The Benjamin Franklin Middle School's
Web Site is a Virtual Bulletin Board
November, 1998

A school's web site is its virtual bulletin board. The virtual bulletin board is far more flexible than the classroom bulletin board. It is not limited by the size of a classroom's walls and can accommodate all the information, compositions or art that a teacher or student chooses to display. Classroom bulletin board displays, no matter how effective, must be removed to accommodate new displays. Virtual bulletin board displays, on the other hand, may remain on view without fear of the paper ever yellowing or making room for the next display. This allows students to review material as needed, providing information on demand. In addition, virtual bulletin boards offer visitors the option to save or print a copy of any document on display.

The virtual bulletin board gives teachers the opportunity to make copies of their handouts available to students all the time. Imagine having an entire semesters worth of handouts available to students from the first day of class. A student may download all the handouts to their computer, print them or review them as needed. If the dog eats one copy, just download and print another! Teachers may also post multi-media and hypertext web pages on their virtual bulletin boards. These kinds of documents enable students to revisit classroom experiments or click on a link to a relevant web site anywhere in the world.

The virtual bulletin board has far more potential than the classroom bulletin board because the virtual bulletin board does not close when the bell rings at three o'clock. Students may check their assignments or present their latest projects by logging on to their class home page at anytime from anywhere. The virtual bulletin board is also parent friendly. Most parents have limited access to their child's classroom bulletin board. The virtual bulletin board, on the other hand, may be viewed by parents at work, at home or at Aunt Millies. Unlike classroom bulletin boards, virtual bulletin boards are accessible twenty-four hours a day, without an appointment.

The virtual bulletin board, or web site, can be a valuable tool for schools that develop effective web sites. Effective school web sites assist and empower educators, students and parents. They take advantage of the opportunities this new medium presents by providing students and parents with relevant information and links to resources. They give students opportunities to do research, publish their work and collaborate with others. They give teachers, administrators, students, parents and the community new opportunities to communicate with one another. An effective school web site is a school's bulletin board to the world.

In developing the BF web site, I have tried to lay the foundation for an effective school web site. The recently revised BF web site (http://www.ridgewood.k12.nj.us/WWW/BF) is now divided into eight areas: Virtual Tour, Virtual Library, Virtual Almanac, Virtual Offices, Parents' Center, Contact Us, Site Index and What's New. Each of these eight areas help make the BF web site an increasingly valuable resource.

The Virtual Tour offers visitors six different tours that provide information about Benjamin Franklin Middle School. One tour presents BF staff and the classes they teach. The web pages in this tour reflect the team structure of the school and provide incoming students and their parents with an introduction to, and pictures of BF's teachers, administrators and support staff. Other school tours in this area provide information about extra-curricula activities and BF's Program of Studies. Tours of BF's building and the town of Ridgewood, created by BF students, are also available in this area.

The Virtual Library is BF's personal card catalog to the Internet. It contains pages, organized by subject, containing internet links of interest to the BF community. BF students have published web pages on specific topics like biodiversity, volcanoes and presidents in the Virtual Library. Students researched subjects on the internet and created resource rich web pages containing internet links to sites that aid BF students with their studies. BF's Virtual Library now provides a sound starting point for students who are using the internet as a research tool for school projects. Also, the Virtual Library never closes, students have access to it from school or home, twenty-four hours a day.

The Virtual Almanac is the heart of the BF web site. It is the place where teachers and students publish their classes assignments, projects, special events, and team activities. Student published web pages on the Ridgewood Smoking Ordinance, awards BF has received, and a Virtual Classroom project sponsored by AT&T involving schools in Canada and the United Kingdom are among the pages in the Virtual Almanac. Several teachers have web sites with information about their curriculum, examples of student work, links to relevant sites and information about upcoming and ongoing projects. As more teachers develop their virtual bulletin boards the Virtual Almanac will become an invaluable resource for students. It will also provide the BF community with a window into the activities of the school.

Virtual Offices is a new area of the BF web that is now being developed. It hosts a virtual office for each of the real offices at BF. There is a Principal's Office as well as the Main Office, Guidance Office and Nurse's Office. General information, like schedules and forms that students, parents and teachers might expect to find in one of the school's real offices is posted here. Virtual offices give administrators, guidance counselors and support staff a new way to communicate with the BF community.

The Parents' Center was developed with input from the Home and School Association. An on-line BF directory is posted here. Parents may check for information on who to call if their child is going to be absent for several days or check the BF school calendar for the date of the next concert. Home and School officers, contact information and announcements are posted here along with links to pages on the BF web site that are of special interest to parents. The Parents' Center provides parents with a new connection to BF. It will continue to grow and develop with input from the Home and School Association, who have appointed a web liaison, and other interested parents.

The Contact Us area lists BF phone contact information and staff email address. It provides an easily accessible listing for people who wish to communicate with BF staff. There is also BF map link which may be used to get driving directions to BF. The BF Site Index has links to the different areas of the BF web site as well as an indexed listing of the site. The Site Index provides a general overview of the BF web site.

The What's New page gives BF web site visitors a quick way to find out what's new at BF and on the BF web site. This page has links, listed in chronological order, to new postings to the BF web site. The What's New page plays an important role. It is the first place to look to find out what has been added to the site since your last visit. It is also the place to look for announcements about upcoming events like Super Science Saturday.

An effective school web site is more than a simple home page with a school motto placed below a picture of the school. It is a constantly expanding body of knowledge published by educators, students and parents; it is a new and vital form of communication among all those involved in the education of children.

 



All work on this site ©Harold Olejarz 1997 - 1999 and the artists credited. No images or text may be used for commercial purposes without written permission from Harold Olejarz. Personal or educational uses are allowed with permission from Harold Olejarz.