South Orangetown Central School District

This fall, Tappan Zee High School seniors are learning to build personal websites in their English 12 classes. In previous years, seniors compiled physical or Google Slides portfolios to highlight their writing as a midterm project. However, a conversation between English teacher Susan Gleeson and Library Media Specialist Patty Eyer sparked a completely different approach.

“I had taken professional development on Google for Education, which covered Google Sites, and then I talked with Patty,” Gleeson explained. They decided to teach students to Google Sites to showcase their work as an ongoing, senior year project. Eyer has pushed into classes to help students get started with Google Sites and understand copyrights and fair use.

Although few students in Gleeson and ENL teacher Alex Tsironis’ classes had website development experience, all have been enthusiastic about the project. “This is the first time I’ve created a website. It’s pretty cool because as you keep working, you learn more things you can do with it,” noted Mia A., who had just discovered how to embed a slider with multiple images on a webpage.

One row over, Madeline M. was using images and clips for customization. “I’ve added my favorite albums and songs, and some of my artwork.”

Transitioning to a web-based platform has not only made the project more engaging for students, but the technology has also helped them to build connections with their teachers. Sophia B. said, “I never have gotten to talk about myself in English. This is a way for me to share more about my artistic side. I’ve always taken STEM classes, but you wouldn’t know from looking at my transcript that I like things like baking and crocheting.”

“The biggest thing is that this is free expression for us. We get to talk about who we are and what we enjoy doing. I’m a Boy Scout, I’m on the school’s fencing team and I like to cook,” added An N.

Gleeson says the shift to websites has been powerful. “It’s been the best way to get to know my students’ strengths and talents,” she reflected. “And we have such talented kids.”

Student with personal website