Why would a teacher want a WordPress site?

I think this question is really a two part question:

1.  Why do I, as a teacher, want a website?

and…

2.  Why use WordPress versus edmodo or edublogs or any of the thousand other tools available?

Let’s look at the advantages of maintaining a teacher / class website:

  • Communication with students and parents. A class website is a flexible tool to inform parents about what your students are are supposed to be learning, and a place for students to review materials, get homework, etc. You can set it up at the beginning of the year in a syllabus format, or build it as you go, unit by unit. You can even delegate management of the page to a student and have them build and maintain it for you.
  • Marketing. YPI Charter Schools presents the case to the world that we use technology to enhance learning, and as such, parents expect to be able to research our staff and curriculum. We can also entice more parents to send their students to a YPI Charter School as an attractive alternative to their local district school.
  • Self Promotion. As a YPI Charter School teacher, you bring (and receive) a lot of training and expertise, and a teacher site gives you a chance to build a professional portfolio of work and student examples, which you can use to pursue national board certification, an advanced degree, or even employment within or without the organization.
  • Back up in case your projector quits. If you have your content on a site, you can direct students there to follow along.
  • Starting point for units or projects. Mr. Bradford does a great job with his site; students go there to watch videos, get instructions and provide feedback.
  • Dynamic vs. Static. As information changes, you can quickly update the site, but it takes a long time to update printed material. If a someone makes a good observation or provides a winning example, you can post it up quickly so that more students can benefit.
  • Environmentally friendly. The less paper used the better, and students are more likely to go back to the website than dig through their backpacks for handouts.

So, why use wordpress instead of publicly accessible tools?

Personally, I do not have a strong preference or policy about which tool you use, I am more concerned whether we are using teacher / class sites at all or not. I would prefer to have all of the links on our teachers.coronacharter.org and teachers.romerocharter.org sites populated so our office staff can direct parent inquiries to the appropriate links. However, here are some reasons why you might choose use our wordpress installation over other tools:

  • It’s completely free. There is no cost to set up a site, just attend a workshop or ask your tech coordinator or me and we’ll set you up very quickly. I host our websites on our own equipment and on our internet access, so if they go down I’m the one responsible for bringing them back up, you don’t have to fuss with what passes for customer service on many ‘free’ sites.
  • We control the content and the access. I get nervous about putting students data in the hands of outside vendors, especially those ‘free’ providers who may not take privacy as seriously as I do. If a student misuses the tool, it may be difficult to get the issue resolved. If we need a place for students to be able to focus on content and not worry about privacy or appropriate content, I can create a private site inaccessible to the outside world, but available on our internal network.
  • Local community of friendly users. Mr. Ruiz, Mr. Bradford and others have experience building wordpress sites, so you don’t have to rely on Google to hunt down your answers.
  • Unlimited functionality. I’ve heard that EduBlogs is actually a wordpress installation that is limited, similar to wordpress.com sites. Our hosting set up is a s flexible as you need, as long as it preserves privacy and security.

Here are some comments from Mr. Bradford as to why you might use a wordpress site:

  • No coding needed!In the past creating a website required the designer to type lines and lines of HTML code to get a site that was just “ok”. WordPress does away with coding by including a dashboard that acts as the hub of your website, a visual editor that works just like a word processor, and by using themes to create your actual website. Without ever touching one line of code a user can create a visually pleasing website in a few minutes.
  • Constantly updated content! – Web sites of the past were static and not updated that often. Today websites are updated constantly. With a WordPress site updating content is as easy as clicking a button. Once you click publish, update, or save your changes are immediately visible to anyone who checks your site.
  • You can learn the basics in five minutes! – In just five minutes you can learn how to create a post on your class blog. Seriously that’s it! No fancy extra classes or hours and hours of research needed. Give WordPress five minutes and you can have a class website!
  • You can use WordPress to automate your week. – My favorite part of using a WordPress blog is that I can schedule when a post goes live. So in theory I can type up all of my blog posts on Sunday when I am lesson planning, schedule them to publish at a certain date and time, have my students view them after they are published, and then not touch my blog again until the next Sunday. This is a huge time saver!

There are some advantages to using external sites, such as

Visually interesting themes and skins. Some sites, like edmodo, have some really nice themes, including one that makes the site look and act like Facebook. WordPress may also have such themes, but they can take some searching.

Large active community of users. Sometimes you can find some good ideas from the larger user base.

So, I’d really like to see each teacher using a website to promote their classes, whether you use our wordpress installation or some outside tool. If you have a site already and it is not linked on the teacher site, please send me the link and I’ll update it. If you don’t have one and would like some information on wordpress, please attend Mr. Bradford’s workshop this Wednesday. Otherwise, pick a tool and give it a shot!

Help? How do I get help? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

All this technology in your classroom, and something goes wrong, who ya gonna call? Here is the most effective way to ask for assistance:

Go to this URL: http://www.ypics.org/hd/

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On the left, click on the link that says submit a ticket:

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Fill out all the fields marked with asterisks.  Most importantly, please give as much detail as possible, as this will help narrow the possible solutions.

Once you click submit, you will get an email with a link to your help desk ticket. This will help you keep track of your issues, and any communication about this problem will be documented through this application and referenced to that ticket.

Why is this more effective than just telling me when you see me next?

  • I can be a bit hard to find, due to the fact that I work on separate campuses and on quite a few projects at once. You may not see me for days, and you may feel that there is no support. However, if I can get to the help desk ticket app, I can usually see the network and can give support remotely.
  • When you see me, I am usually running to the next problem, and may seem a bit unapproachable. People often apologize for bothering me, which is quite embarrassing, as you are not a bother; you are the reason I have a job 🙂 However, I get stressed easily and have a bit of tunnel vision about the problem at hand; I don’t quite process when other data comes in unrelated to what I am doing. Quite often I have a senior moment and forget what people tell me. I’m older than most of you, I need things written down (sorry).
  • There are others who may be able to help you better or at least sooner. I can send your ticket to a resource on your campus and ask them to help out, which may solve your issue sooner.
  • This process I helps me create a history of issues, and allows me to present data to my bosses when they ask about the state of technology issues. If there aren’t any tickets, I must not be too busy 🙂
  • I can’t promise that I will help you immediately or even quickly, but I will get you help as soon as possible. However, I can’t help if I don’t know there is an issue. I get a bit embarrassed when I hear from admin that this teacher or that staff member has been without a resource “for a long time” and I don’t know about it.

It would really help me if all staff would use the help desk ticketing process to report and track technology issues. In the future, I’d like to see this process used for facilities and supply requests, but we are not there yet. Please help me support you. Please take a moment and submit any tech issues you have, it will keep me and a couple others busy for a bit.

If this process doesn’t work for you, please take a moment and email me why, so I can better understand and look for a more flexible solution.