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Monday, April 10, 2006

Bridging the gap between 1.0 and 2.0

Today we had a meeting in Oban to look at our policy, protocol and training for schools to create websites.

We have run two entirely different courses for web creation over the past three years. Before I arrived in post, we ran a course showing people how to make simple websites using Textease Studio Plus. Although Textease is really designed for other things, as a by product you could save your files as html, thus creating simple sites that required a very low skill set to create - which I am always happy to see.

The problem with this method was that it had no functionality beyond simple hyperlinks. To move from this to create something more demanding required re-training in another application.

We decided to move to an application that would allow for this increased functionality, so we decided (after much discussion) to move to Dreamweaver. Why? It worked on both Apple Mac and MS Windows, and had the capacity to grow as people's needs developed.

The only problem is that Dreamweaver is a very difficult interface to get used to.

We have had very little success getting our schools online with either Textease or Dreamweaver, so we had a meeting to look at how we could resolve this situation.

People will need to realise that it is time consuming to maintain a website. Also, schools need to get into the way of thinking that everything created in the classroom is potential web content.

Our solution is going to be threefold:

1. Run courses next session on blogging, podcasting and social bookmarking, instead of website creation. - this will give people the ability to get online, get an audience and begin significant communication.
2. The following session, run an initial course on 'Planning a Website' - bitter experience has shown us that people don't know how to do this, so they need to examine it way before sitting down infront of a web editor. Schools need to know how to draw the structure of a website, collate electronic information, and optimise images
3. The offer a simple choice - A) Template: create a simple site using a provided template - this get the 'uninterested' or those that cannot devote the time/personnel online. B) Custom: create a site that is fully customisable in Dreamweaver. For those that want to put their own stamp on a website, or to create something that is different from the template, then they can go down this route.

I am still convinced that we need to teach kids how to create websites and not just to rely on the templates of web2.0 - without some skills, you don't know how to alter or sort things? Also, in education we need to equip our students with the skills they need for the future - undoubtedly, many of our kids will go into the world of IT, and will need creation/management skills.

Is this progress? I hope so. I am much more interested and inspired by the technologies of web2.0 than web1.0 but still realise the importance of a site for schools - links from a school site to various blogs that are curricular projects seems like a great idea to me, and there is no doubt in my mind that the communication tools of web2.0 are far more valuable than a static html site. That said, a static html site allows the creator the ability to express themselves in a far greater way than any template driven blog can. To change the template, you need some programming skills.

What does anyone think?


Anonymous Ian Stuart said...

I think we are talking about 2 different client groups.
1. 'We need a web site. What is a web site anyway?'
2. 'How do we get the web site to do this?'
Generally teachers fall into 1 and pupils into 2.
Unfortunately teachers hold the keys and can't see what all the fuss is about.
The strategic decision is do we bring group 1 up,
do we invest in the future by only supporting group 2
or can both be supported?
I keep come back to Marc Prensky's digital immegrents and digital natives scenario.

11:00 am  
Blogger Morag Macdonald said...

I think I sit at about 1 and a half Ian. The problem with web site design using Dreamweaver is, as you rightly say Andrew, the amount to be learned. Now if a one day course as an introduction is intended to inspire and encourage staff to then rush off and build a website for their school then no wonder it is not happening. I have self taught myself many things in my own time, I am willing to learn- even steep curves but I do not have the necessary skills or experience to use Dreamweaver effectively, not to mention the time factor.
As you know blogging is my latest thing which I must say I am really enjoying. Again all self taught but easy enough to do given a bit of time and support from colleague. I do think as a first step to a web presence a blog is ideal- don't know how to podcast yet but Bubbleshare has allowed sound on our blog. I think what needs to be remembered is that all these things are new- I didn't understand the concept of a blog until a couple of months ago. Given time and support I could master Dreamweaver. Perhaps as I work with younger children I do not feel the need for the complex things that it can do.
My children can contribute to the blog, readily at 6 years old- can't be bad. Should we walk before we run? The digital immigrants need time to adjust and have to be supported Ian, not every school has an ICT 'expert' in it.

12:43 pm  
Anonymous john said...

Hi Andrew,
Great plan.
This might help: using wordpress you can use a plugin to set one of the static pages you can create a your front page. I've been going to try this out for a while so I just did and it seems to work:
a test blog
Of course you are stuck with whatever templates you have or you can edit, but it might be a nice halfway house. A few static pages acting as a traditional site, and use categories to organise a few blogs.

1:40 pm  
Anonymous Ian Stuart said...

I think your point of age range is very valid (And I have been caught out again talking from a high School perspective)
I think inspiration comes first and this requires quick results - templates are great for that
but I think that the persperation stage has to be their to allow anyone who has been inspired to develop the knowledge and skills to move things on.
I disaggree with you that Dreamweaver is too much to learn.
I have found it to be accessable. No matter what the ages I have worked with. I think then that the same app, and therefore interface, can be pushed on and the skills can develop. Flash has proved to be a lot harder to do that with but is still possible.
I have considered blogging but feel that, for me, blogging is not a medium I am comfortable with. I am considering a a Vlog though.

12:04 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

There you go again Ian....40 steps ahead of the rest of us duffers. I appreciate the Dreamweaver attitudes...collected some skills along the way, myself...but...when you are working with primary children you are still doing the basics of graphic manipulation/text etc...so perhaps for them raison d'etre, design and content is the thing. For us primary teachers, learning dreamweaver is a huge time thing and then the schools have to consider how many staff are skilled up to use, should we leave. Blogging is fulfilling many of the functions for us just now..but we need a website that can be be maintained and kept up to date, readily...by as many as pos....lowest possible skill factor employed. For me up to date....is the crucial bit. There are so many school sites out there that are part of the living dead!

12:28 am  
Anonymous Ian Stuart said...

What we are saying is ....... start with templates
learn to manipulate templates
learn to create new pages and templates
With the process happening from 5-14?

3:09 pm  
Blogger marlyn moffat said...

So what's the 'perpsperation' stage Ian?
Oh and it's 3-18 now! Nursery children editing ...now there's a thought! Fact is we must move with the times eh? Now why do you prefer a vlog? I'd not be comfy with seeing myself there....but then I'm not young and gorgeous...vlog on...having seen you on camera, already...shirt an' tie an all! :-)
Prensky is a clever fellow eh?

10:00 pm  
Blogger ab said...

I love it when something generates discussion! It means that people are interested or affected by the topic.

Without being online in some shape or form, people will never realise how time consuming things are. By starting with a blog, people can realise how much time it takes to update and check a simple website.

Any new development requires the gaining of new skills, or the re-deployment of old skills in a new context. Whilst Dreamweaver is time consuming and for many users not a friendly interface, and web app would take time to get used to, and in actual fact, it is really the new terminology that takes time to get used to, not really the application itself.

Morag, you are quite right that the day intro didn't send staff rushing to create sites, but it would be wrong to ask staff to do this anyway, as we are all employed 35 hours a week (says he typing this on a Sunday?)

John - I like the idea of some static content in a blog, and I am very interested in the notion of incorporating a blog into other static pages. As I said though, the biggest problem I have with blogs is that they are template driven - this removes the most important element of the web outside of communication: design.

If ACE is about anything, it is about enabling students - we are not the custodians of information, but rather guides in our childrens journeys. So does it matter if as a teacher I don't know the answer? With technology, I know how to find the answer...

5:57 pm  
Anonymous john said...

Hi Andrew,
the biggest problem I have with blogs is that they are template driven
If you host your blog on your own server you can do anything you like/are able to with the presentation. I've managed to make some of our blogs look very different from others (of course there is never enough time to finish them). Blog setups that I've looked at also seem to encourage good practice, separating content and presentation.
Pretty time consuming and probably not an activity for primary children, but possible and possible a good step on the learning curve: Blog - Edit Templates- design template - edit html.

10:52 pm  
Blogger ab said...

Thanks John - I am very keen that there is a learning progression, and it is a great way to introduce altering the presentation of content - I just wonder how many members of staff would bother trying to change the template, therefore meaning that their pupils are none the wiser (due to their teachers inaction) about this also?

9:02 am  

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