If you have been interested in educational technology for some time, you probably remember the days before blogs and Twitter. Most of us started by creating web pages. We started by creating HTML pages by hand, but then for reasons of practicality moved on to specialized tools such as Claris Homepage, Adobe Pagemill, or Apple iWeb. I used them all. Companies sometimes had both basic and advanced tools. For example, Adobe offered Pagemill for the hobbyist and what became Dreamweaver for the more series site designer. It seems to me that with the advent of cloud services (e.g., Google Sites) and a focus on “short form” and continually changing content (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Google+) interest in the low end “site builders” declined. For educational settings, I think there is still potential in creating sites rather than posts and a need for less expensive tools for this purpose.
Web sites seem suited to authoring projects – a way to describe and teach with multimedia what has been learned from a project. There are simple ways to create multimedia online content, but it seems possible that students have grown to expect more sophisticated looking pages. Whether this “look” is of educational value or not is not the issue. What matters is the willingness of students investing in the production of the content.
This was perhaps a longer than necessary introduction to get to some comments regarding the potential of Weebly. I have been aware of Weebly for some time as an option made available through my Internet hosting service (Bluehost). I have invested time in developing content with Adobe Dreamweaver (don’t get me started on what I think of Adobe’s rental approach to software) and so I did not make personal use of the Weebly option. What got my attention was the recent release of the Weebly authoring app for iOS. I tried the app and liked it. I then backtracked to explore the web-based system available through a browser.
Both versions use a “drag and drop” approach. You select a page template you find appropriate and then drag “elements” onto this template to add types of media (image, text, video, maps) and structural elements to generate a desired layout of these elements. Ready-made options such as slide shows, image galleries and contact forms are also available.
Weebly is available as a free version and as more advanced paid versions. There is also an option for educators that is lower in cost (for the paid options). For example, the “pro account” is $40 per year and includes 40 student accounts. Weebly offers a way to password protect individual pages if desired and argues this is important when student security is a concern. If educators are interested in Weebly for the classroom, it is important that they understand the distinction between the opportunities offered to the public and for classroom use.
Here is an image captured from my iPad showing some of the elements available as I created a site. My sample site is available.
For information of greater depth try the Weebly help center