Have been recently writing some curriculum for an IT master's program and mentioned,
With the advent of Web 2.0, creating websites has taken even yet another turn. Webware (online software, often free of charge such as Google Sites, Weebly , and Wix) and download-able freeware/Open Source software such as WordPress, Moodle, and Joomla, allow even quicker website creation and provide a gentler learning curve for the user than their pure WYSIWYG editor predecessors. Webware user interfaces now allow the average Internet user to click and choose, or use intuitive drag-n-drop components to create an entire site. Often pre-made templates can be used to create multiple pages fast and with professional results. Additionally, users can now publish their pages directly to the web – without use of a FTP program - with the mere click of a button. Web pages that once took days, if not weeks, to create can now be constructed within minutes. Because of advances in webware and our access to it, sharing of knowledge is now almost instantaneous.My big shifts this year have involved taking some risks related to the above. Though they may not be tectonically earth moving, I'm glad I've ventured away from what I know/what I've used and tried something different. This past year has been particularly demoralizing in terms of making educational technology advances where I work (yes, that's why I'm not posting so regularly), so strapping on some gritty doggedness and continuing to expand my professional repertoire despite all of it is definitely movement in the right direction.
My first experiment this year was trying on Moodle to run my class website (skillsworthlearning.com). Before I'd been a fast fan of DreamWeaver and creating my own templates with CSS and all. But I kept reading all of these other educators saying how neat this "Moodle" CMS was. Well, I have to tell you, at first I really had my doubts. It is nothing like DreamWeaver nor any other website creation tool I'd used. There was a bit of a learning curve, but not as much as learning HTML, CSS, GoLive, Photoshop and DreamWeaver. In short, Moodle can make a very powerful e-learning website for an educator -- pretty darn quickly. I've been able to make some great learning activities, quizzes, and lessons for my students because of this open source software. You've got to have some server space to install it and get it up and running, but other than that, you're ready to soar. You've got a great base of support via Moodle.org, as well as a slew of free, fantastic modules/plugins that make it even more powerful. What feature do I like the most? The fact that it scores review, quizzes, test, etc. instantaneously and can give students valuable, timely feedback on their learning. The integrated gradebook is very nice, as well. Oh, did I mention, it's free? Put that near the top of the list, too. Forgot to mention, too, that Moodle also offers some great site passwording, allowing me to create a safe, yet not totally-hemmed-in, learning environment for students. They can easily post their assignments for other peers to see, but not necessarily the world.
My other adventure was to take the last one third of my Web Design class and take a stab at using WordPress as a CMS. Two thirds of the class is spent learning Photoshop and DreamWeaver, which is worthwhile but really not representative of what I shared in my blockquote above. We're moving into a day and age where web publishing needs to be for the everyday Internet user. Continuing to teach DreamWeaver is noble, but it's not really where it's all headed. Now, sure -- if a student is to become a web designer, yes, DreamWeaver is an industry standard piece of software he or she needs to really know. But the vast majority of my students are not going to become web designers; what they do need to know is how to build a quick web presence to promote themselves or a future business or career. They don't need a rollercoaster ride in DreamWeaver to do this.
Everyday I spend a few minutes perusing Delicious. About six months ago I began seeing that WordPress was capable of making more than a blog: it can make an entire site with static pages and all (and sure, if you want, you can still have one of those pages be a blog page). I've discovered that you can do this using WordPress.com, but even more powerfully, if you have WordPress as a free publishing platform installed on a host server. My students are in their last three days of creating their sites with WordPress (full installations) and I took a moment the other day to see what they thought of this method vs. using DreamWeaver to create a site. Without missing a beat, they said WordPress made so much more sense, and was so much quicker to use to make an entire site. And they really liked the idea that they could quickly create a professional looking site for a client then quickly teach the new site owner how to manage it him/herself!
Will I branch out and have students try Wix or Weebly or Google Sites as well next semester? I just might! It is, after all, about the common everyday user having Gutenberg-like power.