Google Sites: my personal teacher webpage
Cost: free. Hosted by Google.
Back in the day (four years ago), the teachers in my district were expected to have an updated, informative webpage that offered syllabi, our contact information, and other key announcements. My school webpage used to be my prime method of communicating with my students. We still have a link on our Staff page to all our teachers’ webpages; when I click on many of them, they are no longer “live” or have not been updated for quite a while, probably due to our switch to Google Classroom. I think we’re supposed to have pages still, but they are clearly no longer in the forefront of our communication.
Benefits: my page is very personal: I chose the banner, font, arrangement, etc. Any vistor--parent, student, or support staff--can access the links to my syllabus or various assignments. Thanks to the interface with Google, when I update my syllabus document in my classroom, it automatically updates in all the other places it’s linked (thank you, inserted google docs!). The general information about my class is there. I’m also able to share considerable personal detail: I can load up the page with silly cat videos or great poems. In the past, I’ve linked “flipped” videos to remind students how to structure an essay or about the importance of reading.
Drawbacks: The page is not personalized to a student (“Damien has not turned in X or Y”) and a visitor has to have the skill to access the various links--sidebar vs. main page, etc. If someone is not “webpage savvy,” s/he might feel overwhelmed and not be able to find anything applicable to the question of what a student’s homework is, let alone if s/he has completed it yet!
The page is passive. Unless it’s on a visitor’s RSS feed, no one knows if I’ve updated. The link to what parents or support staff (or even, really, students) want to know is probably quite faint, so the likelihood of their using it is pretty weak. It’s a communication tool, but it’s not an active communication tool, really--it’s more like a story of my identity as a teacher for people who are interested!