Episode 94 – Building a Physed Classroom Website

One of my earliest memories of the internet revolves around me slaving away in my bedroom creating my very first website. Flash forward to today and it’s now possible for literally anyone with an internet connection to build a stunning website in a matter of minutes to hours. During this episode of The PE Geek podcast I share some of the resources available for PE Teachers to build their very own websites.

Resources mentioned in this episode

  1. Weebly & Weebly Education
  2. Google Sites
  3. Strikingly & WordPress
  4. Self Hosted WordPress

Press play to listen to the episode below or listen here. Alternatively, download a full episode transcript here


[00:00:28] Jarrod Robinson: Hello everyone and welcome to episode number 94 of the PE Geek Podcast. And as always it’s an absolute pleasure to have you here and I know I say this every single episode but I really mean it. If I wake up one day and all of a sudden there is not one person listening to this podcast that might be the time when I stop making it. But, until then, when I know that thousands and thousands of people are listening to each episode,


I’m just going to continue to produce them because I really enjoy it. It’s a very powerful way to share something that would be much harder for me to write or communicate in text and I know as a podcast fan myself it is super easy to listen as well. You can do it while you’re busy doing all sorts of things like exercise or travel or all sorts of stuff like that. That’s why I love podcasts. So, if this is the only podcast you listen to


then I encourage you to check out just all the amazing other podcasts that are online these days. There are other phys ed podcasts that you should check out. But, outside of that there is some incredible podcasts and people building stuff from all sorts of different niches and areas. So, you could never possibly run out of ideas and shows to listen to.

Now, the easiest way to listen to the PE Geek podcast is via


our own mobile app. The PE Geek app is designed so that you can easily listen to the show and get everything else we do. And each episode, when it’s released will send you a notification and you can jump in, listen to the show, it’ll even download them so that they’re available offline and all the show notes and everything that we make available is also there inside the app as well so that you can


see it all in one place. Now, if you want to get access through app then you can simply visit thepegeek.com/app.

Now, in today’s episode I’m going to be talking about how you can build your own phys ed classroom website. Now, this sort of came to realization because of a couple of questions that I’ve received over the years, I quite often get asked


about how to build a website, what can you do, how does it work, and what are the benefits and those sorts of things. So, I’m going to go and talk about a variety of different services that you can use and some of them are easier than others and integrate better with school systems and so forth, and then others will be a little bit more work. But the premise is that you’ll have an easy way to create your own website for your staff, your students, and your school community.


So, let’s dive into it.

Now, before we get to today and talking about the different tools that we have at our disposal, I always like to think about where we’ve come from and in this particular instance the journey to where we are now is so removed from where this all begun and it wasn’t even that long ago. My first ever memory of website development was as a thirteen year


old or round about that age, sitting at home and we just got the internet at this point and I had heard from my mother, I think, that we had been given server space on our internet host’s server. And I wasn’t really sure what that meant but I quickly found, I can’t even remember how you found things back then, but I quickly found out what that meant and I had read that you could program


or build your own website and have it listed by your host, and in this case the host gave us I think about ten megabits of storage. So, absolutely nothing by today’s standards, you couldn’t do anything with that amount of space. But, for then it was quite fine, you could produce a website and I set about to learn how to actually do that. And at that stage in time it was


a much more difficult thing to achieve than it is now and it literally involved you coding the website in HTML and other web friendly programming languages. And I had gone from just someone who was super interested in technologies and video games and so on, and this was my first ever endeavor down this path of creativity where you building something that could be seen or noticed or looked at by people from


all over the globe. I think that was incredibly exciting for me and obviously the internet was still very young then, so the prospect of many people seeing it in my website was probably never going to happen.

But, I set about to build a website which in many ways now was sort of like Wikipedia in that I had picked a topic area which was track and field which was my


passion, my super passion area, and what I wanted to do was build a website that had a list of all of the records and the best performing athletes of that era and I wanted to keep that up to date when I heard about new things and it was pretty much just a collection of the stuff that I liked and I was pretty proud of it and no one really knew how I was able to do it, so they were impressed by it.


It became something that I was known for.

A few years later, when I had the opportunity to do an oral presentation for my final year of school where we have to teach a skill and then we were assessed on that, I chose to teach HTML programming and have the people in my class all build a website in front of me. They were all sitting at a computer and they were


all following exactly what I’d told them to type in and the end result for them was a very simple site that said their name and bits and pieces of information. The funny thing there is that it was the very first thing that I ever did where I thought to myself I would like to be a teacher. This is the moment, if you like, where I thought teaching was my thing even though I was teaching in this instance computer programming,


this idea of being able to help people learn something was really attractive and I thought that I could combine my interests of technology and PE and head off to university and learn how to become a PE teacher and a computer technology teacher and that’s exactly what I ended up doing, and here I am with this website now.

So, I have a real big fondness for web development but we’ve come such a long way. Back then, it was something that you would have done only if you were


intently focused on learning those different languages and most people could care less. So it was you either had to pay something, and pay a lot of money or not have a website. And in most cases, people just didn’t have a website, not many at all, there’s no need. We’ve come a long a way since then. So, these days it’s so much different and the opportunities are huge


for people like you listening to have your own site today and have never done anything like this before and be able to use it as a vehicle to communicate with your school community. So, I’m going to dive into the different resources that I recommend and also have a bit of a think about the two different types of websites that you might choose to use.

Now, the first thing to think about would be whether or not you are building


something is going to be viewed by people who would be seen as external to your immediate school environment. Now, what that might mean is that you are interested in producing a website that only your students see or maybe you’re interested in producing a site that only your school sees, or you want to go bigger than that and you want to create a website where anyone potentially would be able to view


material on it.

So, the first thing that you should think about is where do you fit in this spectrum, do you want a situation where there’s a bit of both happening, do you want a situation where it’s just for your students and just for your school community or do you want a situation that’s bigger than that, where you’re sharing beyond the confines of your school community.

Now, in the instance where you wanted to create a website where it’s external of nature, and


sure there may be elements of the site that might be restricted, but in the general scope it’s restricted and made available to anyone who happens to find the web URL, then the following resources would be those that I recommend.

The very first one would be Weebly. Now, Weebly is a very popular web generation tool which has been around for many years and


it makes it super easy to create your own classroom website and blog and if you use the education versus of Weebly which is available at education.weebly W-E-E-B-L-Y, then you can, you even have a bit more scope to be able to have student accounts underneath it and be able to do things like homework tasks and have a featured site and those sorts of things.

So, Weebly is


powerful in that it makes it super easy for anyone to build their own site. I mean you start off with very simple templates and those templates have a few elements that you can edit and most elements that you can’t edit and a drag and drop builder that you drag and drop things around in, and add pictures and videos and text and so on. It makes it just super simple for you to be able to produce something that looks good


and encourages you to get someone. As opposed to me in the early days, when I spent five days trying to make my homepage. If you looked at it you would just think what even was that. It was terrible by today’s standards. These days you could have something set up like instantly and it would look good. And with that education.weebly.com, it makes it super easy for you to make your own site and


have student accounts underneath it, and be able to have a whole host of other things tied to it, like your own domain so that people go to www.yourwhateveryoucallit.com, or whatever you choose, and it sort of creates this nice ecosystem where students can even have their own accounts like I said and they can blog and they can post pictures and so on.

So, an example of where you might use this could be in a situation


where you want students to reflect on the things that they’re doing in phys ed. So you might create a Weebly website and give every kid an account, and throughout the course of your class or semester or year they need to complete a certain amount of reflective tasks on that site, that site’s accessible to the world and then obviously they have an authentic audience, and that sort of drive why they would do it, the authentic audience aspect


makes it bigger than them and means that they sort of are encouraged to share and do what they’re interested in.

Now, that’s the education version of Weebly, but there is a non-education version of Weebly which is just available at Weebly.com and the difference with it is that it doesn’t have all the student management aspects to it and obviously the benefit of that perhaps is it’s more suited to situations where maybe it’s just you creating your


teaching website and on that teaching website you’re going to have your very own resources that students can go and download if maybe you put all the units that you’re teaching and different things they’re learning throughout the course of the year. And they can easily go and access that and download things.

So, the two different Weebly choices really depend on what you want to achieve. One would be more individual focused, just you, and the other one


the education.weebly.com would be more student focused where they have a bit of a roll to play in the creation of the site. And either of those are totally fine, there are some great teacher resource websites built using Weebly and you can see that they’ve been able to easily spin up a site without even having to think about anything more than dragging and dropping the resources onto the pages and getting it looking how they please. So lot’s of, yeah lots of


reasons why I would recommend Weebly but there are many other options as well.

Another choice that is quite popular these days if you want to build yourself something really external focused, again, and much more built for the modern day internet in that it’s really mobile friendly, it’s designed for encouraging beautiful looking sites and design’s really important,


so things should look good in today’s day and age. The name of this service is really quite fitting and it is called Strikingly. So that’s Strikingly.com. If you go there you can create your own really, really nice looking mobile sites just by dragging and dropping and moving stuff around with the template that you are given, changing the text, changing the images and the colors


and hitting save and very easily able to whip up a website showcasing what you’re doing in your class or advocating for it or whatever it may be. I mean Strikingly might make a lot more sense for you as a teacher if you wanted to create something like your own blog or website or resource. It’s really quite powerful for those sorts of situations; you could use it for that. It wouldn’t be a solution if you wanted students


to be involved in the building of the website, if that makes sense. You couldn’t have them all underneath the one website building different pages like you can in some of these other solutions. So Strikingly is quite good, I know of it recently because my brother needed a website for his business and although there are some ways that I would personally myself choose to build a website that are much more involved for him


it was super easy just to make a Strikingly page so that he had a simple way to be contacted and so on and it suited is perfectly.

Now, the final of these tools that I want to share in the external category that I think is really perfect for schools is Google Sites. Now, Google Sites is obviously a Google tool. Now, the reason I mention it is because


it has such deep integration with all of the Google, other tools that exist. So, Google Drive and so forth if you’re using any of those then you should probably think about using this first even though it may not be the most beautiful or most advanced in terms of the things that you can do with it. It is super integrated, it is super easy to use and it has the extra benefit


of real time collaboration on a website. So you can create a site, let’s say call it your phys ed website and then you can share access to anyone who wants to work on that site too and then they in real time get the ability to be able to create pages and create content and those sorts of things. And then you end up with this really impressive site as a result. And I think the


real hidden element that makes Google Sites work so well is just the fact that it has recently gone through a big change and they’ve now introduced a new site builder, the new Google Sites but there is the classic version still available at time of recording. It’s just the integration of all of their own tools, so you can very easily put YouTube clips in, you can easily connect to Google Drive files and add them to your site.


You can put in Google docs and sheets and forms, and all of those tools. So, if you are using those things then it makes a ton of sense to stay within that ecosystem. Now, for me at our school we were a Google based school so every kid had a Google account and every kid therefore had a Google sites account, just by automatic default which is very common in schools. We would do a project where they would need to produce a website to


demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of whatever the topic was that we were doing and opposed to saying I want you to produce a poster or produce a report on the thing that you’re learning, the Google sites made it possible for us to say well we want you to produce a website as demonstration of the things that you’ve learned. I never needed to teach them how to use it because these tools are so intuitive that they’re meant for that exact


reason and kids are able to spin up some really good stuff.

Now, over the years I’ve seen a number of teachers using Google Sites to put up all their contact details for staff and parents and time tables and the information related to their units and the days they need to get, like any of the housekeeping style stuff that you might need to pass on, notes and information and resources and so on all there on their Google Site.


That Google Site is shareable to whomever you choose, you can make it public, you can make it private, a combination there of and you could use it as a tool to advocate for the things that you’re doing and one very simple way to do that with Google Sites would be to have a folder embedded on a page on your Google site and the folder would be from Google Drive and then all you


would need to do is take photos or videos of things that are happening in your class and those photos and videos would go into that folder and therefore be seen on that page, and anyone who visits that page would be able to see those photos and video. So, it would make it super easy for you to be able to have a site advocating what’s going on with your students.

Now, this is the very first thing I ever did, my very first ever website was a Google Site and it is still floating around on the internet, I mean


I would love someone to find it and let me, and have a look at it because that’s where this all begun for me and it was a Google Site way back in the early days and I look at it now and appreciate how it was possible for me to build that compared to where we were even just sort of five years before. But, compared to now, it really doesn’t work all that well. I’m surprised it still exists


to be honest.

I mean, it really excites me how easy it is to make a website. The best example of this is you can give this to someone who’s never made one before and they’ll be able to have a site out of it at the end because the tools make that possible.

So, their external types of tools where by your sort of goal is to have others viewing it. There are definitely tools that you could use that are more designed to be closed and you might say that these


are still in some way helping you build a classroom website all be it with some different features, but I’ll mention in this instance Google Classroom. Now, Google Classroom is only recently new and a couple years old, but it is a learning management system for schools so that they can manage their students, communication, their submission of work, you can have a page dedicated to each of your classes and so on and in many ways


it’s almost like a little Facebook page for your classes in the way it’s structured and so forth. But, it’s very internal based, like you’re not going to give access to randoms and people outside of your school ecosystem to be able to view it. And you also don’t get the same level of customization and flexibility that you do in the other tools that we mentioned earlier. So, that’s definitely in some cases, that’s what you


might want to achieve, like having an internal website where only you and maybe your staff or whatever get to see, but then there’s the other side, the external side and that’s where the magic for me really lives with this because you can make whatever’s happening in your PE program bigger than just the PE program and it also can be used in a very simple way to just communicate what’s happening, get parents on board with the things that you’re doing and advocate for your program. So, I fundamentally believe


that if you don’t have a site you should consider doing it. It doesn’t need to be this amazing, incredible thing for it to be useful. I mean, if all it was was a repository of information and that was it it would still have a lot of utility. People could go there to get stuff. But, if you wanted to take it to this whole different level and turn it into an amazing website where people were coming to it because they knew you were posting stuff


then that’s entirely possible as well and all possible with those tools that I’ve mentioned.

Now, if you’re wondering at this stage what is the PE Geek website built on, I actually use what’s called wordpress and wordpress powers most of the internet, so you can get a wordpress account at wordpress.com and you can sign up there for free and start using it and


build your own site with it, little bit more technical than some of the tools that I’ve mentioned now, so if you wanted that level of technicality then you can definitely get it at wordpress. But I started at wordpress.com, this website that you’re visiting is a wordpress.com founded website and eventually about four years after I started I moved from wordpress.com to


the self-hosted version of wordpress where you put your own site on your own server and it’s not managed by anyone, it’s controlled by me and me only and that obviously comes with a whole new level of control and flexibility and so on, but way more technical, way more difficult to achieve. And it might be what your school’s own website might be built with,


you could easily find that out but it’s likely that if you’ve got a school website or websites that you visit online they’re probably likely to be built in wordpress and it is definitely another option if you had been using some of these other versions of things and you’re sort of getting to the edge of what’s possible in those sites and you’re wanting something more, then wordpress is it. In particular, the self-hosted version of wordpress where you put it


on your own host.

So, hopefully that’s been interesting, there is obviously a lot that can be done with websites in a PE program in a school, in education. I like probably using them most for students to build and show their own understanding and sort of taking us away from just producing the traditional type of assignment. In this case you could have any sort of thing


made. They could be making a website about what they’ve learned this year or they could be documenting a portfolio of the things that they’ve covered or evidence of the stuff that they’ve done. So, the possibility is endless. Now, if you have a classroom website that you want to share with me, feel free to leave a comment and you can do that over at thepegeek.com/94 for episode 94 or you can get in touch with via the PE Geek mobile app or any of the


other social media spaces. I’d love to see it, I’d love to share what your websites are all about, how you use them, what you do with them and give people that sort of idea of the amazing possibility of putting your own website up there for your program. Speak soon.


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