I think I would like to set up a page that the parents can access for information from our room. I really don't know how - is that something you come and help teachers with?
I love this question! I work with a lot of teachers who don't consider themselves very techy, and for them, the idea of having a full-fledged website can often cause more stress than the solutions it provides. As I was driving to visit this particular teacher, I was scrolling through my mental Rolodex, trying to think of the simplest, most manageable solution for her. As I was assessing what she already knows, it occurred to me that she's been very brave about using her Google Apps for Education . . . and then it hit me: Google Docs.
This answer might not sound like a fit for this problem, but it's actually the perfect solution for a situation like this! With the help of a handy, somewhat hidden feature in the File menu, a Google Doc can be published to the web, just like any other site!
When creating any website, it's smart to have a plan. What do you want on it? Who is your target audience? How often do you intend to update it? Once those questions are answered, it's not only easier to pick a tool (Weebly, Wix, Sites, etc), but it's also easier to plan how it will look. This teacher wanted SIMPLE: something very easy to find and update, something that didn't have a lot of extra "flash," and something that would be easy for her students and their parents to access. Google Docs to the rescue!
First, I had her open a fresh Google Doc, by typing docs.google.com into her Omnibox. The first thing that caught her eye was the "new" templates section at the top of the home screen:
She immediately gravitated toward the "Class Notes" template under the Education section, and was pretty impressed when she opened it to find it already formatted. Since she knew that she wanted color-coded sections, she created the headings first. Once those were in there, we had a discussion about how she wanted her content to appear; in the content-area sections, she decided she wanted "buttons," so students could easily click to access Moby Max, Front Row, Dance Mat Typing, etc. In the other areas, however, she wanted to have charts to organize words, dates, and other information that changes more frequently. To created the "buttons," we simply inserted a table, right-clicked on it to bring up the "Table properties" options, and then made the following adjustments:
As we worked, she learned how to create a link (Mac keyboard shortcuts Command +L to select everything in the Omnibox, Command +C to copy, Command + 1 to open her first tab, click 3 times to select a line or section, Command + K to create a link, and Command + V to paste). This was huge for her; to know that she didn't have to have all that gunky website stuff on her page and that she could turn any text into a link was very exciting! Finally, once all of the content was added to her document (aka "webpage"), she was ready to turn it into what she'd always dreamed - a way to get her readers to her stuff!
All that's left to do now is to share this new, short, memorable URL with your people - email it to them, send it home on a piece of paper, write it on the board, shout it from the rooftops - it's yours!
Important Things to Know
By publishing your document to the web, you are making it public; that means anyone who has access to your bit.ly link can see your site (and therefore the contents of your document). If you aren't comfortable with this, you probably either don't want a website OR you can just resolve not to put any personal information in the document.
To update your website, all you have to do is open up your Doc (which you'll find tucked safely away in your Drive) and change to your heart's content. Your website will automatically be updated - you never have to "Publish to the web" or go to bit.ly again. Your site will live as long as the Doc does.
Google Docs are dynamic! As I just mentioned above, any time you make a change to your document, it will also change on your website. BUT unlike a collaborative Google Doc, the updates are not live. Your website will update itself and sync to the most current changes in your Doc every 5 minutes. That means that if you make a change to your document, you may not see the result on your webpage for a few moments; just be patient - it will catch up!
Because a Google Doc is typically formatted to look like a piece of paper, and a webpage is customarily wider to fit the size of your computer screen, you may notice that things seem to be in weird places on your site. My fix for this? CENTER EVERYTHING. Or don't - it's up to you. Either center it all, or leave it all justified to the left; this will prevent any weird horizontal placement of the objects on your page.