Web Design in WordPress?


Image: eisenrah

In Y8 our students do a web design unit. We do a little HTML, introduce Dreamweaver, plan a 4-5 page site and build it using templates and tables. The end result is, largely, not very good. We’ve tried a range of contexts; ‘choose your own’, ‘rock bands’, ePortfolio of DT work – and the result is always a plain looking website that isn’t finished and students that don’t really understand what they’ve done or how to do it again. Those that have their own website outside school generally use a website builder to do it, and feel a lot more ownership of it (that said, they’re also not very good in general).

On the other hand, what I do in terms of web design usually involves Moodle, WordPress, Joomla or some other CMS (Content Management System) in which the design and the content are separated. I hack a round a bit with CSS, I change images, I install the odd widget or external module. The individual content blocks (like this) are either written in a WYSIWYG editor or done quickly in Kompozer and the HTML cut and pasted in. Although I both have and do write website from scratch, it’s pretty rare these days.

A third option would be to us an online website creator – Google Sites, Wix, whatever else is equivalent to Geocities. The students use these as easy ways to quickly create a website – the reason being that they are easy. The problem with that is that the underlying skills are not being taught and there is little or no understanding.

So what skills do we want the students to pick up? HTML coding, how to set out content (whether through CSS, DIVs or tables), the nature of embedding media (tags linking to images, videos, etc.), hyperlinks, design principles…

There’s no reason why you couldn’t do this with WPMU blogs. Students choose their own theme, customise the layout, change the banner and add the bulk of content as pages rather than posts and use the blog feed as ‘news’. The hardest task would be the logistics of setting up the software on a server and getting the LDAP authentication working.

Any thoughts?


3 thoughts on “Web Design in WordPress?

  1. sdinnage says:

    Is it possible that some elements of web design are a bit beyond the average pupil in that age group Yr8? I think layout on the web, either tables or CSSpositioning are fairly complex subjects, CSSp not made easier by lack of standards compliance of some browsers.
    Looking at the spec for OCRNationals L3 – Unit 20 – AO4 build a website. The requirement for a distinction or Merit is tables for layout (not a mention of CSS for layout) of a 10 page website.
    With this in mind for year 8 perhaps you will be far better off introducing some simple HTML concepts through a CMS or even wordpress. Giving a structured introduction without an anything goes approach that most people initially think of when asked to design a website.

    I for one am hoping to introduce the concept of basic CSS (separation of style from content and good use of semantic html) at the OCR-L3 but would be very interested in how far you can take those ideas with yr8, in many ways it produces code that is more human friendly (no tag soup) so could be easier in the long run?

  2. I find with my Middle Years students, they tend to rush through any form of creative activity on the web. I often have to send them back time and again to improve, improve, improve. Could it be that students do not feel the same sense of ownership with their online creations? I’m not sure, and I’m certain this doesn’t help you much.

  3. GQ52 says:

    I’ve always had the same problem with Y8, but Y9 they do a lot better overall. That being said I was looking at using the Imedia web unit with some at least, though will now leave it to y9 and do the Games making unit(s) instead – about to plan a scheme for this in the next month or so.

    At Y8 it may well be better to get them to use a ‘follow the steps’ online template but use it as a way of progressing in later years to be able to do their own in a more flexible way. Lets face it, most people learn to drive a car without much understanding of what goes on under the bonnet. Some go on to do some simple modifications but relatively few get in to anything more serious than adding ‘go faster’ stripes that are pretty meaningless really. The same analogy applies in most areas of life too, so why do we expect more of kids at such a young age? We also hit the hurdle that most don’t have a web creation package at home, HTML is another MFL to the vast majority and templates are easy and do a reasonable job by their standards, so why should they bother?

    Maybe Y8 should be more about page design than page construction per se, but then again design skills seem to diminish with age – Y11 sketches being much worse than the efforts put in by Y7 in most cases ;o)

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