Friday, January 15, 2010

Cool Tool for School: Weebly

What is Weebly?
The National History Day organization runs competitions around the country in which students in both junior and senior divisions are challenged to conduct broad scholarly research and demonstrate their understanding and analysis of a topic through papers, exhibit boards, documentary movies, live performances or websites.

This year NHD introduced a new free website design tool called Weebly. Since some of my sophomore honors students would be using this tool to design their NHD projects, I thought it would be wise to learn the tool myself. Since then, I have become inextricably hooked and have used Weebly in a variety of ways.

Uses for Weebly... So Far!
1. Freshman Research Project
Freshmen arrive at high school a bit bleary-eyed and overwhelmed. Often, but not always, high school is their first introduction to in-depth research and annotated bibliographies. Instead of introducing the research process with the traditional paper assignment, I thought I could challenge my 9th graders to design websites using Weebly. The results were impressive. Here are only two examples:

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Paul Newman

2. Hosting My Class Blog
Each day, one of my freshmen students must write a blog post that reflects on that day's class, any assignments or activities we have tried, and any upcoming work. In addition, that student must explain and give his/her opinion on a current event they find online, in newspapers, or on television. Weebly is not only a web-hosting tool, it also has a feature that allows students and teachers to host blogs. I invite you to visit our class blog, read, and PLEASE add your comments in the Guest Book. My students loooooove comments.

Mrs. Gallagher's Class Blogs

3. Faculty Training
Ellie Freedman, principal at RMHS, and April Goran, our technology guru, asked me to put together a presentation for teachers about how blogging could be used (and is already being used) in classrooms here at the high school. Rather than use Power Point or Smart Notebook software, I thought I might compile information and resources in a more interactive way.... using Weebly. I introduced the website at a faculty meeting yesterday and the response so far has been positive. The beauty of using web-based tools to present a training is that I can add or change the information available as the needs of the high school teachers change. I've already added another link to a blog hosted by our Jazz Ensemble! Please add your suggestions or comments to the Feedback Blog page. I'd love to hear your ideas to improve the site.

Blogging at Reading Memorial High School

How to Get Started
Since I have used Weebly so many times and in so many ways, it MUST be user friendly, right? Right! If you can design slides using Power Point with text boxes and pictures, you can use Weebly. If you understand how to drag-and-drop, you can use Weebly. If you enjoy making your work interactive with video clips from YouTube, polls, and blogs.... Weebly is the tool for you.

Although this demo explains the tool's uses for creating a wedding website, I'm sure you can imagine the possibilities in your classroom.

Let me know if you want any tips, but the best way to learn this tool, as with many other web 2.0 applications, is to create an account and start playing. Enjoy!