In 2003 I was working with a group of teachers assisting other teachers all over the state of Idaho. I heard a lot of the same questions and came across a lot of resources that I wanted to share. And the more teachers I met, the more I learned from them, and the more I wanted to share something back.
I created a website, www.foridahoteachers.org in April 2004. I posted a variety of resources, mostly related to our state test, the ISAT, which had been created by teachers all around the state.
The first site was created in the dark ages of web design. I used Microsoft Front Page to create the pages, which were designed using tables to organize the pictures and text. The first banner was made using a photo of my office carpet as a background texture.
At a conference a year later, I learned the basics of Macromedia Dreamweaver (a much more effective but also much more complex web design software program) in a two-hour session, and promptly went back to my hotel room and spent the next two days completely recreating the site pages. That was improvement #1.
As time passed, more pages were added, more material was created. It’s been a very slow process – a nights and weekends kind of project.
Three years ago I did another design upgrade, and the focus of the site shifted as well. The original ISAT had come from a company called Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA), which provided some incredible resources that could be used to guide classroom instruction based on students’ test data. However, in a move that made me and many of my fellow teachers actually cry, the state decided to go with a different vendor for the ISAT, and we ended up with a state test with much less useful data.
So the website’s focus on the ISAT faded away and instead looked at more general instructional best practices and materials. We continued using some of the resources from NWEA for the lucky districts, teachers and students that were able to continue using that assessment.
Now, we face another significant change – a positive one this time. Idaho has adopted the Common Core standards, which are being implemented later this year. The change to the Common Core opens the door to even more materials and resources, which can be used by teachers all over the country.
The website foridahoteachers.org will remain active, with a new design, but now we are building something new: www.fortheteachers.org. Because we’re in this together now, more than ever.
The new site is set to launch June 20, with our current materials re-aligned to the Common Core standards. Then, over the summer, we’ll begin a push to add more materials – additional lesson plans in particular – to be ready by the time school starts in the fall.
So tonight, I’m completing the redesign of the original Idaho site. For the first time, the site will be completely designed using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) instead of tables. It means that pages should load more quickly for users and that we’ll have a great deal more flexibility in adding new things and making updates. It’s been a long time in coming, but I’m quite proud of the work that’s been done.
The next two weeks – the beginning of summer for many teachers around here – will be dedicated to realigning materials to the Common Core. Then we’ll spend a week completing the new site design before going live.
I can’t even begin to explain how excited we are.
We receive regular emails thanking us for the site and the resources available there. Now we’ll be able to help even more teachers and provide instructional ideas to reach even more students.
This blog will primarly be used to post updates about new materials, to give teachers a way to subscribe if they want to be notified when something new is released.
Hopefully you will be as excited as we are when you see it all too.