Maintaining a Quality Website
If you are taking the time to design and create a website, you will want to be sure that you are posting a quality product and that the pages stay in good condition as time goes by. Make the time to check your site when you think you are finished constructing it, and then set a regular schedule of making updates and improvements.
Check Your Site
Just as you might have someone proofread something you have written, have some- one who has not seen your website previously and who is able to provide candid comments navigate completely through the site. Have that person first check for ba- sic spelling and grammatical errors. Putting a page on the Internet with these types of errors is reprehensible and reflects poorly both on you as a web designer and on your school as a quality educational institution. Have your test user also check all of the navigational paths to make sure that every link goes where it says it does and that the routes are intuitive and allow for easy return to the homepage. This way you will find any inactive or inaccurate URLs before your students or parents have the chance to become confused. It is important, also, to get an outside opinion on the page layout and color scheme. When you have worked with a page for quite a while, you may not even realize that the graphics make it hard to follow or that the font color is difficult to see on your chosen background.
Update Your Site
In the online world, information frequently changes, making it necessary for you to keep up or risk letting your site become antiquated. Skeletons of websites that are no longer functioning or current litter the Internet, slowing down search engines and proving endlessly frustrating to busy people looking for timely information (Tennant, 1997). Websites to which you have linked may be there one day and may vanish the next. If your links go nowhere, the learning goals you have for your students will not be achieved. Go through to check your links regularly, deleting or adding any as necessary. If your site contains content information, be on the lookout for any new developments in the field that should be included in your selection. New research or discoveries keep the site current and keep your audience motivated. As your class changes its thematic concentration, change your page to fit its studies. Any other timely data, such as announcements of upcoming events or homework calendars, must be kept up to date for the site to be fully functional.
Improve Your Site
As you browse through other websites, you may notice design features or instruc- tional sequences that might add to your site’s functionality or appearance. Do not be afraid to make changes, either subtle or drastic. Just because you liked that lime- green background when you originally designed the site does not mean it still serves your purposes today. Any good instruction must be flexible enough to accommodate new ideas. Changing the look and feel of your site will keep it fresh and keep regu- lar visitors coming back.
Students Participate in a Project-Based Lesson Using the World Wide Web
How many of you have ever been to the ocean?” Mr. Pace asked his third- graders that morning. Five or six sure hands went up, along with a few other
tentative ones, and the teacher proceeded to elicit stories from the experiences of these students. Other children said they had seen the ocean on TV and still others had read about it and seen pictures in books.
“Well, I have a way to take you to the beach, without even leaving our classroom.” And as sounds of disbelief filled the classroom, Mr. Pace proceeded to explain their new project.
He told them about the teacher from California he had met at the conference he attended last month. She also teaches third-graders, and her school just happens to be very near the beach. The two teachers agreed to try a collaborative project to have their students teach each other about their respective climates—Mr. Pace’s class about the mountain region in which its community was nestled and Ms. Garcia’s class about its beach. He explained how each class would research the other environment, using information from the World Wide Web, as well as more traditional media such as books and videos, and report on what they think it would be like to live there. Then the classes would read each other’s work and use their own personal experiences to help them edit for correctness.
Mr. Pace’s class began that day with brainstorming a list of everything they knew about the beach and the ocean. They offered ideas on what they thought kids did for fun and even what kinds of clothes they probably wore. Based on these ideas, the teacher later spent the afternoon searching the Internet for beach-related informa- tional sites and bookmarking those sites that were appropriate for his students’ read- ing and understanding levels. Combined with the books he had already gathered from the library, and two videos that he had reserved from the district media center, he was ready to begin facilitating his students’ exploration into life on the beach.
Over the next several weeks, students worked in pairs to investigate what the selected web pages had to offer. They took notes, and they discussed and argued over what the most important information was. Eventually, students wrote, individually and as a whole class, what their impression of living near the beach must be like. When their thoughts were complete, Mr. Pace posted their drafted text onto their class website.
While Mr. Pace’s class had been researching life on the beach, Ms. Garcia’s class had been doing the same regarding life in the mountains. Now each class had an initial report posted on the web, and their jobs switched from researchers to editors. Students in each class spent time reviewing the other class’s site in detail, writing up a list of comments and suggestions to send to their partner class. Each class also gathered pictures show- ing themselves in their surroundings to be scanned in and sent to the other class for its final website. The comments were emailed with the image files as attachments.
Mr. Pace’s class listened eagerly as he read Ms. Garcia’s class’s comments about their research. They found that they were accurate about most of the facts, but needed to add some details regarding the specifics about the particular beach Ms. Garcia’s class was most familiar with. They were surprised at how many things were similar even though they lived in such different places. Within several days, the class had amended its web- site and had developed a fairly complete vision about what it was like to live on the beach.
Students Study Habitats Using Technology
The fifth-graders from Mrs. Tabor’s class are settling in on the floor next to their first- grade buddies in Miss Gomez’s room. For 5 weeks, each of the classes has been
studying habitats, both with age-appropriate assignments in their own rooms and integrated projects together. They are now preparing to go on their field trip to the museum next week. Mrs. Tabor and Miss Gomez have decided that a great way to share their trip experience with the other classes at school, as well as with the students’ families, would be by putting up a website detailing what they have learned and what they see at the museum. They plan on taking the digital camera on the trip, so any pictures they take on the trip can be automatically inserted into the web page.
Prior to meeting together, each of the two classes separately has already brain- stormed long lists of what they have learned so far in this habitat unit. Now, the two classes sit looking at both charts of data, ready to make some decisions on what they want to include in their website. The teachers lead the discussion, with students from both classes offering their ideas. Finally, through much discussion, a list of core learning is decided on.
Now comes the job of designing their site. Using a projection system with her classroom computer, Miss Gomez shows several different websites she has found that are useful in pointing out to students layout features and color combinations. The classes talk about what types of pictures they will be able to use and how to best showcase student writing. Working with their buddies, the students then sketch out on chart paper their ideas for how their website might be arranged. It is too large a job to finish in one sitting, but over the next several days before the field trip, the classes compare all of the proposed page designs to decide on a final layout. It is also decided that each student will contribute some of his or her writing for the project, and several students have artwork on habitats that will be scanned in using the scan- ner down in the media center.
Back in their own classroom following the field trip, the fifth-graders learn how to use an HTML editing program. Together with Mrs. Tabor, they make a class practice website to get the feel for how to use the program. Over the next several weeks, the fifth-grade students bring their first-grade buddies in to work on converting their writing to HTML and laying out their individual pages. When the website is finished, the two classes have a dynamic record of their trip and all that they have learned that can be viewed and used by other classes and even parents at home.