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Website Management Section: Implementation

Once you've done your research, developed a strategy, and created your website, it's time for implementation. Once the website is up and running there are a whole new set of issues that web developers must consider.

Let's explore class use and management.

Class Use

If you're working in a library or other type of organization, a specific individual or department may be in charge of all aspects of web development. However in a school situation, students might get involved in web design and development as part of their classroom activities.

Website projects may be part of a formal web design course or may be integrated into any type of content-related activity. The key is balancing quality content and effective web design with the student's desire to have fun making web pages.

It's a good idea to start by providing quality models. For example, you might show students selected examples from a recent state media fair or ThinkQuest project winners.

Let's explore project development and classroom management.

Project Development

Planning is a critical part of project implementation. Know your students and think ahead. If you're planning a large-scale Internet project, try elements with your class first to determine how much time the project will take. Also consider implementing a trial project with two or three schools rather than twenty or thirty schools your first time.

Use a wall or bulletin board in your classroom as "web headquarters." Include timelines, a layout of the site, a world map of participants, screen dumps from sites used, background information, and a responsibility chart. You may also want to post information in the lunchroom where all the students in the school can see your progress. This will get the entire school behind your project. Students love to see a map expand with participants from around the world or see a thermometer fill as project spaces are filled.

Timelines

Timelines, flowcharts, calendars, and due date postings are all ways to help you and your students keep track of the project. You'll be surprised how fast the time will go. Remember when a project falls behind it impacts all the schools involved. Keep on top of the project and develop contingency plans for slow downs and bottlenecks. For example, it may take twice as long as you anticipated for students to respond each day to email. You may need to use an additional email connection or ask a small group to volunteer after school to catch up. You'll have no trouble recruiting students. Try to incorporate your theme into your bulletin board. A government class used pictures of race horses in their "race of the bills" project.
Your timeline should include milestones for the project, key due dates, and other important times that your class can anticipate. Involve students in the timeline by filling in dates or counting down days. The chart below contains a horizontal timeline.

If you're the project leader, it's your responsibility to keep your participants on track. You may need a separate director's timeline. For instance, you need to send out confirmations before the project starts. You also need to send out reminders immediately before due dates.

In addition to the timelines, you might also want charts that show numbers of email messages, numbers of participating students or schools, and other interesting data. This is a great math activity for students.

quilt project

Topic: World Peace
Overview: Students at each site create digital peace quilt pieces representing what their country can contribute to the world.
Subjects: Students at each site create digital peace quilt pieces representing what their country can contribute to the world.
Outcomes: Apply design skills to the development of a digital quilt piece.
Synthesis information about a country.
Identify contributions of countries around the world.
Create geometric patterns.
Share concerns about world peace.
Ages: 10-14
Timeline: 10 weeks
Connections: Countries around the world
Procedure: Post a Call for Connections.
Pinpoint participants on the map.
Research additional countries not participating.
Discuss unique aspects of each country.
Develop digital quilt squares.
Publish each digital quilt square as a thumbnail graphic.
Develop a web page for each thumbnail, plus a core page.
Optional: Contests for most unique, colorful, guess the country.

Site Layout

As students begin to develop web pages for the site. It's helpful for them to visualize the entire web project. There's probably a core page, credits page, participants page, FAQs page, and information pages.

Ask a small group to create a series of cards for each page that can be placed on the bulletin board. Or, direct the group to create a diagram of the site on paper and post it on the bulletin board. This visual representation will help students track their progress. For example, as each page is created or completed, a sticker or checkmark could be added to the chart.

Map

Many web projects involve students from around the state or province, country, or world. It's fun to keep track of participants on a map. The World Quilt project uses a world map. Some classes use pins or stickers to mark locations, while others color in the map or add an object such as a small leaf to the map.

Be sure all the students get an opportunity to interact with the map. Also consider placing a map in the hall or lunch room where everyone can see. Many projects also put a map on their website.

Screen Dumps

Sometimes it's hard for students and parents to "see" the project as it progresses on the Internet. Consider posting screen dumps or creating a print version of the web site in a notebook for people to see when they don't have access to the computer. You many even print out email communication and create a project diary or journal.

With a color printer, you can print beautiful representations of your project. For example, if you're working on an animals project, you might print out pictures of animals from a variety of sites and post them on your bulletin board. You could also post new web pages that have just been completed for your students to evaluate or just admire.

Background Information

Some projects require lots of in-class preparation and background information. For example, before your students jump into an online geometry problem solving project, they need a firm grasp of the math concepts. Use the bulletin board to post sample problems or review formulas or examples. In the Tree Project, students started by studying deforestation and conservation. An area of the bulletin board was dedicated to information related to these Tree Tips.

Responsibility Chart

Like any class project, you'll need to assign responsibilities. In a web project, there are many ongoing duties such as updating the map, checking email, posting information, researching topics, and writing articles. In some projects, you may assign individual roles, while in others you may organize work groups with specific titles such as web weavers, email experts, and map makers. These roles could be for the duration of the project or they could rotate daily or weekly depending on the project.

As you develop your project, consider the following elements:

Classroom Management

Explore the following considerations in managing classrooms that are using Internet-based resources.

Ability Levels

For some students, the Internet is just too abstract. They may have difficulty understanding the organization of information and the concept of hypermedia. Consider a variety of assignments to meet individual needs in the classroom. Some might access sites that require a lower or higher reading level. Some websites may have fewer or more illustrations to maintain motivation. Consider the needs of both your lowest and highest level students. Planning can help students of all ability levels better understand the project.

Speed

Develop a realistic timeline for yourself and your students. Your project will become frustrating rather than fun if you and your students are constantly pressured by deadlines. Build in a cushion for problems or slow workers.

You'll find that the time students take to develop and work with projects varies tremendously. Keep this in mind as you design your project. Build in remedial activities for slow learners and challenging activities for fast learners. Don't expect every student to read everything. Make it clear to students what's most important. Also provide a schedule so students know how to budget their time.

Know your schedule. Don't start something right before a break or at the very beginning of the year when it's hectic.

Grouping Students

In most schools, there's simply not enough Internet access to provide one computer for each student. There's a good chance students will need to work in small groups. As you form groups, look for the natural leader. Work with these leaders to make certain they understand the importance of involving all group members. Consider assigning roles that will rotate during the project so all students get a chance to use the technology and also to read, write, think, and share.

Internet Access

You'll find that the Internet can be really slow. This is particularly true during certain parts of the day. Sometimes you may lose your connection entirely or the site you need may be down. Look for the slow times and anticipate down times. Design off-computer activities that can be accomplished in conjunction with on-computer activities.

Email

Email is often an important component of an Internet project. Before the project starts, determine the email address you will be using. Don't use your personal email. Instead, get a class email address or an address for each small group. Decide what role students can take in project management. For example, students may be able to send out standard replies and post responses if they have a form letter or template to use.
Use email to generate excitement in the project. Start with activities that will help students and classes get to know each other. You may even wish to exchange photos, audio greetings, and web sites.

At the end of the project, put a group of students in charge of thanking participants. You could also involve them in evaluating the project.

Computer Schedule

Be certain that students have adequate time to use the computer. Consider a rotation schedule that provides students at least 20 minutes at a time on the computer individually or in pairs. Be sure that you build in adequate time for groups to complete their daily work, such as email or web page development. Some teachers use the morning for regularly scheduled activities and the afternoon for special projects. High school teachers often build a Monday/Wednesday or Tuesday/Thursday schedule for their students during project weeks and leave Friday for special topics.

File Management

Whether you have one computer in your classroom or a dozen, file management will be a major concern. Develop a project folder containing individual student folders and group work folders. If you have more than one computer, you may be able to share the folder over a network. Use a standard naming system to make management easier. Otherwise, you'll end up with lots of files named "project" and "research." Consider downloading web pages that you will be using regularly as information resources.

As you manage your classroom, consider the following elements:

 

Management

Management involves a wide range of functions related to website development. Let's explore policies, promotion, and staffing.

Policies

Policies are a pain to write and maintain, but they are essential for a smooth running school, library, or website.

Rather than building all new policies, see how your website issues might be addressed using current center policies. For example, you already have a collection development policy. How do web resources fit into this policy? An appendix or the addition of a sentence may be all that you need.

Some people may ask, why bother? It's the same reason you build your house to withstand an earthquake. Be prepared for the worst. In the case of a website, the worst might be a challenge to website content.

Collection Development Policy

Like the books you select, the web resources you choose should meet the guidelines established in your collection development policy. For example, if you're working with young children, you'll want to consider readability and developmentally appropriate materials.

Acceptable Use Policy

You need a policy related to acceptable use of your school or library computers. Although you might start out by quoting the ALA policy on freedom of information, you may also describe the individual's responsibility. Some schools and libraries use filters. A policy should state how these filters are used.

Licensing Policy

Many of your electronic materials have specific licensing guidelines. In other words, some subscription services must be used on library or school computers. In some cases, a password may be given to local users only. Be sure to check your subscription agreement before you open a resource to the general public.

If your policies require you to restrict access, read the links at the Remote User Authentication in Libraries.

Content Disclaimer

No matter how often you update your website, there will always be broken links and links you are unable to control. Your disclaimer should clearly state that you are responsible for the content created by your library or school, but not the external links. Always provide an email link, so people can email you broken links or content concerns.

Promotion

Do your students, parents, or patrons visit your site regularly? Do they even know it exists? You need a plan for website promotion.

readRead!
Read Marketing Your Organization's Web Site by J. Cravens to learn about some of the issues in site marketing. Written from the perspective of an online business, The Web Marketing Checklist: 32 Ways to Promote Your Website by R. F. Wilson contains useful strategies that can be used by libraries and other organizations.

Like any good promotion, you need a strategy to establish your client base, then keep them coming back. You might start with posters, bookmarks, demonstrations, and public service announcements to advertise your resources. Next, be sure that people know that new things are being posted all the time. Posting student projects, user comments, and other local materials are a good way to generate interest. Can you get others involved? For example, develop a relationship with a local grocery store or community group. Then, list them as sponsors for special projects.

Staffing

Everyone on the school or library staff should be familiar with the content and use of the website. Although not everyone will be developing and posting pages themselves, everyone should be encouraged to play a role in the success of the materials. From content development to checking links, there are many ways staff members can help. A truly interactive website may require a number of ongoing responsibilities such as checking email, monitoring discussion groups, or checking online registrations or scheduling.

In order for staff to play an active role, you may need to set up training sessions. You can do the same with student workers. Consider very short training sessions that focus on specific topics such as using the digital camera, resizing photographs, or answering email questions.


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