I want to avoid giving the impression that this project was a breeze. I want to avoid generating in readers the feelings of self-doubt that I experience when I learn about innovative projects and best practices that seem to come off without a hitch. I find that that rarely happens. It is from hitches that I learn about my students and about myself as a teacher. So, while creating a Web page was not easy, it was a memorable and creative learning experience for myself and for my students.
-- Maura Donnelly,
former adult literacy teacher at LaGuardia Community College in
Queens, New York
Over the years we have collected a number of additional tips, ideas, and potential pitfalls to watch out for:
- Planning is the most important part.
- 	Start simple, and then add. One thing that can kill a project is being too ambitious. Plan it so that the basics are sure to be completed, while encouraging the more ambitious ideas for later drafts.
I found that I was not able to follow through on all the ideas that I had about the project when we began. I had brainstormed a ton of different ideas related to an Education Web site, but I found that it was best to keep it simple, proceed one step at a time, and follow from there.
-- Eric Appleton,
Computer and Literacy Teacher at the Fortune Society in New York City
We had all of the raw stock for the site: student photos, photos of class events and trips, original student writing in the form of captions, introductions, short pieces created during the year, each student's end of the year writing celebration piece, and our e-mail conversations with our key pals. We were ready to put together our site... I blocked out two computer lab sessions, or a total of three hours, to do this work. This did work with students who had all of their components ready, but it took much longer than I planned. In the end, only a few students were able to lay out their own pages. The remainder of the layout I did myself after the end of the term. Students were still handing in their chosen photographs and their final writing on the last days of class. This led to hours of extra work for me scanning photographs and laying out pages.
-- Maura Donnelly
- As experienced teachers know, even when something worked well with one class, don't be surprised if the interest level or the dynamics of the class make it a flop the next. Conversely, don't give up on the idea of doing it if it wasn't totally successful the first time around.
- Involve the rest of the program. Maybe it could be linked on the program or school's site. Other classes could read and talk with the Web developers about their experience.
- Train your peers, if possible. What happens if you leave?
- Don't forget you can print out pages from the site and put them in each student's portfolio.
- It's easy for teachers to get captivated by the technical aspects. Remember to integrate the technology with the overall classroom goals. Remind students that they are working on speaking when they are working together and asking questions. Teach some new vocabulary or help with pronunciation. Make sure you have set aside enough time for peer and teacher editing if the class is writing something.
- Once the site is published, it may be useful to have students put the URL on slips of paper. They can give these to other students, classes, friends, and family so that others can see the work they put into it.
- In our experience, projects almost always take longer than expected. Don't be conservative when it comes to allocating time for each part of your project plan. Make sure there is enough slack in the schedule to accommodate unexpected circumstances.
- Finally, remember that in many cases, even when a site is finished, it's never really finished. Most Web sites are fluid, ever-changing entities, and can continue to be a catalyst for student engagement well past their official "completion" date.
I would say that there are certain ingredients necessary to successfully carry out such a project: working Internet access, technical support, teaching support, a collaborative group of students who are invested in doing the project, and enough class time.
-- Diana Satin,
ESOL/Computer Teacher at the Jamaica Plain Community Center's
Adult Learning Program in Boston, Massachusetts
Students were comfortable sharing their writing with the class and participating in peer revision and critique. This environment also allowed me to truly take on the role of facilitator. I was not the keeper of all of the knowledge in the room; I became one of a rotating group of teachers.
-- Maura Donnelly
"One unexpected outcome of this site is that it allowed the community of our class to continue," one teacher notes. "This community now has a life that is not bound by our classroom nor by our student-teacher relationship. We are a group of people who struggled to create something of which we are proud and that will continue to connect us."
Last Updated October 23, 2003