Schools And Web Sites Essay, Research Paper
Report on why a school should have a web site and why web site creation and design should be included in the school curriculum at Key Stage 3.
This report is based on discussing the reasons why a school should have a web site and for the inclusion of the teaching of web site creation and design in the school curriculum at Key Stage 3. It will point to exemplar work produced by children published on the World Wide Web.
Children are the fastest growing group using the Internet. According to MMXI Europe, in September 2000, 11m people (one-fifth of the population) were using the Internet from home, with children taking to the Internet more rapidly than adults. The statistics show a rise of 89% in unique visitors aged between 2 and 17 from January to September 2000. The research also shows that British men use the Internet more than women, but the gap in usage is decreasing. This is an abstract from the Guardian, 15th November 2000, p.31, Title: Children lead the way for surfing, Author: Snoddy, Julia.
Pupils should have Internet access at school for at least one hour a week. The Liberal Democrat Party have set this benchmark for education as part of new policy for their party. This access could be in lesson time, at lunchtime or before and after school. Extra equipment and staff support would be needed, the policy costing an estimated 940 overall. A Liberal Democrat investigation into ICT in schools is underway, with a sample of primary and secondary schools receiving a questionnaire on equipment and support levels. This is from TES (Online Supplement) 10th November 2000, Title: Pupils must have hour a week on the net, Author: Johnston, Chris.
These abstracts are a good starting point to discuss the aspects of why a school should have a web site. Web sites are information systems and if properly constructed, provide visitors with knowledge and insight. Web sites can also serve as “interfaces” providing bridges and translations to connect users to other wordly experiences. Given the sometimes poorly organized resources available on the Web, a good school Web site helps people find educationally worthwhile information with a minimum of wasted time and wandering. They can introduce visitors to the school, providing a mission statement, the character of the school and its provisions to children. They offer an opportunity for the publishing of student works to both a local and a global audience, whether those works be art, music, or writing.
Some parents have even started to “shop” for schools by visiting Web sites and comparing schools. Many schools have seen the value of introducing their offerings to existing parents as well as prospective parents, outlining the school mission and the kinds of learning available while sharing more mundane but valuable items such as calendars, schedules and lunch menus. The more advanced have introduced forms and e-mail features which allow them to gather information and feedback from pupils and parents.
Many schools seek ways to engage pupils in real world problem solving. Web sites can support such studies as they become warehouses, virtual museums or virtual libraries storing the raw data that pupils may extract as information. It used to be that many kinds of information (such as local historical records) gathered cobwebs in folders and filing cabinets. These may have proven a gold mine for pupil follow-up studies and investigations, but they rarely emerged into open view. This data can now be stored and shared on the school Web site so that each new wave of pupils can add to the collection and can begin sharing and comparing data with other pupils and schools within the same region.
A good Web site may save staff and pupils from hours of wandering about from empty site to empty site by listing only those Internet locations offering appropriate, curriculum relevant content which is full of value. Someone who knows the curriculum performs the “scouting” required to identify these good sites and then create a series of pages which are well organized and carefully broken into categories that make sense to the expected audience of the site.
Until recently, it may have been enough to launch a Web site simply to get on the Web and there were probably hundreds of sites in cyberspace floating around with no structure or valuable information and subsequently of little or no use to anybody at all. However from investigating the web sites available, it seems that schools have shed the early efforts and moved toward the more functional sites. They have strong content at a local level combined with excellent information about the school and pointers to the best educational resources on the Web.
Increasingly, schools and pupils will have their own Web sites. This facility is offered by most Internet service providers free of charge, or at very low cost, or may be provided by the school within its own network. A school will need to take steps to ensure that its own web site does not contain inappropriate material. Where the school is offering space for individual pupils to manage their own Web sites there will need to be checks on the content to ensure appropriate use. All the above structures exist within the overall concept of the Internet. Individual computer users may also allow external access to their computer via what are known as Bulletin Boards. These usually exist outside the Internet and are often run by individuals rather than organisations. They are services where the user can dial up directly, access information, post questions and read other people s comments and answers. Most are accessed via their own telephone number rather than via the telephone number of an Internet service provider. Contacting such a Bulletin Board will be charged at the price of a direct telephone call to that locality. Thus, the use of some Bulletin Boards can be very expensive. Schools which purchase access to a single Internet service provider and have their system pre-set to dial only that provider (for example, through an ISDN telephone line) will not be able to access Bulletin Boards and hence are not likely to have a problem with access to unauthorised phone numbers. However, schools using a simple modem where the phone number to be dialed can be easily changed are more vulnerable in this respect.
Schools without a Web site should seriously consider creating one and it would be advisable as a starting point to visit other school sites, noting the features and elements which work and those which do not. They should consider as many issues as possible in preparation of their design. They should definitely gather the opinion of their pupils in designing the site, as the pupils will provide a critical and honest evaluation of other sites they have visited. As stated previously, children are becoming the most popular users of the Internet and it is therefore essential that they become involved in the design.
This brings me to the consideration of why web creation and design should be included in the National Curriculum at Key Stage 3.
During Key Stage 3 pupils become increasingly independent users of ICT tools and information sources. They have a better understanding of how ICT can help their work in other subjects and develop their ability to judge when and how to use ICT and where it has limitations. They think about the quality and reliability of information, and access and combine increasing amounts of information. They become more focused, efficient and rigorous in their use of ICT, and carry out a range of increasingly complex tasks. Due to this they will be more able to work on their own ideas and implement them in ways they see fit.
The ICT Programme of study for Key Stage 3 states that pupils should be taught:
2a. to develop and refine ideas by bringing together, organising and reorganising text, tables, images and sound as appropriate.
3a. how to interpret information and to reorganise and present it in a variety of forms that are fit for purpose.
3b. to use a range of ICT tools efficiently to draft, bring together and refine information and create good-quality presentation in a form that is sensitive to the needs of particular audiences and suits the information content.
4a. reflect critically on their own and each others uses of ICT to help them develop and improve their ideas and the quality of their work.
4b. share their views and experiences of ICT, considering the range of its uses and talking about its significance to individuals, communities and society.
4c. discuss how they might use ICT in future work and how they would judge its effectiveness, using relevant technical terms.
4d. be independent and discriminating when using ICT.
All this can be achieved through teaching web creation and design. However, to successfully achieve this, teachers must adopt the necessary pedagogical approaches and strategies. For example, pupils could be set a project that involves designing and creating web pages based on a school magazine or newspaper. They could design a document using a word processing software package, converting the document to a web page by saving in HTML format. They could complete the project as a class, assigning particular tasks throughout the group. They may have completed a project on creating the magazine or newspaper, using Desk-Top Publishing software. On completion of the project, pupils could make comparisons through critical analysis of both projects and how the activities were related and how they differed. They could discuss how information was organised and presented to suit the particular needs of each audience. They could publish the pages on the school web site, encouraging other pupils and parents to visit the site and leave comments about it. This would give them a sense of working in the real world and they would be able to reflect on feedback from visitors.
This could be a basis for further learning and pupils could go on to create web pages in HTML using a text editor such as Microsoft Notepad. They would be introduced to the basic syntax and use of simple HTML tags and could make comparisons of using HTML text editors and using word-processing software to design and create web pages whilst evaluating the final outcome. This could then prepare pupils for Key Stage 4, when pupils become more responsible for choosing and using ICT tools and information sources. They use a wide range of ICT applications confidently and effectively, and are able to work independently much of the time. They choose and design ICT systems to suit particular needs and may design and implement systems for other people to use. They work with others to carry out and evaluate their work.
Apart from teaching pupils to design and create web pages, they must also be made aware of the social issues of technology, in particular relating to the Internet. Issues such as content, copyright and netiquette must be addressed. Teachers must be thorough in preparation of delivering such knowledge to pupils. They need to understand the basic concept of issues such as these so that consideration can be given when designing web pages. This will prepare pupils for further investigation about such issues.
In conclusion it is obvious that the Internet is proving to be one of the fastest growing forms of Information and Communications Technology ever known and because we live in a technological society, we must be educated for it. It is therefore essential that children are taught how to use ICT competently and effectively. Children must be prepared morally and politically to understand and be critically aware of the social issues of technology. They need to be involved in and understand the areas of technology that can be related to designing and making. Web creation and design is an excellent way to bring out the creative qualities in children, whilst at the same time educating them to use the skills they have acquired to further their knowledge and understanding of Information and Communication Technology.