Teachers reach out with the Web | VailDaily.com

Teachers reach out with the Web

Matt Terrell
Vail, CO Colorado
Eagle Valley High School teacher Nicole Dewell, center, works with Teresa Peterson, right, and Caitlin Yarger on a collage writing course. Dewell's students can find homework assignments, study guides, and calendars for parents on her eBoards Web site.

EAGLE COUNTY ” In between patients at the Shaw Cancer Center, radiation therapist Angie Van Dyke can learn everything she needs to know about her son’s geography project.

She sits at a computer screen, starts her Web browser and pulls up the eBoard for Nicole Dewell, a teacher at Eagle Valley High School.

The eBoard is a Web site program available for teachers that’s simple, not very flashy, but packed with information. Within moments, Van Dyke can find a class calendar and a listing of daily lessons and due dates, just in case she needs to drop a couple reminders at home.

Van Dyke can also check in on her daughter, who’s a senior. She’ll visit counselor Tammi Boeke’s Web site to see dates for all that “senior stuff” like test dates and buying yearbooks and cap and gowns.

Like most working parents, Van Dyke wants to stay on top of school happenings, but realistically, knows how difficult that can be. Information is often lost somewhere in that complicated mix of backpacks, messy cars and forgetful minds.

Now that more and more teachers are creating their own Web sites, finding need-to-know information is becoming easier than ever, she said.

“It’s not eating into your time at home, it doesn’t pull you away from your family,” Van Dyke said.

In a little over a year, the number of teachers with an eBoard Web site has grown from nearly none to nearly 250. This dramatic jump is reflective of the overall push being made by the school district to become a part of the digital age.

Because of the $128 million bond approved last November by voters, most classrooms in the district now have 40-inch flat screen monitors that teachers use to show videos, Power Point presentations and interactive Web sites. The district also upgraded its Internet server, which now runs more than 10 times faster than it used to.

And now, the act of communicating with parents and students has gone digital. Teacher Web sites have become a way to reach out to parents and students in the modern, Internet-based world, said John Kuglin director of technology for the school district.

“It’s really the beginning of the future for teachers,” Kuglin said. “Soon, it will be ‘How did I ever get along without it?’ then it becomes the fabric of who they are.”

Personal Web sites aren’t required of teachers, and not all teachers have one.

And out of those who do use them, not all of them are using them efficiently, at least not yet. Looking through the long list of teacher eBoards on the district Web sites, you’ll find many that are filled with useful tidbits, but just as many that appear to be in their infancy or flat-out neglected.

While it’s fairly easy to learn how to create and update an eBoard, and while the boosted Internet speed cuts down on upload times, it takes some getting used to. It takes routine.

Maintaining the Web sites has to become a regular part of a teacher’s week, Dewell said.

“It’s labor intensive ” keeping it all posted is a tremendous amount of work,” Dewell said. “It’s a good investment of my time though.”

As teachers are trained on the Internet, and as they see what other teachers are doing with their Web sites, you’ll see more and better eBoards in all the schools, Kuglin said.

Marcie Gass, a fourth grade teacher at Red Hill Elementary, likes that the eBoards save paper. She said she can sit in her living room on a Sunday afternoon and update her Web sites, which is much easier than going to school and setting up papers for kids to take home the next day.

“In the past, those papers didn’t always make it home ” they may have ended up in the bottom of a backpack or shoved into a desk,” Gass said.

Gass also likes to post links to interesting Web sites and videos on her eBoard, many of which she has used in class. She’ll also post the weekly plans of other teachers so parents can easily see how lessons in different subjects are fitting together.

For Dewell, posting work sheets and study guides gives students a chance to be proactive and responsible. If someone happens to miss a class, or if a student happens to lose a worksheet, they can print assignments instead of not doing it at all.

“There is less of a chance they can say, ‘I couldn’t do it’ ” you’ve sort of eliminated that problem,” Dewell said. “It also empowers the parents. They know the kid needs to be working on something.”

To view a directory of eBoards in the school district, visit http://www.eagleschools.net/parents, then click on “Teacher Websites.” There, you’ll see a link to every teacher Websites.

Staff writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.

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