Conn. District Revamps Web Site With finalsite
In today's fast-paced world, schools use technology to more effectively communicate with parents and the public. Therefore, a school district's Web site can be an invaluable resource to enhance the educational process if used to its full potential. With this in mind, the West Haven School District in Connecticut (www.whschools.org) began looking for a new product to help revamp its Web site. The product we had been using for the district Web site was difficult to use, especially for the average educator. There was also the constant threat of hackers or someone having a password that could alter the entire site. But these problems ended as soon as we brought in finalsite.
The finalsite program is extremely user-friendly - anyone who can use a word processing program can use finalsite to put up a Web page in virtually minutes. It is also possible for teachers to post homework on a daily - even hourly - basis, while allowing parents to see what is happening inside their child's classroom.
Our district chose finalsite with additional modules in November 2002. We planned together and came up with an outline of what we wanted to include on the site and how it was to be arranged. Our technology support team was trained in using the product and began the task of getting the district portion of the site ready for public viewing. In March 2003, teachers were trained to work on their school's Web site along with representatives of adult education and other departments within the district. By mid-May, every school and department had a Web site ready for public viewing. We launched the site on June 1, 2003, then started training teachers to use the product to create classroom pages.
School and Home Benefits
finalsite is simple to use and password-protected, so only teachers and administrators have access to their section of the Web site. This helps eliminate the possibility of anyone changing or destroying someone else's pages. Teachers use the program to post classroom rules and guidelines, as well as help for parents. They can also post homework, worksheets and quizzes for their students to access from home or anywhere with a computer; thus, fewer children can now say that they forgot their homework.
Students can use the Web site as a presentation device by being given access to pages that they create to represent what they've learned in a particular unit of study. Images are then easily uploaded so that diagrams and photos can be posted in minutes. The district uses finalsite to post its board of education policies, budget, meeting agendas, and the minutes of meetings. This has greatly cut down on the Freedom of Information Act requests that formerly consumed much of the clerical staff's time and energy. In addition, the site features a comprehensive list of links to curriculum-related Web sites, as well as a page of links to virtual field trips so that parents and teachers can enhance the lessons being taught in the classroom.
Showcasing School Activities
The schools are the focal point of the community for citizens with children, and a well-designed, comprehensive Web site can "sell" a community to prospective residents. A side benefit of having an updated, informational Web site is its ability to showcase all that is going on within the schools, which also serves as a PR tool to help the school district maintain and promote a positive image.
finalsite has made a difference in our district: We now have a tool to help administrators, teachers and students communicate with the larger community, as well as within their own school community. And the program's user-friendly interface makes it a snap to create attractive and informative Web pages. We are now able to showcase special events and celebrate our triumphs with the public quickly and effortlessly. finalsite truly has enhanced the educational process in West Haven.
For free finalsite product trials, visit www.finalsite.com.
This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2004 issue of THE Journal.