Teachers join the Web generation
Parents of Ramona Unified students may not know this yet, but their children’s teachers are becoming webmasters. And they are being honored for their online efforts through the district’s Teacher Webpage of the Month contest.
Keith Wright, the district’s director of Informational and Educational Services, had the idea in 2008 when the district revamped its Web site, but he waited to start the competition until teachers had the chance to build their Web pages.
“Ramona Unified is always looking for more efficient and cost-effective ways to communicate with our stakeholders,” said Wright. “Because much of our community works away from Ramona, placing information online is a way to always have it available. Once that information is online, it is accessible at any time of the day, any day of the week. This allows us to increase the level of communication between school and home. We are also able to save money on printing costs by placing items online instead of sending paper copies home.”
Wright is responsible for the overall maintenance of the Web site. For the competition, he tracks the amount of “hits” and visitors that go to each web page and, at the end of the month, he logs the numbers to determine the winners.
The numbers are easy to access and are non-subjective in determining the winner now, said Wright. Soon, however, he would like to look at other measurements such as how often the teacher’s site is updated and the average time someone visits the page.
“I wanted to find some way of rewarding teachers that are putting in the time and effort into keeping their information up to date and letting parents know that this information is online,” said Wright.
Ramona High School teacher Sarah Wallace is among the first winners. She updates her Web page daily, primarily so parents and students have up-to-the-minute homework posts. Other information on her page includes links to practice activities for the Mastery tests, and she posts important test or activity dates on her calendar.
“I find it useful to keep both parents and students updated on the happenings in class,” said Wallace. “Many students who are absent will have the homework completed when they return because they checked the Web site. In conjunction with the Web page, at the beginning of the year I collected parent and student e-mails to send out reminder e-mails about once to twice a month. I will include a link to my Web page, as well as upcoming important dates and happenings in these.”
Along with Wallace, other winners so far include Robyn Bash of Ramona Elementary, Lynn Bebinger of James Dukes Elementary and Carrie Budd of Ramona Community School. When a teacher wins, a districtwide e-mail is sent with a link to view the winning site.
When Budd won, she was surprised.
“I knew my students were using my page but I didn’t realize it was the second most in the district,” she said. “Web pages allow my students to get the information they need from me as Independent Study students. They can go online to get answers to problems or to print off homework assignments. I also have a variety of Independent Study documents for the students to print off.”
Budd updates her site a few times a week.
“Every time there is a new chapter I put up a new syllabus,” she said. “The students and parents enjoy finding the information they need from me on the Web site.”
“The response has been very good,” said Wright. “The teachers that have won in the first two months have been very appreciative for being recognized. The school sites and teachers have started asking for how many page views each of their pages have had over the month. The idea of competition has increased the amount of updates to our pages, and community awareness of these pages has increased. Principals have shared these numbers with their teachers, and we have seen more requests for training on how to update the pages.”
Teachers are not required to update their pages, but many do. Wright is hopeful that the friendly competition’s effect will be two fold. First, he notes that recognizing teachers for their hard work is always important.
“We want to make sure that their efforts to improve communication with their parents and students does not go unnoticed,” he said. “The bigger issue with this is that with better communication comes better opportunities for students to learn.”
Secondly, Wright hopes more and more teachers will get interested and update their pages more often.
“They will hopefully also share this information with their students and parents, again, improving communications,” he said.
To view teachers’ Web sites, go to www.ramonausd.net, select a school site and then link to a specific teacher’s pages. Parents may also check who wins each month on the district’s home page. But be patient.
“We also know that this is a work in progress,” said Wright. “We are always striving for making the site better, and to have more relevant information.”
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