Just like Web sites for businesses and organizations, school Web sites have gone from being a daring novelty to an absolute necessity. But the challenging task of designing, updating and maintaining a school Web site has also changed over the years. At one time, developing a site involved many hours of work by school or district IT staff , or it meant hiring a design company to custom-build a solution, but today, there are a large number of Web site developers catering specifically to the needs of K12.
Their solutions empower school administrators to design, maintain and update their sites themselves with minimal effort. School sites have also changed, having gone beyond basic home pages to include e-mail systems, calendars and content management systems; incorporate Web 2.0 tools such as social networks, blogs and discussion forums; and host multimedia such as podcasts and video. Web sites are now often the home base from which a district conducts an overall communications strategy, keeping the community informed about news, events or emergencies through tools such as embedded notification systems, which can call, e-mail and text thousands of important messages simultaneously, or through translation of all online resources into dozens of languages.
Cost of implementation can vary depending on the number of included features, but the fully hosted subscription models of most sites today are far less expensive than in the past, and several companies off er basic services for free. Here are a few of the many solutions to consider using in your district.
Edline's Enhanced Website Solution offers users a variety of tools and functions to add as needed. These include an Interactive Classroom package, which creates classroom sites with interactive instructional tools for teachers, online Student Web Lockers, a Forms and Survey designer, or integration of Edline's gradebook programs, GradeQuick and Easy Grade Pro, which manage assessment, attendance, lesson plans, reporting and more. Edline also offers fast graphic design services called Design Quick- Start, a do-it-yourself site design program or completely custom site development services. www.edline.com
eChalk offers a choice of packages within its K-12 Suite. The base Webvantage package offers Web site design along with a school store application, and optional PLC, ClassView and Anytime packages add on a wide variety of features such as e-mail, online file storage, teacher and class resources, an online professional development community, social networking tools and more. A Lesson Planner module helps to streamline curriculum development by connecting teachers and administrators. eChalk's platform also allows school and district Web sites, e-mails to and from teachers, and student and parent communications to be translated into some 51 different languages. www.echalk.com
Standard edition free, Plus edition fee varies
School Loop focuses on a philosophy of creating "Learning Management Teams," or connecting the caring adults in a student's life—such as teachers, counselors, parents and social workers— to the student and one another to stay aware of academic progress and other issues and to keep the student in school and on track. School Loop offers its Standard edition for free, which includes a choice of home page design templates, a content management system, school calendars and more. For an added fee, the Plus edition adds features such as student and parent email, personal calendars, digital lockers, a student tracker, a gradebook and more. www.schoolloop.com
SCHOOLinSITES focuses on providing tools for district level administrators, particularly technology directors, and emphasizing improving communication between all community members. Features include tools for sending e-mail newsletters, making online presentations, conducting real-time surveys, building online forms, providing staff and student e-mail services, and more. The company also provides on-site professional development workshops to train administrators and other staff upon initial implementation, as well as follow-up sessions as needed. www.schoolinsites.com