notes and links to readings and teacher-selected resources on the web.

Suggested enrichment activities with which parents can help.

Annual

Supplemental reading lists, enrichment activities for G/T students or others who are highly motivated, or “fun” family activities that tie into the content of the unit.

 

Table Four: Student progress reporting

Information

Schedule for updating

Possibilities

Online gradebook

Weekly

Parent (and student) access to scores on daily work, quizzes, tests and projects. Teacher comments on student performance. Data entered by teacher via the web from any machine in any location.

Final grades for quarter, semester and year (or equivalent marking period)

Each grading period

Part of online gradebook.

GPA and class ranking.

Automated through student information system.

Of interest to some parents and students. This does not need to be hand entered by the teacher, but should be imported from the school’s student information system.

Standardized test results

Automated through student information system.

Of interest to some parents and students. Should be linked to information on how to interpret the scores. Imported from the school’s student information system.

Attendance records

Automated through student information system.

Good check for parents of students who may have attendance problems. Imported from the school’s student information system.

 

One big change is that our student information system (Infinite Campus) has a good online gradebook which can be accessed via the student and parent portals. Our webhost rSchoolToday makes creating a variety of teacher webpages relatively simple. We have still not adopted any curriculum management software that would relieve individual teachers of putting out course information. Sigh.

After ten years, we are still asking the question: What should be required by all teachers - and what is optional?

And as always, when anything is optional, some teachers will choose not to do it.

 



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Reader Comments (3)

Doug,
We were having this very conversation yesterday at a "Webmaster" meeting.
We focussed on the question of "Who are our customers?" and "Where do we require them to go to get their information?"
I wish there was 1 stop shopping for all!

If we could design it, we would be very rich!

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Walker

This is just the kind of thing I was thinking about re: your post on teacher accountability.

Here's the absurdity of how it works at my school: the provost now requires that all syllabuses be online... but the place they are put online is inside the password-protected course managements system which only students ALREADY ENROLLED in the class can access.

So, a hugely important potential audience of that information is shut out: students who want to find out what a class is about BEFORE they enroll cannot see the syllabus.

How crazy is that? Crazy, but true. Those are the pernicious effects of using an enrolled-students-only password-protected course management system for all course-related information, which is exactly the strategy my school has adopted. It is such a waste - and a needless one - to require instructors to put course-related information online in a way that automatically limits its usefulness.

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura Gibbs

Hi Michael,

I guess I have always seen this as an "administrative" mandate problem more than a tech problem - but I am sure it is a combination. I've always thought that as a tech dept we need to make things as easy as possible so a lack of time and tech skills cannot be an excuse.

Doug

Hi Laura,

I've never understood why we keep so much school information off-line, behind our firewalls. But it is a common educational mentality. And I don't know why!

Doug

September 29, 2010 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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