Review by Stephanie Trautman, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2016

SchoolRack

Basic, functional classroom website builder lacks punch, pizzazz

Subjects & skills
Skills
N/A

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
1-12
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Pros: Basic and easy to use, with a simple interface includes a calendar, resources, and a spot for discussions and private messages.

Cons: Expect basic, minimalistic design and options and only 100 MB of file storage with the free account.

Bottom Line: Fine for those who need a very basic class website, but many will gravitate toward more robust options.

SchoolRack can be fine if you need a simple, serviceable website builder for your classroom community. To get the most out of it, invite your students and their parents to join your site to view and share resources, all in a private space. Keep in mind that if you use more than the 100 MB of free storage, you'll need to upgrade to a premium account, and you're bound to find better (and often free) options elsewhere. You can collect assignments and share grades, but nothing is tracked in an actual gradebook.

The calendar function can be useful for posting upcoming assignments and assessments. Students and parents can view the calendar but will have to manage due dates on their own. Before you dive in and commit to using the platform, take a look at some other options to see if one might better suit your needs.

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SchoolRack is a basic platform that teachers can use to create a simple classroom website or blog. The free option affords a site with up to five pages, 100 MB of storage, and only one class and one mailing list. The paid option offers a bit more, with unlimited pages, 500 MB of storage, unlimited classes, and up to three mailing lists. For the monthly price, teachers also get access to a discussion topic feature as well as some privacy controls and extra design themes.

With a classroom code, parents and students can view and interact with the teacher's site. Teachers manage the site and allow students and parents to see designated posts and files, which protects their privacy. Teachers have basic control over their site's design and layout using the platform's premade themes.

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For those looking to create a basic classroom website, SchoolRack is an easy-to-use option. However, there are a lot of other user-friendly options out there, many of which offer more features, often for free. Teachers may find that SchoolRack's most practical features already exist within the other tools they're using; free resources such as Edmodo or Google Sites tend to be more popular options. Other similar platforms, such as Weebly or EduBlogs, use a model similar to SchoolRack but offer better features.

On the plus side, SchoolRack's discussion boards could be a useful tool, and the ability to get feedback from teachers on posted assignments is great. However, there isn't a space for student collaboration or interaction on assignments, which could make it much more valuable. While the calendar tool can be useful, it's very basic and doesn't display in a traditional calendar format. Teachers should also know that the gradebook tool only allows them to report grades after they've uploaded them to the site, perhaps duplicating data that's already been entered elsewhere.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Teachers can build easy-to-navigate sites for classroom communities. However, students and teachers may want to share more information, and in more social ways, than the platform can provide.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Basic online interactions and updates can help keep everyone -- teachers, students, and parents -- on the same page. However, most will expect a more diverse set of tools for sharing.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

A wiki from the developer has support and FAQs for teachers to explore, though it's rather basic.


Common Sense Reviewer
Stephanie Trautman Classroom teacher

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