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#1 andrewmoore1955

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 06:56 AM

Designing for the Web

I’m not going to reproduce here two articles I have already written on this subject, and that sit on my Web site.

If you want to read a comprehensive but not very technical guide to designing for the Web, then check out:

http://www.universal.../webwriting.htm

If you want something more techie, which will show you where to get software and tools for free, then go to:

http://www.universal...urce/basics.htm

Here, I want to say more about why you would wish to do this stuff in the first place, then some more about how to make a start.

Please excuse me if I begin with a little navel-gazing. I began writing HTML documents because it was a requirement of a course I was taking, to get a proper qualification (first year of an MSc course) in Information and Learning Technology. But I did so also as a way of producing resources and sharing them with my own students.

My first efforts, I see now, were fairly unimpressive, save for one thing – the teaching materials (for GCE English language) were more or less unique, and very soon all sorts of people had found their way to them. At that point a light bulb went on in my head, and it’s been burning ever since. I used to wonder what I would do when I grew up. A few years ago, well into my forties, I found out.

I will start by assuming that you are at least considering the idea of writing for the Web – and will suggest some reasons why you should take that idea further. Then I will look at some of the practical steps that might help. But there are other stories – and the designers of various Web sites for history students would have different ones to tell.

Most teachers have something to say – and, if we are lucky, a small but appreciative audience. To produce resources that rely on print and paper is expensive, and the results are unlikely to match commercial products. When we use digital media, we can reach audiences in the tens or hundreds of thousands – millions, perhaps – at no extra cost. And we can produce content that looks as good as that from commercial publishers.

The World Wide Web is a meritocracy – you need not wait for some commercial publishing house to favour you with a contract. And the end users decide what they like and what they want to use. This is astonishingly empowering. I often hear ICT advisers say that teachers cannot match the commercial publishers. But this is plainly mistaken, since they are doing so. The publishing houses use people with letters after their names – yet they may not be good teachers, nor even good writers or communicators.

Building a Web site is a good calling card – it may look like a lot of hard work for no (immediate) return. But it will usually lead to career opportunities; offers of (interesting and often well-paid) work – writing or consultancy, say; and other openings – such as taking part in European Schoolnet projects. I used the proceeds of some GCSE exam marking to pay for the MSc course that got me started. Since my Web site became established, I have never felt like marking exams again: but I have had plenty of writing commissions that are interesting and far better-paid.

It is also a good way to secure status, especially if you work in a school or LEA where you feel that you cannot make progress because your face does not fit. On his excellent Web site, John (Simkin) has used the name of Spartacus for a reason – the only difference being that John’s rebellion against the system has been successful and longer-lasting than that of the original Spartcus.

And in time, you may be able to influence the way teaching in your subject develops in the UK or more widely. Examiners, especially, can be helpful here.

OK, so how does one start?

Try to separate the writing from the technology. What I do is NOT a good idea for most teachers. I had to learn (part of my course) to write in raw code with a text editor. That means that I know how HTML works and can fix things for friends. And my pages load fast because the code is more compact.

That’s a good approach for some writers, but not all or even most. There are WYSIWYG editors (What You See Is What You Get) that are well behaved, and have templates to make page layout look good. And they have simple procedures or wizards to help you publish your documents to a remote Web server. If you still want to know about the techie stuff, see my two Web documents on this subject.

What you really start with is some ideas – and words. Anything that you think is helpful to learners. It may be explanatory or expository text (I do a lot of that – can be boring for the user, but useful much of the time). It may be instructions or leading questions. It may be some kind of interaction – which need not be done on a computer: you could tell the user to go out and find things, or discover information, or take pictures. For example, to scan documents and photograph artifacts, or interview people and make a transcript – you can see what this might lead to on a school site for an oral history project at http://www.eriding.net/test/ww2/

Whatever your subject is, and however much good stuff exists already, you can find some part of it that has not been covered well, or where some new material will be helpful to some learners. Perhaps you will do nothing new, as regards information, but you will adapt it for users who find learning hard. As the ghostly voice says in Field of Dreams: “If you build it, they will come”.


How can I find the time to do all this work?

Writing is like brick-laying. It takes time, but after a few months, you will look back and see a lot of progress. If you make writing for the Web an extra task, for you to do after you have done your lesson preparation, then you will never do much.

The trick is to use this new approach as the standard way you do your preparation. If you already have a good stock of documents (say, word-processed), then you can readily adapt these as HTML documents. But when you write new stuff, start with the Web version. (And, if you must, save a word-processed equivalent at the end.)

This means that it is both easy and hard. The hard bit is being ready to make this radical change. It is an act of faith, because you are letting go of the security of paper. But that apparent lifeline may be the thing that is holding you back from moving into the 21st century. Can you look at your class and tell them their work is on the Web? If not, why not?

Is it good for my career?

It can be. You may have to negotiate. But if your head teacher or senior manager does not seem to value what you can do, then there are many others who will.

There are lots of people who can design clever Web sites. There are quite a few teachers who can write well. But there are very few people who can do both. There is room for many more.

Showcasing pupils’ work

One good way to get lots of content quickly, is to take it from your students – with their permission, of course. Showcasing students’ work is a good way to let other students learn from helpful examples. It can also keep a site from becoming too adult-oriented in its approach.

Curriculum Online

If you build up a good range of learning material, then you can apply to be a provider for Curriculum Online. This will bring you some extra work, as you will be expected to supply one or more data files to the portal. (This is for what is called meta-tagging – writing, in a special format, a description of your resources.) But it may also bring you lots of extra visitors.

You can even become a supplier, and sell some digital learning objects. Schools can buy these using Grant 618 of the Standards Fund. A group of schools and/or teachers could apply collectively, and buy, in effect, from each other.


A static Web site can be an excellent resource to support learning – and may contain many other learning objects: text files, images, audio files and more: all available to read, save or adapt. But it is not the only fruit. You can use it to promote other Internet technologies. Or use these technologies as an alternative to writing a coherent site, if you find that you are not yet ready for that. These would include message boards, forums (like this one), mailing lists and Instant Messaging. They are technologies that can support teaching and learning – but they allow you, if you are so-minded, to move miles away from the current culture of control that dominates state education in most of the UK.

Andrew

#2 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 08:36 AM

I know of several people on the forum who are currently in the process of creating a site, or thinking about doing this. This seminar should hopefully provide them with some useful ideas about how to go about this.

For my part I'll offer a few pieces of advice about how to do some of the basics. (These instructions are based on the use of Dreamweaver, if anyone wants a Frontpage version or a 'how to create webpages using word' version ask and they'll appear).

Linking two pages together

Save two web pages into the same folder. MS powered machines will have a ‘My Webs’ folder which is designed to be your default home for web pages, it is advisable to save all of your content into this folder, or subfolders of the My Webs area.

Step one – type the text that you want to use as your link

Step Two – highlight the text and right click. This will bring up a menu.

Step Three – select ‘Make Link’.

Step Four – select the page that you want to link to.

Step Five – save the page.

Step Six – check that the link works. To do this select File > Preview in Brower

Inserting an image using Dreamweaver

Step One - save the images into the same folder as your web page.

Step Two – select Insert > Image

Step Three – select the appropriate image and select OK.

Step Four – save the page.

Step Five – right click on the image and select ‘properties’

Different versions of Dreamweaver display the properties in different ways. In Dreamweaver MX for example, the Properties appear at the bottom of the page. In earlier versions the properties box will ‘pop up’ when you make this selection.

Step Six – click in the box labelled ‘Alt’. Now type in a description of the image.

Step Seven – Once you have written your description, click any other point on the web page. Then save the page.

Step Eight – Select File > Preview in Browser to check that your image is correctly inserted.

Step Nine – place your cursor over the picture. Whatever description you entered in the ‘Alt’ box should now appear over the picture.

It would be quite simple to create a 'how to' guide that illustrates the way that each of Andrew's suggestions can be put into practice. If anyone wants simple guides on how to do the basics ask and no doubt they'll appear.

#3 Richard Jones-Nerzic

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 01:41 PM

How can I find the time to do all this work?

Writing is like brick-laying. It takes time, but after a few months, you will look back and see a lot of progress. If you make writing for the Web an extra task, for you to do after you have done your lesson preparation, then you will never do much.

This, I suspect, for many teachers is the central problem to be overcome. It does take a leap of faith.

Part of the problem is the medium itself. Teachers produce resources for their classes all the time, but the thought that they might be seen be others can be intimidating. Similarly, if a teacher compares their initial efforts to well established teacher sites, then this too can be demotivating.

The thing to do is forget the internet. Just think of your website as a way of allowing your students to access your materials when they want to. Most (All?) of us with websites started this way.

Writing may be like bricklaying, but building a website is more like gardening. The site grows organically, adapting to the needs of a changing environment. I remember asking John S. if he would ever write textbooks again. The problem with books, he said, is that once they've been printed you can't change them. Websites are always a work in progress; full of typos, duff links and pages that shouldn't have been written at that time of night. But it doesn't matter. The rewards will become obvious when your students learn from you, things you didn't 'teach' them.

One other thing...

Showcasing pupils’ work

One good way to get lots of content quickly, is to take it from your students – with their permission, of course. Showcasing students’ work is a good way to let other students learn from helpful examples. It can also keep a site from becoming too adult-oriented in its approach.


Absolutely. This ties in with my sentiments above and is something I want to develop in my seminar later this term. Publishing student work is a great motivator and a wonderful way to open up your classroom to parents and colleagues. Just one example from this week. Students worked through the summer on this. Would they have produced this quality of work if (i) they thought only their class peers would get to see it? and (ii) they hadn't tried to better last year's Y10s?
All that is necessary for the forces of evil to win in the world is for enough good men to do nothing.
Edmund Burke


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#4 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 04:40 PM

Thank you, gentlemen. This is all most helpful and interesting.

I don't have a web site of my own but have recently been getting my head round the basics of FrontPage (can't afford Dreamweaver now that I am no longer actually in the classroom :( ).

I am aware that everyone who knows anything about web authoring recommends using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Am I right in thinking that it is possible to write these in Front Page? Any useful info. and/or advice you can offer to a novice about that?

I'm sure Andrew (et al) don't really want to turn this Seminar into an online tutorial, but a link or two, or a recommended book would be appreciated.

Later I've skip read your two links, Andrew and now see you say something about CSS there. Would it be possible for you to elaborate here?

#5 Andrew Field

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 05:03 PM

It is possible to make use of css in Frontpage, or indeed in any html creator. In Frontpage .css is termed as 'styles'. Frontpage sets styles that are in .css. Basically .css is a way of setting up the look of your website via one files that all your pages refer to. The content of this page can then be altered to change the look of your site. The new design of my site that I'm rolling out makes use of .css to lay much of the page out - meaning it loads that much quicker. An excellent site to learn about this is http://www.sitepoint.com/ (their book on .css is also top notch). Further useful sites are http://www.westciv.c...y/css_tutorial/ (free stuff with pay for for more), http://www.w3schools...css/default.asp, http://www.w3.org/MarkUp/Guide/Style.

Basic CSS is great, but when things get more complicated it gets very tricky.

In general terms of this seminar the benefits of setting up a simple website for your teaching are incredible. Something via your school ICT people is great to start, or you can create something with free webspace that you get as part of your internet connection.

Rather than saying creating a website is like anything else be it bricklaying or gardening - I'd prefer to say it is like creating a website. It's a unique venture that offers great personal rewards and feelings of achievement.

When I'm showing students how to create a simple site I start with someting like Word. Why? Simplicity. How do you create a hyperlink? Press 'insert', 'hyperlink'. How do you insert a picture? Press 'insert', 'picture'.

Word is not a good way to create a webpage because it produces far too much additional and unrequired code - but for someone who doesn't wish to delve into the depths of html or suchlike, it is an excellent tool.

One thing that all teachers in the UK will be able to take advantage of are 'portal' accounts. Each LEA or groups of LEAs have portal agreements. You might not be aware of them yet, as many are still in their infancy.

What these provide are the simple tools to create materials, put them online and start discussions and much more. The broadband consortium that my LEA is part of has a http://www.Digitalbrain.com portal. This offers simple tools to create, upload and develop websites with very little skill indeed. Some might consider it cheating, but in terms of developing online content for use in the classroom, they are certainly one of the easiest ways of getting the job done. As the 100% schools broadband dream is approaching, these portal accounts offer a means to allowing all teachers to put basic content online - even if it's simply a couple of urls for the class to use.

Finally, I think one thing that I haven't done previously, but now feel will be important more in the future is to think about web standards. As internet ready devices become more prevalent, including tablet PCs, pocket PCs and ridiculous things like Internet fridges, it is important to follow, or at least pay heed to webstandards as agreed by the World Wide Web consortium. See http://www.w3.org/

Their 'validation' services may have you reeling in horror when you run your pages through them, but the best thing is that it indicates all the potential errors and issues. Just because something looks good on your PC, doesn't mean it will on somebody else's. Validation to standards is a very helpful way of doing so. [Follow the link and try the HTML validator or the CSS validator]


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#6 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 05:05 PM

I am aware that everyone who knows anything about web authoring recommends using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). Am I right in thinking that it is possible to write these in Front Page? Any useful info. and/or advice you can offer to a novice about that?

I'm sure Andrew (et al) don't really want to turn this Seminar into an online tutorial, but a link or two, or a recommended book would be appreciated.


This site provides a guide to Cascading Style Sheets.

The links on this page should help to make things a litlte clearer.

Edited to say - looks like Andrew was recommending the same places at the same time (My first link is noted by Andrew, second one is an extra link).

#7 Carole Faithorn

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 05:26 PM

Thank you very much, Andrew F and Dan. Am just about to go follow up your suggestions.

Another point web authors might bear in mind as well as the webstandards that Andrew F mentions is whether your site is also accessible to people with visual problems. ('Bobby' compliant)

Could one of you web gurus say something about that as well please? I don't feel confident enough to explain it properly.

#8 Andrew Field

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 06:19 PM

Could one of you web gurus say something about that as well please? I don't feel confident enough to explain it properly.

Bobby standards are realated to making websites accessible to those with disabilities (most often sight difficulties). To be Bobby approved a website will enable someone using screen reading software (software that reads the page to you) to access the site in the best possible way.

Because many sites are weighted down with hefty code, a screen reader will read everything out. For example - if you have a page with a title within a table - if you look at it you'll just see the title. However, if it runs through a screen reader, you will hear something like "BACK ARROW, TABLE, WIDTH, EQUALS, ONE HUNDRED PERCENT, ALIGN, EQUALS, CENTER, FORWARD ARROW, TR RETURN etc. etc." This is somewhat of an exageration, but it's all about accessiblity.

More about Bobby can be found here: http://bobby.watchfi...ml/en/index.jsp

To quote them: This free service will allow you to test web pages and help expose and repair barriers to accessibility and encourage compliance with existing accessibility guidelines, such as Section 508 and the W3C's WCAG."

There are so many standards, and it is very difficult to make your site as compliant as possible. Professional companies often simply ignore the standards as they are too costly to fulfil. When I created the new design for my website I decided to make it as standards compliant as I possibly could. Unfortunately I wasn't able to reach the Bobby standards as they made too many demands on the site design that would take too long to implement. Yet I've taken some significant steps to make it closer, such as ensuring that all graphics have the appropriate alt tages, meaning they are correctly read. Using .css for layout also removes a large amount of clutter as screen readers don't read that code out.

:warning: However, whilst the two points Carole has raised about .css and accessibility are very important to consider when developing a website, they are more of a higher skill to appreciate and understand. Websites should always be as accessible as possible, but jumping straight into css and accessibility guidelines will put you off website creation for life.

I'd again recommend dipping your toe in the water via some of the previously mentioned guidelines from Andrew's initial post, or the subsequent points. There's always something new to learn. Appreciating the importance of css and accessibility from the start will allow you to set the right foundations from the start, but please don't be put off with all the strange documentation and ancronymns.

Edit: Actually - thanks Carole. I went to check about Bobby approval again to see what I was missing on. I went for the (lesser) 508 accessibility check and I actually pass that. The auto-check feature flags up issues that you have to manually check. I thought that these were 'errors' on my behalf - turns out it passes. That's very good. :)

Edited by Andrew Field, 01 October 2003 - 06:28 PM.



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#9 andrewmoore1955

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 08:02 PM

I'll try and pick up the questions about CSS and accessibility here.

Let's start with stylesheets.

If you want a site with more than a few documents to look consistent, and if you want to be able to change the appearance of, say, every heading of a certain level, then there is no alternative.

You can put the style into each html document, but that rather misses the point, since, if you want to change each one, you will have to make the change to every document individually.

Much better is to put it in an external stylesheet, and make every document refer to this. (If you like you can have several stylesheets, though I would not recommend this.) So I change one line in the sheet (a few seconds work), upload to the server (a few minutes' work) and every document changes.

If I were a more bright and colourful person I could even change the style deliberately through the year, so that, say, things were green in spring, blue in summer or brown in autumn. That would probably not make sense for my site, which is a bit minimalist and dignified. But if I were a teacher of pupils in early years, I might do so...

There is a point (well, lots of points) where stylesheets meet accessibility. If you define styles that fix text size absolutely, then you prevent the end user from resizing in the browser. On my site you can resize any text. If you make it much larger it will look rather horrid, but this will enable you to read it if your sight is not good (I will have to do this one day...).

The Disability Discrimination Act comes into force in relation to Web sites next year - and many public bodies will be in trouble. (I think some of the government's own sites may be out of order.) The point is to enable users who may be visually impaired to use screen readers and alternative browsing devices, by keeping simple structures - for example not having tables nested to too many levels. (I may be guilty of a bit of this, though important text is still in readable chunks.)

For individual writers, I would say that Bobby is almost impossibly over the top. You need a good HTML validator - I use CSE HTML validator Pro. I used to have the free version (which is more than good enough for even an advanced author) but persuaded the publishers to give me a freebie of the Pro version. This (the free version) will check for accessiblity, as well as things like hyperlinks to dead URLs. It also has a great free text editor - you could use this to write all your documents.

There is a compromise to be made. The text-only version of the BBC site is a good example of how less can be more. For some people this is too plain - but it is good for users who have sensory impairment. In an otherwise very kind review, Philip of Schoolzone said that my site is a bit basic. Too right it is! I started out with lots of inappropriate decoration - things moving for no good reason. And frames (when I learned HTML the received wisdom was to use frames... It was wrong. Don't touch them, except for very clever things like those on my Adventure Playground page at:

http://www.universal...rammar/demo.htm

You can do cleverer things with scripts, but I challenge anyone in the universe (except X and Y and Z, maybe) to do anything smarter with frames and hyperlinks in straight HTML... But otherwise, I had to work hard to achieve that "basic" quality. But the users don't mind when it means that they can find what they want, and not be distracted by irrelevant things.

I don't go into the techie stuff too much here, because you will find better things from the links on my guide to this at

http://www.universal...urce/basics.htm

It needs updating, though - for example, I would add links to software for making mp3 and Real Audio files now.

I would go along with Andrew's suggestion about template-based systems that let you publish online: an OK way to publish. You won't get a memorable URL, but you can even get round this by buying a domain from Bigfoot that will grab any page and hide it in a frame. (Though search engines won't find it.)

But I would seriously urge anyone not to touch Front Page with a barge pole. Why not?

It disregards the HTML specification and is friendly only to the Microsoft browser.

It assumes that all users have a broadband connection, in that it writes horribly bloated code - any one of my hand-crafted pages would, if written with Front Page, be at least ten times the size.

It also assumes that you are too stupid to understand the structure of your own site, and names data and image files in its own obscure way and stores them in places where you will never find them.

And it is Bill Gates ware. When I was young and foolish, I thought that Microsoft was a good thing - because I found that several products (Word and Excel) were easy to learn and pretty good for the job they do. (That bit is still true.) Front Page helped me see that this was not true of other things. I have become a total advocate of the Open Source movement. People think that Microsoft is the de facto standard, and will continue to be so. This is an error. Already Open Source stuff runs the Internet and sets the standard for the World Wide Web. The operating and productivity stuff is developing by massive leaps - the world will help it grow, because we all own it, and do not have to pay the Microsoft tax. (Please excuse the rant...)

Dreamweaver has a few quirks (it writes code that is a bit more messy than my handcrafted stuff) but is pretty civilized and respects open standards. You may think it costs a lot, but you can buy education licences from www.pugh.co.uk for about 30 quid (another 30 quid for the media - usually CD). If Dreamweaver designs your site, then you have a chance of understanding the structure.

But you need not spend a penny. The free stuff I list on my guide is all every bit as good as the stuff you pay for. Or, rather, it's better. Note Tab Light is the best piece of software I have ever used and is 100% free.

Want to make a start? Go to Joe Barta at

http://www.pagetutor...page/index.html

#10 Andrew Field

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 08:36 PM

I do think it is very much 'each to their own' though. Frontpage shouldn't be discarded as much can be done there. The ability to edit HTML directly through frontpage is very good because you can create your basic page, and then edit the html.

Recent versions also don't limit you to Internet Explorer - you can - as with most html software - preview your pages in any browser, and make adjustments.

It does add extra code, and does require Frontpage 'extensions' for additional server level scripts etc. and does create additional folders because of this, but Frontpage served me incredibly well for nearly 3 years with SchoolHistory.co.uk. I've now moved to Dreamweaver full time for the better CSS support, wider site handling and Macromedia functionality. The Frontpage add-ins for feedback forms and counters etc. were also extremely helpful.

When I was learning, I found the similar look and tools of Micro$oft Frontpage incredibly helpful as I could simply transport my Office skills across.

The latest version of Macromedia Dreamwaver (MX 2004) is extremely good as it automatically checks your code for browser errors in all major browsers. It highlights potential issues and attempts to solve them for you. It's the equivalent of spell-checking in a wordprocessor.

If I was to recommend a path for people to follow on the web-learning ladder, I'd suggest they use the free links you suggest to start with, then go to Frontpage and then go to Dreamweaver.

Yet, it is very much, each to their own. Find something you like the look of and use it. The main thing to do is experiment and create. The internet is your oyster! :D

Edited by Andrew Field, 01 October 2003 - 08:49 PM.



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#11 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 01 October 2003 - 08:41 PM

What Makes a Great Web Site? is an article that goes through the things that an effective website should do. Its a realistic selection of ideas that would act as a good checklist for people starting their own site.

For beginners its more appropriate to stick to the basics, as Andrew Field has said, if you try and learn css etc straight away you'll never go near a html editor again in your life. Sites such as this one offer online tutorials that guide you through the web design process. This guide from dreamink is another useful place to look, and it covers areas that some online guides tend to miss out (things like how to get the site online).

Andrew Moore noted the template based sites that are available. Many of these have been used to good effect by teachers and are a very straight forward method of getting content online easily without having to learn everything there is to know about html. For example: http://www.schools.ik.com/ provides an excellent serive, free I believe, that is used to great effect by Nicky Boughey on The Weatherhead History Department site. Yahoo's Geocities service has templates available but can also be designed by the user so there's scope to adapt the site as your confidence grows. This is how http://www.schoolshistory.org.uk/ first appeared (though I didn't use the templates).

If you opt for the difficult way of learning how to make sites, I'd highly recommend Evrsoft's Firstpage 2000. This is a free download that requires you to write html whilst offering a few helping hands.

#12 John Simkin

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Posted 02 October 2003 - 06:22 AM

Most teachers have something to say – and, if we are lucky, a small but appreciative audience. To produce resources that rely on print and paper is expensive, and the results are unlikely to match commercial products. When we use digital media, we can reach audiences in the tens or hundreds of thousands – millions, perhaps – at no extra cost. And we can produce content that looks as good as that from commercial publishers.

The World Wide Web is a meritocracy – you need not wait for some commercial publishing house to favour you with a contract. And the end users decide what they like and what they want to use. This is astonishingly empowering. I often hear ICT advisers say that teachers cannot match the commercial publishers. But this is plainly mistaken, since they are doing so. The publishing houses use people with letters after their names – yet they may not be good teachers, nor even good writers or communicators.


Andrew is right to stress the revolutionary nature of the Internet. This was recognized in the early days of the medium but in recent years it is rarely mentioned.

In the early months of 1997 a friend showed me how a search engine worked. Within minutes I found two websites that convinced me that I wanted to have one of my own.

http://www.deepspace...ineplanets.html

http://www.theaerodrome.com/index.html

However, I assumed that I would have to pay someone to do it for me. Six months later, I had employed three different webmasters and barely had more than a home page. All three were working in HTML but on reflection I realise that they had not fully grasped the techniques of producing a website.

I then saw a review in a computer magazine of a program called Webmaster. The reviewer said it was easy to use and it was possible to produce a website without any knowledge of HTML. The reviewer was right, and despite the badly written manual, after a couple of hours I had taught myself how to produce a website. (I later realized that those two websites that I so much admired had been produced in a similar way).

In September, 1997 I then took the decision to abandon textbook writing and concentrate on the web. This was not an economic decision. I had sold over 100,000 books and had made a good living from writing textbooks. It was partly a political decision. The web, compared to other forms of communication, it a very cheap way to produce educational materials. It has been liken to story in the Bible of Jesus producing food for the masses. However much people consumed, the food still remained in plentiful supply. The internet does not really fit into the capitalist system. It is why capitalism has found it difficult to make a profit out of the web.

It has been said that Tom Paine is the father of the internet. When he wrote the Rights of Man in 1791 his main objective was not to make a profit from the venture. His primary concern was that people heard what he had to say. He therefore announced that he gave the right to anyone to print and sell his book without paying royalties. In the next few months 200,000 people purchased the book. It was the country’s first best-selling book that did not have the support of the church ot the state. True many of the publishers and sellers of the book ended up in prison (the book was considered to be a seditious libel – it is not a new idea to use the word libel to justify censorship) but the end result was the majority of the people in Britain discovered what Paine had to say about human rights. The book is the basis of our democratic political system.

http://www.wired.com...3.05/paine.html

The internet is revolutionary because via a website you can give information away for free. It is also creatively liberating. The teaching materials that I originally wrote emerged naturally from what I did in the classroom. However, once you decide to publish in the commercial world, your creativity is restricted. A company is obviously concerned about making profits from publishing books. When I first started writing in the late 1970s publishers would need to sell about 5,000 copies before it went into profit. (With colour printing the figure is much higher). Therefore you needed to convince the publisher that your book will sell at least 5,000 copies. The primary way that the publisher makes this decision is based on what has sold before. Anything that a writer produces that is very different from what has already been successful, will be treated with suspicion. To be a writer of educational materials means making lots of compromises. It is difficult not to end up writing to a formula (the tyranny of the double-page spread).

The great thing about the Internet is that you can write what you believe in. You have total control over the finished product. For example, the first thing I did on my website was to create an encyclopaedia of the people involved in obtaining the vote for women. If I was writing a school textbook I would only been allocated a few pages on the subject. I would have had to concentrate on a few major figures involved in the struggle. However, I realised that would have distorted what had happened. The true story was not about a couple of leaders. It was about a lot of women who decided that society was unfair and they were going to do something about it. I wanted my students to study the subject through the ideas of those women. I also wanted them to study it by looking at women who lived in their town (East Grinstead). Amazing women, who for a variety of reasons, decided to risk so much to get the vote. In producing my materials I was doing my little bit to make sure these women would not be forgotten.

Some critics of the Internet have described it as vanity publishing. In some ways it is. The main difference is that search-engines such as Google has put a democratic structure into the system. Its page-ranking system is based on the number of links a site gets. It calls it peer-group approval. Therefore, in theory, the most recommend websites get to the top of the rankings and will get the most visitors. The normal capitalist system of selling involves spending money on marketing and advertising. In this way, small publishing companies find it difficult if not impossible to compete with multinational companies. With the internet, if people like your work, they will read it, if they control a website, they will help others to read it.

Go on then, produce your own website. You have nothing to lose but your creative chains.

Edited by John Simkin, 02 October 2003 - 06:26 AM.


#13 Dan Moorhouse

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Posted 02 October 2003 - 01:07 PM

Creating websites has been the theme of a number of discussions on the forum in the past. I've merged some of the earlier threads together to make it easier to access all of the information. Some of the advice on this merged thread is worth reading if you are interested in setting up a site.

#14 Ben Collinge

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 11:33 AM

As some of you will know I am very new to the world of websites and have developed my own http://www.thehistorysite.co.uk (nothing like a free plug!)

It is thanks to this group that I now have to tools to develop it further. However my actual web design skills are all self taught. So I think it is excellent that this page is hosting a web design forum! Well done to you!

My next point is that it can be daunting to actualy take the plunge and create a website. There are, as some of us will know two ways to go about it. Firstly a free service such as geocities (where my first ever history page took shape, take a look at my old year 7 page: www.geocities.com.chilton_trinity_history/year7home.html
the next is to sign up to a webserver, where you pay money for much larger quantities of space on the net. The later is by far the best, but it does involve a more developed knowledge of the web (such as how to upload via ftp clients - getting confused now! I was at this stage six months ago!)

However if you are really not comfortable with the web at all, but still want a site, then take option three! Get the kids to do it for you. Thats what got me started off. I campaigned around the school for the brightest young ICT stars (who just happened to be really interested in history) and asked them for advice. Im only 23 and a bit of a techie, but still web design was a bit above me. So I got help. I hope this helps anyone interested but a little scared to start,

Well done to the SchoolHistory.co.uk for another really interesting seminar.

#15 andrewmoore1955

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Posted 05 October 2003 - 06:43 PM

I'd like to add something to Ben's two scenarios for hosting stuff.

A lot of users start with Geocities or similar free services - but the catch is that you get limited space, pop-up adverts and the URL they allow you - usually about six weeks long and looking something like

www.freespace/users/personal/~fredbloggs/historyteaching

But that does not mean that you should have to pay for space on a server. I don't pay a penny for my hosting.

How come? I get it from my LEA. Before that, I used part of my school's space (on a site I managed for it). In fact, I still do, as a back up site (a lot of the traffic still goes there).

Your school and/or LEA will either have its own Web server, or buy into hosting from someone else. If you are writing content to share with the world, the least they can do is help you with the costs of hosting it.

I have now bought a domain - and the company that registered and administered it (for all of 20 quid) points it at an address supplied by our East Riding network manager, who translates it so that it points at the place where stuff lives.

So

http://www.universalteacher.org.uk/

and

http://www.eriding.net/amoore/

both go to the same place.

The server belongs to the council - it cost them plenty to buy, but now they own it, and my use of it is a drop in an ocean, while the network manager is happy for me (and any other school or teacher in our county) to have what we would regard as seriously big storage (still a drop in his ocean).

Of course, not all LEAs or schools are as enlightened as mine - but then that is partly because I helped persuade them to be so. That goes back to educating your school principal or senior manager, or talking to the advisers for ICT in your LEA.

Andrew




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