By creating helpful digital resources, teachers can forge strong bonds of trust with students, parents, and colleagues both near and far.

This past school year, a lot of educators tapped into their professional learning networks (PLNs) for help with things like figuring out how to make distance learning work or how to make students feel comfortable at school during a time of intense upheaval. A lot of this help came in the form of teacher-created videos or other online content. Creating these resources can be a valuable way to help your school community and fellow teachers going forward.

Now you may be thinking, “But that YouTube video or website I found online is so much better than the video or site I can make.” While the production values may be different, the one irreplaceable thing that those fancy resources cannot compete with is you. Students, parents, and peer teachers are more willing to listen to someone they trust than a stranger. Individuals that are in a community will be able to produce the overall best materials because they know and understand the needs of their own.

There may be hesitation in how to get started and comfortable in either video or audio recordings. My best advice is, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Making mistakes is part of the process. Once I embraced that reality and read a few articles, such as “7 Tips for Teaching With Videos,” I started to feel more confident. The simple answer to getting started is to be yourself, practice a few times, and then do the best you can.

When I was a career and technical education business teacher, I built a very simple Google Site to share information with the parents about what would be taking place in the classroom. A Google Site is a free website platform for beginners with templates. Little did I know, but other educators were checking out my site and were inspired to reach out to me for help as they were moving into the classroom. I was happily surprised and wanted to help anyone I could. This initiative helped expand my own PLN.

From there, I decided that I would continue to create web content for my school communities. The platforms I use to build connections with others are a combination of Google Sites, a YouTube channel, and a Wakelet, along with other edtech tools.

1. Google Sites: Google Sites is my starting-off point because it easily works with the whole Google Suite and it’s free. Adding Google-based slide presentations, sheets of data, and documents is simple when you use Google Sites. You can embed videos into the site itself along with PDFs, images, and buttons for easy navigation. You can make your site completely public and accessible to everyone or choose to make it private and accessible to only a few people.

2. YouTube: I love posting videos on YouTube because I can create a YouTube playlist with one link that has all of the videos someone may need. For example, I have a “tip of the week” and a troubleshooting tech playlist. Whether your videos are public or unlisted, it’s easy to share them. You don’t need to worry about special permissions. A public video is open to anyone on YouTube that may come across the channel, while an unlisted video will be seen only if you give the viewer the direct link to it.

If you are into app smashing, or the collaboration of ed-tech tools working together, then YouTube is definitely the way to go. Edpuzzle and Screencastify have partnerships with YouTube to make posting videos easier and faster while also being able to embed questions to check for understanding. After I upload my videos to YouTube, I have the ability to share the videos through various means such as linking or embedding the video on a Google Site, a learning management system, or Wakelet. I also have the option to show the video during live sessions. When I was learning how to use YouTube, I used the YouTube Help Center for guidance.

3. Wakelet: Wakelet is a newer ed-tech tool that allows you to make a collection of resources from different places in one set location. You can build collections with videos, tweets, links, Flipgrids, PDFs, and so much more. It’s very similar to a Google Site. However, I have used Wakelet Collection on my Google Site to showcase resources in a unique way that’s different from a hyperdoc. Sharing your Wakelet Collections with others is so easy that you can even embed your collection into your learning management system, such as Schoology. My favorite thing is, as I update my Wakelet Collection, it updates it wherever it was embedded as well.

All the tools mentioned are great starting-off points for anyone looking to share their resources with others. If your school or district has a digital learning coach or instructional technology specialist, reaching out to them would be another great step, as they would be happy to help with advice. If you’re a self-learner, you can also use free resources such as the Google for Education Teacher Center and the Microsoft for Education Teacher Center.

This past year, I actively created videos and resources called digital learning sites for parents and students, with another version for teachers. I have received many compliments from the community because they can access the help all in one place on their own time. I learned that your resources do not need to be perfect to build connections with others or to be seen as valuable. The real value comes from your genuine care for your community and your willingness to help others.