This weekend I finally began the process of converting my class website from a support for my students at the American International School in Hong Kong (where I taught last year) to making it a website that supports my current students at the International School of Atyrau in Kazakhstan.
Shortly after I started teaching at Alchesay High School, in Whiteriver, Arizona in January, 2004, I met with George Thomson at the Sunrise Ski Lodge. While his family skiied, he showed me how to register a domain name, as well as the basics of how to use Dreamweaver to create a website. He helped me purchase server space, and I was off. Although I have changed servers since then, I have maintained the same domain name, and I have consistently provided my classes with a website ever since.
Certainly the quality of the website has waxed and waned over the years. Depending on my teaching circumstances, I have emphasized different aspects of the site. While I was teaching at the American School of Yaounde, I discovered Voodoo Pad Pro, and switched from using Dreamweaver. It was one of the best moves I ever made. It made modifying the website so easy; the flexibility and versatility of the software is what makes it so great.
I can honestly say that teacher tools for creating a class website have never been better. I am now using PersonalBrain for the site index and most of the supporting pages. I like the way it sets up relationships between ideas. It uploads documents easily for student use. Beyond that, it is very helpful on my computer as a tool that permits me to find what I need quickly and easily. The support for the product is fantastic.
For my class calendar, I am using Planbook. Planbook has been a work in progress for the past couple of years, but it is really coming into its own. It has many great features. Jeff Hellman, its developer, is easy to talk with, and has incorporated many teacher-led ideas into the software. It is already well worth its price, and I can see it only getting better with time.
For grading, I have chosen to use the most recent upgrade of Easy Grade Pro. It permits me to grade student work by standard. It is a sophisticated program, and the learning curve is quite steep, but once it is mastered, it too is well worth the price. I love how it enables me to talk to students about mastery of standards and skills, rather than about grade percentages. And that ties in so well with the Quality Schools International philosophy.
I still love Voodoo Pad Pro for what it can do. Although I once centered my website around this program, I have switched to PersonalBrain. But Voodoo Pad Pro is another excellent piece of software. Gus is responsive to customer needs and concerns, and the program is easy to use, but terrifically effective.
Taken together, these four programs are the backbone of what I do as a teacher. These tools make me a better teacher for my students.
I teach because I want to enable our next generation of young people to make the world a better place. I thank those people working on the software that I rely on for helping me to fulfill my vision. By the way, here is my website.