Reviewing Teacher Websites

12/9/15

The first website I reviewed is called, “Ms. Verderber’s Website: Totten Science Department” (http://verderbz.com). This teacher teaches science at a middle school in New York. When first coming across the site, one sees a colorful page with a lot of information organized into boxes. A welcome message and general, but important frequently accessed information is on the homepage, with links to other material and resources on tabs on the left side of the page. There are a few pictures on the homepage. Upon further review, it is clear that nearly all the content and expectations that were covered in class, are somewhere on the website. This tells me the teacher is highly organized, puts a lot of planning and intention into her lessons, and has high expectations of her students. I believe this organization is a resource to the teacher herself. She is able to keep content, lessons, assigned work in one place. I am not able to identify many other resources available to the teacher other than student grades (which is probably also in the school’s gradebook system).

A link to an interactive textbook is available and sorted by grade level. The online textbook offers a variety of formats and the teacher asks parents or students to notify her as soon as possible if they are experiencing technical difficulties. Major homework assignments are posted in advance, and students are able to see their weekly/daily homework by class. Every lesson (formatted as powerpoint or other similar platform) is posted to the website, listed by class then topic. Students are able to see the date of the lesson and the assigned learning targets. Every lab is also fully detailed, including make-up labs,guidelines for lab reports, lab policies, and safety rules. Other resources include the teacher’s email address, necessary classroom supplies, study tips, the class contract, exam dates and information,  general school-wide dates to remember, a link to the school’s website, and access to grades. All of the resources are accessible to both students and parents. This seems to be valuable for both parties. Parents are aware of expectations, content, and assignments. Students are able to review content. This is helpful if they were absent that day, need to study for a test, or need to just review what was said in class that day because the teacher was moving at a quick pace, and/or the content was challenging.

The second website I reviewed is called, “Massenagle’s Biology Junction” (http://www.biologyjunction.com). This teacher teaches science at a high school in an unidentified location. Upon first view of the website, one sees a lot of animation and moving text and frogs. Frogs are everywhere. It takes your eyes and mind a few minutes to understand all that is offered on the homepage. The top of the homepage has a few quotes, a copyright, and a link to donate. I am wondering if the website has a purpose other than for her students (because of the copyright and donation link). The rest of the page is broken into four major categories: my classroom materials, help for teachers, EOC biology practice, and science fair information. The bottom of the page has a link to other useful biology sites, a place to recognize honor roll students, a link titled, ’just for teachers,’, and a science fun facts page. Students and parents have access to classroom material such as detailed content and assignments for each class, grades, study tips, classroom rules, information on biology club, a personal page about her, guidelines for lab reports, and necessary supplies. There is an entire section on the science fair expectations and information, useful to both parents and students. Resources for teachers include lesson plan templates, multiple kinds of graphic organizers, templates for conferences, and several useful handouts to distribute to students.  This teacher has provided a plethora of links to science websites (including chemistry, physical science, and physics) and graphic organizers for note taking. I know from this website that this teacher knows a lot of science content, and has taught for many years in order to accumulate and organize all of these resources. Providing these resources makes it clear that she wants her students (and colleagues) to succeed.

The third website I reviewed is called, “Science with Mr. Enns” (http://www.mrenns.com). This teacher currently teaches 8th grade science in Missouri. This website portrays professionalism through the text, organization of tabs and links, and pictures on the homepage. The homepage offers a “notice board” with recent messages, a search bar, quick access links, images of him performing science, a quote, and tabs to other pages within the site. He offers a full “about me” page for students and parents to get to know him better. This is another teacher website loaded with science and teaching resources. Although Mr. Enns teaches physical science right now, he offers links and just as many resources to all other fields of science, like physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science. Each branch of science is broken into multiple subtopics. Each subtopic has powerpoints on the content, a unit overview, vocabulary, and a resource folder (with videos, worksheets, handouts, etc.) linked through Google Drive. This of course is accessible to anyone who explores his website. A specific “parent” page offers ‘first week resources,’ curriculum (a link to NGSS), and a rubric for each assignment. The “web links” tab offers an abundance of student friendly science websites (science news, fun facts, review, etc.) covering all fields of science. Teachers will find this tab useful as well, because he provides links to various web tools such as presentation platforms, audiovisual tools, library/research information, and web design and word processing tools. Additionally, there are links to the curriculum (listed by topic), homework, his contact information, and photos that have been taken throughout the year. Although I do not see and grading or assignment tracking resources for the teacher to use, I do believe it is an organized way to maintain and keep track of all his work. This site seems very valuable to students, parents, and other teachers because of the amount of content and the organized way it is presented.

The fourth webiste I reviewed is called, “Stone Bridge High School: Liard, Richard (Math)” (http://www.lcps.org//site/Default.aspx?PageID=154973). Mr. Liard is a high school math teacher in Virginia. His website is directly accessed through the school’s website, as are all the other teachers’ websites. It is located under the “Staff” tab. Therefore, I see his website as professional, yet unoriginal. The site’s homepage is titled “professional biography”.  A brief description tells of his education and past career. His contact information is also provided here. A table titled, “Course Information” proved links to current grades, course materials and handouts, course syllabi, current homework assignments, upcoming assessments, and a course nine week plan. Each of these sections is broken into class name and block number. However, clicking on any class beneath these sections leads to the syllabus for that course (there is no distinction between course syllabi and upcoming assessments, or course materials and handouts, etc.). Each syllabus is presented as a Google Sheet and is broken down by day, topics and standards covered, and links to class notes, required homework, and answer keys. Parents and students have access to this information. Parents may find this kind of teacher website easy to find and use, since it is connected to the school’s website. Therefore, information on athletics, activities, counseling, school calendar, and other general school information is all visible in tabs above the teacher’s page. I do not see any resources for the teacher, or other teachers for that matter, on this website. I am not sure how much control each individual teacher has over their webiste connected to the school’s website. It almost looks like a requirement, and therefore, are expected to display (and not display) certain information.

The fifth website I reviewed is called, “Ms. Bishop’s Math” (http://msbishopmath.weebly.com). This teacher teaches middle school math in North Carolina. The site looks to be very friendly and inviting, mainly due to the large picture of a lake and mountains that takes up at least half of the page. In large text on top of this picture, it says, “Welcome Megalodons! Site updated over Thanksgiving :)” The tabs above the picture include “Home,” “Math 1,” “Math 8,” “Contact/About,” and “Mathematician of the Week”. The homepage offers a welcoming message, information on the best way to contact her, a link to her youtube channel where she posts all the educational videos she uses (other’s and her own), a link to a downloadable graphing calculator with instructions, and her grading policy. If a parent or student clicks on one of the math tabs, they will see a table of contents on the top each page. “On this page, you will find: 1) class agenda and homework (only two weeks at a time), 2) directions to sign up for REMIND, 3) help for organizing your binder, and 4) helpful links/extra practice. As you scroll down, you find exactly that. REMIND is a one-way messaging service that keeps all phone numbers private; it was designed specifically for teachers to send updates to students/families. If a student or parent signs up, they will receive text messages or emails from the teacher with homework reminders and important updates about the class. She also has a link to a Google Doc called “binder table of contents”. The extra practice links are organized by topic or unit number. The contact/about page has a form to submit a message, her email, address and phone number, and a picture and brief biography. The mathematician of the week is a nice recognition of a student in each grade that demonstrates good work ethic, respect towards others, and productivity in and out of class. All of these resources are available to anyone who visits her site, which can be found through the school’s site. Her site does not have a direct link to the school’s site however. Similar to the last teacher website, the main resource I see for this teacher through her website is the organization and track keeping method for current assignments and links to other helpful sites.

This review of teacher websites has been helpful for me as a developing teacher. I was surprised by the amount and variety of content a teacher can have on their website. Being exposed to multiple sites gives me an idea of how I could best create my own teacher website that is professional and functional. I want my website to represent me as a professional as well as my personal background and interests. Although the students will get to know me in class, parents don’t always have that opportunity, so I think it is most helpful for parents and other teachers who may be looking at my site. I will include a few relevant pictures that speak to me as a teacher and to the content I teach. I would like the bulk of my content to be about the subject I am teaching. I will plan to provide links to the course syllabus, class expectations, homework, and lectures. Students will always have access to these documents, and parents can stay up-to-date if they choose to do so. I will also make sure all possible contact information is clearly visible, as well as a link to the school’s website. Many teachers seem to include several links to sites and resources that provide more information or practice with the given content. I like this idea, however, too many additional website or resource links I find to be overwhelming. Therefore, I will keep these resources to a limited amount, and maybe change them a few times throughout the year to correspond with our unit of study. I am unsure if I will want to include a place for assignments to be turned in on my website. I really do not like to rely on computers/technology for everything. I guess it will depend on the kind of assignments I will be administering. I often questioned how valuable teacher websites are. This assignment has helped me to see their value (and areas that are not so valuable). I am sure there are many other types and formats out there that I have yet to discover.

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