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.