Monday, September 26, 2011

The Death of Website Design

There used to be a time in my freshman computer classes where we would create Websites. We would learn a little HTML, move to Dreamweaver, and use an actual Web server that students could upload and publish their finished Websites. Students loved it. They got to create, publish, and they were out there on the Web. Talk about having your students actively working, this was the unit. The finished product was not always pretty. (Surprisingly enough, most students have no design sense whatsoever) But, it was fun. Unfortunately, it has all disappeared. .
Last year, when we upgraded to Adobe CS 4 the other year, it came loaded with CSS tags and became more difficult (and less fun) for students to use. Don't get me wrong, we still make Web sites, but  thanks to Web 2.0 tools such as Weebly and Wix, students create wonderful looking Websites using pre-made templates in about half the time. Their content is about the same (mostly weak), but it looks better.
The part that makes me sad is the loss of the process. Creating and designing a Website (without the pretty templates) took some planning and forethought by students and I think that is a great skill. Even having to upload, test, fix, re-upload, test again to get everything working very beneficial for students. In the end, they were very proud of their finished product.
Wix and Weebly makes it easier and prettier, but I will forever miss the process of the "old way" of doing things.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Moodle, Moodle, Moodle

Admit it, it is fun to say. It rhymes with poodle (which I have a deep hatred for) and I still like it. But, what is Moodle and what is it all about. Lets take a quick at a video to explain the finer points and then I will fill you in on my experiences.

I have heard about Moodle for several years. A couple of the teachers at my high school use it as the online platform for their classes. Some of you may have used similar programs such as Blackboard or Web CT for Online courses at college. I had always resisted using it because I already had a Web Site and didn't want to try anything new. But, I finally tried Moodle (through my ISD) last year with a Computer Programming class I was teaching. It wasn't bad. Turns out you can teach an old dog new tricks. Some of the things that I liked were the fact that it was "locked down." If I had materials or information that I didn't want floating around on the Internet, I could make my class password protected and not allow visitors. I also liked the testing feature that allowed you to create and give exams over the Internet. Convenient. The class forum feature allows students to collaborate or post their thoughts on videos, readings, or assignments. Other students or the instructor can also comment on each post. Finally, the big thing I liked about Moodle was that I could use multiple means of instruction. Links are easily created to YouTube videos, sound files, screen-casts, PDFs, images, Office files, etc. This really helps students that learn in different ways. Think back to Universal Design for Learning (UDL) that I have posted on earlier.

As classroom instruction changes, wireless connections increase, and where a person learns expands, Moodle might be an option for your classroom in the future. Ask your tech director for more information. Thanks for visiting!