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A Few More Web Pages

9th - 14th October 1998

Managed a couple more web pages this week. Some with a couple of keen boys in my form at school. is it possible to teach html to children? It obviously is. These two lads worked very hard in Notepad following my guidance and putting in each tag as we went along. My idea was to get a couple of keen chaps in and see if they would be able to do it and then see if they could pass on their enthusiasm to a few others. This is starting to happen as there are now four chaps having a go. Next week I'll probably try to launch a "Web Club" and formalise it a bit.

It seems to me that these WYSIWYG No Need to Learn HTML programmes are pretty handy but rather assume a knowldge of the code to make them work. It is not obvious that "Insert table" will mean much better organisation of image and text formatting. Table has a different function in publisher programmes.

I have been playing with a demo of Dreamweaver this week which is wonderful fun. I made four pages about skate boarding in Metfield for my son. He wrote the text on a rainy day when he was down this summer. We scanned in the drawings and I made a set of digital photos of Ben in Diss. And it's all got a bit of Java on courtesy of Dreamweaver. How to triple the size of your page download with one gratuitous graphic wobbling about!

Looking at school and other educational web sites I notice that a lot seem to have been made a year or more ago and then pretty much left alone. Why? And yet we are being inundated with massive amounts of pure unadulterated hype about being online in education now, soonest, get wired. The TES has supplements about it once a month and yesterday the Education Guardian had a pull out online section. Carol Vordermann has a new online project every week. And yet there seems to be no real organisation or genuine guidance as to what to do or where to go for advice even. Why doesn't the government do a deal with an ISP or two? It seems we are as much out there and as likely to make crass expensive free market errors as a business or anyone else. I'm not sure that we can afford to or that the whole online school can afford to. I have the feeling of being hyped at but not enlightened.

Attempt to teach html to a whole group today. It took two half hour ICT lessons. Fairly follow my leader sort of stuff with me telling them what to do and scribbling on a piece of sugar paper on the wall. Then I went round with a disc and copied them on to that as html files. This evening I fettled them for missing speech marks and so on and pasted in links at the bottom of the page to the next one along so that they daisy chain from my intro page. Only one pair actually lost their work entirely and didn't follow it at all. It was pretty quick stuff. Everyone else manged enough of the code to have something come up on the screen.

Tim is back (thank goodness). We discussed whether it is the thing to try to teach the code to the kids or not. My teaching is based on learning how to do it myself and I found the Wysiwygs to be a lot less Wysiwyg then they pretended as I said at the top of the page. I feel much better with a Wysiwyg now I have some idea about html. I think it is possible to get a more controlled and elegant effect with code (elegant in design, download and means and end terms). This background and general style of presentation is very simple but I'm not sure how to do it in a Wysiwyg. I'm sure a Wysiwyg would stick me with a smaller choice of backgrounds than this rather subtle effect borrowed from Siegals pages. There is also the satisfaction of making something for the World Wide Web in such a simple way. There's the magic of the fiddle, add color, refresh moment which is rather marvellous. If the thing is about communication then the idea is the thing. Writing the code cuts down on the gratuitiousness of what you are doing. If it's just flash you can't be bothered.

I'm not sure I like the idea of a web of folk showing off their latest java writing flash wing dingery to each other in ever increasingly massive downloads made with expensive wysiwyg programmes interspersed with more and more commercials. I like the idea of kids knocking together little communication pellets of words and pictures and exchanging them across the globe. And a few basic tags are all you need for a pupils level page really - words, colors and some pix. It gives them a greater sense of fabricating something, of being a bit nuts and bolts about it, behind the scenes. So much of modern life is hides its mechanisms and increasingly so.

I think life is probably too short for me to learn how to programme a computer anywhere near properly i.e. make it wander about or make it make a widget but html is only half a code language really. A few little tags and a bit of an ftp. Even art teachers can do it so it can't be that difficult.

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