The Best School Websites

Q: What’s the best school website you know? Please send! I’ll collate and do a blog post. Cheers

I asked the above question of my PLN on Twitter and what follows is the complete list of all school websites tweeted or emailed in response. Thanks to everyone who responded and/or retweeted.

I’ve decided to break these sites into three groups: local, Australian and international for ease of reference. Do we have a representative sample of what’s out there to look at, or do you have some brilliant school websites to add?

International (not all are ‘school’ websites)

Ambleside Primary School   Global Gorillas

Crescent Girls’ School   Archer School for Girls   Kent

Vail Mountain School    

Hendrix College   Wycombe High School

Headington School   Georgetown Elementary School  

Kaneland Community Unit School    Royal Agricultural College  

University of Rochester   Wireglass Ranch High School  

Olathe South High School   Arapahoe High School

http://begeleidzelfstandigleren.com/   Saint James School

 

Australian

Murwillumbah High School   Broken Hill High School   

St Joseph’s College   Ringwood North    SCEGGS

Copacabana Public School    Boggabilla Central School

 Tuggerah Lakes College   Glenquarry Public School

 Hurlstone Agricultural High School   MLC

Cleveland District State High School

Bendigo Senior Secondary College

Local sites

These school websites belong to schools in my immediate vicinity that were sent to me:

Mt Keira Public School   Mt Terry Public School  

Corrimal East Public School   Campbell House

Minnamurra Public School   Nowra Public School  

North Nowra Pubic School   Narwee Public School  

Oak Flats High School 

 

Thoughts?

I suspect that many of us feel our school websites are not all they could be and badly in need of updating, or didn’t tweet them, fearing they may be judged of not a good enough standard. Many of you asked me what is the criteria for the ‘best’ school website and my response was, ‘that is up to you’. I feel strongly that the website must not merely ‘advertise’ the school and be more than just an extension of what the school offers.

Each school has a different context and needs and this is evident by the diverse range of sites above. It is worrying but predictable to note that Web 2.0 is not a feature and that most school websites would not be of much interest to a student, in my opinion, with a notable exception or two. Or is that too harsh considering what is likely on their intranet and unavailable to us?

Did anyone else notice that ‘student voice’ is almost completely absent from school websites?

Our school site has served for many years but we are starting again, as I type, and an important conversation I am hoping will arise here for my school to access. Consulting students and the community will be a key part of our school strategy in a, hopefully fertile, effort to engage them with the new site.

  • What site above do you admire – and why?
  • What innovation and ideas would you have for an ‘about to be built’ school site?
  •  How many school sites truly reveal themselves to be practically serving communities of learners?

Who can help me help us to have an inspirational and ground-breaking school website?

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DISCLAIMER

The views expressed at this site are my own and do not necessarily represent those of my employer.

19 Comments

  1. You could use some of these as examples of what not to do in terms of appropriate usability and design. Music on the home page? With no obvious way to turn it off other than desperately clicking on another tab? Ghastly Mt Keira, just ghastly.

    Video is sadly lacking from all that I looked over (may have missed it on others). Student video tours of the school, of school events that show participation and engagement. A great way for prospective parents to get a ‘feel’ for the school.

    So many had great swaths of static text, much of which looked to have not been updated for some time … but then … it’s hard to tell isn’t it? Having dynamic content up that is more than the most recent newsletter available for download is a must for many of them.

    Student blogs, and teacher blogs would be great inclusions as well. Allowing parents to publicly congratulate and inquire on the site would also be a wonderful way of showing participation of a wider community.

    That’s all I have for now. A great post Darcy, and hopefully some of the schools above will read this and decide a change is in order :-)

    Martin Jorgensen
    http://www.thedigitalnarrative.com

  2. My school’s website is being updated and I must admit I haven’t looked at it for a while – we hardly refer to it because we have a great school blog that is used to communicate to and with parents and students.

    We seem to be getting plenty of traffic through our blog. Kids and parents love it!

    What do you think?

    http://www.belmoresouthpublicschool.edublogs.org

  3. Looking at the other school websites ours is very much student driven with students writing the front pages and each of our five classrooms linked to the front page via their class blogs.

    Ours is not commercially driven but hopefully reflects our culture

    http://www.appleby.school.nz

  4. http://www.russellst.school.nz/is what I based our school website on I liked it so much. (http://outram.school.nz)
    Like Allanah says we need to reflect learning and kids on school websites not look like kids made them or they are the target audience.
    What can you tell about beliefs about learning and school culture from their website? Nothing ? Then the website is NOT a good one I believe.
    cheers
    Greg

  5. I’m happy to give you an example of a bad one. It’s ours. Who has time to update a website using antique ftp, which sometimes works and sometimes not. with procedures that need to change regularly. which is tedious to edit from outside the corporate network.

    Dont get me wrong…if you are passionate about it, go for it. the above listed sites are testament to this passion.

    However, until a simple cms is implemented, where user permissions can be delegated (wordpress is the standard here imho) I’ll be waiting in the wings.

  6. The school web site is a hard best. I do my schools web site (http://www.stclair-h.schools.nsw.edu.au/default.htm ). I have re-developed it twice in 18 months and am currently looking at new ways to improve it. I do all the site work in my own time, I do use it though as an educational tool.
    The biggest hurdle I have found is the reluctance of staff to contribute to the site. I record, edit and publish all the video of school events I can attend and grab as many pic’s as possible from a variety of sources to maintain up to date galleries. These are what our students interact with on our site (the site statistics go through the roof when new video is uploaded). News letters are rushed up as soon as they are published and parents are sms’d that the news letter is available (a lot of our communications are via an sms system). Our Careers advisor updates her information frequently which parents are grateful for.
    For the future I am hoping to include WordPress MU with our site so the staff and the students can maintain blogs on school events, but I don’t like the chances.
    For those after a CMS site the DET offer one for $400 a year similar to the http://www.merryland-h.schools.nsw.edu.au/sws/view/home.node one.
    A school web site all depends on your school community.

  7. darcymoore:

    Martin, Allanah, Kim Greg, Mark and Warrick,

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments and I especially appreciate your links.

    Greg says, “What can you tell about beliefs about learning and school culture from their website? Nothing ? Then the website is NOT a good one I believe.”

    My question, how important a part can the website play in shaping the school’s culture of learning?

  8. For us I am trying to have the website as a portal into the school:
    * learning culture and philosophy – if you are thinking of coming here, or are here, and want/need to know what we are all about
    * place to come to access what is happening in classrooms – lots of links to Web2.0 presences etc
    * breaking down the barriers between home and school – kids can access their ‘school work’ (deliberate quotes here) from home. Anywhere anytime access to school content.
    * information about how to be involved in programmes, contact us, what day school lunches are etc.

    and the list goes on …. but this kind of thing is equally important with the purely transactional.
    cheers
    Greg

  9. themolisticview:

    The way our site is set out is for the purpose of advertising the school to the community, providing relevant information to families and to share some of the life at the school.
    As for ‘school work’ from home, thats what Moodle is for. Moodle can be accessed from anywhere by anyone enrolled in a course. I often explain to parents that if they would like to see the work their children are completing in several of my classes, they need to logon to Moodle with their child and take a look.
    With Moodle being free and a great teaching resource, the Dept. really should have a Moodle account for every school along side their website on the Dept. servers as well as support for a file cloud, but I am sure that is somewhere off in the future or another Google deal to come.

  10. kellimcgraw:

    My school website is so out of date – thanks for the inspiration to at least fix up my faculty’s page!

    I liked this page on the Murwillumbah High School site, which succinctly summed up the new laptop program:
    http://cp57.hostingshop.com.au/~mhsorg/news.php?id_nws=16

    I think it is important for school leaders to decide whether their school site is a marketing tool, or a communication portal for the school community. The two different purposes produce two very different sites.

  11. lpearle:

    Maybe it’s me, but I always look for two things: student voice (in other words, is this site just about selling the school or is it a communication tool) and the library (which says more about the culture of the school than just about anything else).

    We’re revamping our site now: http://www.hackleyschool.org to include more of the former, and we’re ramping up the latter now that we’ve got a better looking/more useable site.

  12. darcymoore:

    Thanks for all these thoughts. We meet tomorrow to discuss our new server and website. You will be almost the first to see it, probably late this term.

  13. Stu:

    This is probably one of the best school websites I’ve ever seen, and it’s for an Infants school in Sydney Region:
    http://www.australiastreetschool.com/

  14. Agnes Bartusiak:

    A education website that I found is applebatch.com–if offers free resources to teachers and also posts teaching jobs. I thought it was really helpful.

  15. Agnes Bartusiak:

    I forgot to leave the link to the teacher network. here it is in case you want to check it out:
    http://applebatch.com

  16. Thanks for this post, and some great websites to compare and steal ideas from. I’ve been running our school’s site at wesburnps.vic.edu.au on WordPress for two years now, and highly reccomend it. A steepish learning curve, but for me, far better than learning html…
    Getting content from over-busy staff is always difficult, but after training up our grade 5 and grade 6 classes, we are now getting some authentic “student voice” content up as well.

    Thanks again!

  17. I am a parent and am amazed at the website my son’s school has created. It is located at http://www.maraetaibeach.school.nz I enjoy the class websites and the information is very relevant and up to date. They even have Twitter accounts for their classes!

  18. Interesting ideas – I particularly like the idea of putting in a “Student’s Voice” to the website. I mean, what could be better than having the students themselves contribute in some way! The students at the school I work at are often quite creative, writing up newsletters and what have you, so this could be an interesting outlet for them.
    I’d be interested to know any thoughts you have on how best to do this.
    Our website is http://www.athena.nsw.edu.au
    Cheers!

  19. Karl:

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