“Making Your School Website Dynamic” is a popular course!

Today after-school I ran a 90-minute CPD session on creating dynamic school web sites using WordPress. Until I arrived, I was expecting around 5 people, and had prepared, just in case, for up to 10. In the event, there were 13 on the latest list, and everyone made it. There was great enthusiasm, and I went away convinced the group will be making full use of what they learned.

The course outline is here as a Word document:  It covered: ECS371 Making Your School Website Dynamic – outline

  • What’s meant by a dynamic site? (as distinct from a static “notice board” site)
  • What are the teaching and learning benefits?
  • How’s it done? An introduction to the Exc-el WordPress system (Posts, Pages, Blogroll links)
  • The essentials of writing Posts, Pages, creating sub-pages, adding blogroll links
  • Uploading files such as images, and controlling how they’re displayed
  • Changing the appearance of the site (using themes and sidebar widgets)
  • What else can be added? (e.g. BubbleShare Albums)
  • Using RSS widgets to syndicate headlines from other sites

This was the first time we’d run this course, so it’s time for a bit of reflection.

What worked well?

  • using the Pencaitland Blog as an example – it was up on the projector much of the time, and it was frequently useful to point to it to illustrate points
  • getting PCs logged in in advance, and putting some files onto the desktop ready for upload
    • although only the image files were used, there wasn’t time to use audio or video
  • setting up special “training blogs” and matching student logons with simple passwords
    • this saved time, and meant there were no worries about damaging anything
  • doing a quick run-through of all the main menus, although time was tight. This at least meant that people saw that nothing involved programming, and was all easy to learn

What didn’t work so well?

  • Predictably, network performance was slow – but we got by!
    • it was too slow to consider uploading audio or video files
    • sometimes it was as though the loading of the Write Post page timed out before the editor toolbar buttons had loaded, which was a bit confusing for new users

What issues arose?

  • Child protection: One participant reported being at a recent CP course, where they were told that it wasn’t acceptable for even an unidentified child’s face to be published on the web, as these might be taken and superimposed on other bodies. As well as developing policies on this, there’s clearly work to be done on communicating a standard approach.
  • Usability: understanding the Plug-in menu: The WordPress Plug-in menu entries make huge assumptions about what the user knows. For example, we’ve made available one or two Flickr plugins – but Flickr meant nothing to at least one participant – but not for long! There isn’t much space in these entries, but we could maybe add some hyperlinks to explanations of what they do. Here’s an example, from the first one on our current list:

Another Flickr Plugin 1.0 Loads pictures with AJAX, displays in lightbox By Luke Hertert.

In this one, for example, Flickr, AJAX and lightbox are all unfamiliar terms to many teachers.

  • Ongoing support: I was very conscious that the course was fast-paced, but have encouraged people to stay in touch over the next period as they start to develop their ideas.

Published by

David Gilmour

Learning Technologist East Lothian Council

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