Monthly Archives: April 2013

Build Great Classroom Websites with Weebly for Education

weebly

If you are looking to create a classroom website with a free website builder, take a look at Weebly. It’s ad-free, full of customization options, and has a dedicated education arm at Weebly for Education. Its easy to use drop and drop interface is ideal for busy teachers, and you can even create student accounts that you moderate from a central dashboard.

I first used Weebly for Education several years ago when I was still teaching 4th grade. I had a classroom website with Weebly and several student websites, but it didn’t quite have everything that I wanted. I soon became immersed in Google Apps, so I switched a lot of my web building efforts towards Google Sites. However, at a recent workshop, led by Ramsey Musallam, I had the chance to take another look at Weebly, and I liked what I saw! It is a great option for teachers who want their own classroom website.

There are over 70 great looking themes to choose from, each of which can be customized to your liking. You can add photo galleries of student work, slideshows, YouTube videos, Google Maps, or anything else with an embed code via the custom HTML element. Your website is free of advertising, and you can choose between a Weebly URL (yoursite.weebly.com) or a custom domain (mrwylie.com) which you can buy from Weebly or someone like GoDaddy, and add it to your site for free.

weebly education

Best of all, the education arm of Weebly has some exclusive features just for teachers. For instance, you can add an assignment form to your site that allows students the ability to upload their assignments and submit them to you via your website. You also have the option to create student accounts so that your students can create their own Weebly websites. Teachers get 40 free student websites with the Weebly for Education account. These websites can be public or private, you can moderated comments submitted to student websites, and choose whether you want to enable or disable a Flickr search for images.

All of the above features are free, but if you decide to upgrade to the Pro account ($39.99 a year) you can get an additional 10 student sites, unlimited pages, a 250Mb file upload allowance, a custom audio and HTML5 video player, as well as the ability to embed documents you upload to the site. You can also password protect pages, remove Weebly branding and and get access to premium support. If you just need the extra student accounts, they can be bought in blocks of 10 for $10.

Weebly for Education also has a great referral program. If you click one of the sign up links in this post and publish your own site, Weebly will credit your account, (and mine), with $10 that you can use towards the pro account. So, if you try it, and you like it, share your experiences with others to earn more credit for an upgrade.

Of course, Weebly is just one of the many website builder options out there for teachers looking to create a classroom website. There are other free options like Wix, Google Sites, WordPress, Kidblog, Yola and more. My advice would be to find the one that works best for you. For a lot of teachers that I have been working with recently, that has been Weebly, so give it a go if you haven’t played with it for a while. The latest improvements are there for all to see, and it remains as easy as ever to quickly build a free, high quality website you can be proud of.

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Show Me the Showbie! An Easy iPad Workflow Solution

ShowbieHave you tried Showbie yet? If you have iPads in the classroom, and you’re struggling with how to have students submit assignments, you need to take a look at it. This free service lets students submit assignments to the teacher, who can then grade them and return them to the student all on the iPad. Here’s how.

Start by downloading the free Showbie app, and create a teacher account. Next, add a class, and take note of the class code. Teachers can create as many classes as they need. Tell students what your individual class code is so that when they sign up, they can join your class and be able to submit assignments to you. (Note: no email addresses are required for students to sign up and use the Showbie service).

Once everybody is signed up, the teacher adds an assignment to the shared folder in their chosen class. This automatically populates it in the student’s account. The assignment can be a text note, an image, a recorded voice message, a 1 minute video, or something that you have created in another app and sent to Showbie via the “Open in another app” function. Need to show a longer video? Host it on YouTube (or add it to Dropbox) and paste the link to the video in the text box for students. Some have even added the video to a Keynote file (100 MB max size) and uploaded that.

Showbie Media

Students submit their assignments by logging in to the Showbie app and selecting the class, and then the assignment they were sent by their teacher. They can turn it in via a text note, image, recorded voice message, a 1 minute video or again something that they created in another app.

When the teacher next logs in, they will see how many assignments have been turned in for each class and they can choose which ones to grade. Their comments can be left in one of the multimedia elements discussed above, or by opening the file into another app like a PDF annotator and then sending it back to Showbie.

Currently, there are three levels of Showbie accounts, all of which are free. But, be aware that the standard teacher account will limit you to 100 assignments. If you need more than that, and you surely will over time, you should encourage your school to sign up for a school or district account which has unlimited assignments.

Premium features are on the way, and will be an additional cost, but Showbie has said that everything that is currently free will remain free, and that these paid extras will be something over and above what they already offer. It might not be the perfect solution for all scenarios, but for most of the time it will work just fine.

Do you use Showbie? If so, and you have any experiences to share (good or bad) feel free to share them in the comments below.

Building Better Google Sites at the 2013 Iowa 1:1 Institute

I love Google Sites. They are quick and easy to make, and they even allow a good amount of customization. Unfortunately, not everybody knows just how much you can change to make a site your own. So, at the Iowa 1:1 Conference in Des Moines, Iowa I used one of my four presentation slots to share some of my favorite tips on how to make a Google Site not look like a Google Site!

The conference itself was a great day of learning, and an ideal opportunity for educators to connect on everything associated with implementing a 1:1 technology program. If you ever get the chance to attend this yearly event, I would definitely recommend you stop by some time because this, and ITEC, are among the best technology conferences in Iowa.

It was the first time I had given this particular presentation, but it looked to be well received and the 60 minute session soon flew by. As such, I thought I would provide a link here to the conference website where my notes, and those of my colleagues are stored, in case you too are interested in building better Google websites. There were only so many things I could include in sixty minutes, but these are some of my favorites.

You can find my tips on Google Sites here, and explore presenter notes from all the sessions at the Iowa 1:1 conference wiki. Meanwhile, if you are looking for some inspiration as to what can be created using some of the techniques I outline, you can check out a slideshow of some of the Google websites I have created for Grant Wood AEA below.

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