Finding time for the little things

I daren’t even look at this blog’s front end, I don’t want to think about when the last update was.

It would be very easy to abandon blogging – it’s narcissistic, time consuming, read by perhaps a handful at best. But I do find it a useful reflective process, and that;s something I’ve been struggling to find time for lately.

As is always the case, lots of stuff is happening – some in school, some out, some very good and some particularly bad.

I seem to recall that a number of my posts just before the summer were relating to me work-life balance, and as part of that I’ve benefitted from spending more time with family but I also feel like I’m trying to tread water – not that I’m not making progress, but that I’m only just keeping my head up and every now and again I get a mouthful of water that goes right up my nose and feels uncomfortable for ages. I don’t think the solution is to spend less time with family but I do think I need to prioritise things more carefully.

Hmm… a very reflective post this one, and not nearly as well edited or audience conscious as usual. Anyway, expect business to resume here shortly with an aspirational target of a post a week. It’s not that I don’t have things to talk about – it’s just about whether I find the time to do so!

Web Design in WordPress?

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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?