04 May 2012

Web Design for Middle Schoolers

Hi. So I'm going to be adding web design to my curriculum next year, and I'm currently in the process of finding a sort of blogging or hosting service that's easy for the students to use.

What I want is a place where I can manage my students' blogs and set them up easily. I also need it to be easily customizable so I can actually have them practice designing for the web, not just picking a theme and a background picture. The way I'll have them use it is at the beginning they'll do the simple stuff: name the blog and pick a theme. When they complete assignments, they'll post pictures and write a paragraph about them. After we cover some design fundamentals, they'll go back through and customize the entire look of the blog, including adding a logo they made. At the end of the year they'll write a few longer posts (essays).

Here's what I've found so far:

Blogger/Blogspot
This would be my favorite solution. It's free, and you can customize the heck out of it. The problem is, you have to have a Google account for it, and when you use that account to create a blogger account, it asks for a phone number. Half my students don't have a phone of their own at this point, making this option impractical.

Wordpress
See Edublogs, which is the teacher/student version of Wordpress.

Edublogs
Edublogs dodges the problem that Blogger has by allowing you to create a blog without a phone number or even an email address, which is great, as we're trying to teach students to be careful with the information they share online. However, Wordpress/Edublogs doesn't allow for much customization beyond choosing a theme, and the dashboard is very cluttered (which is the biggest reason I prefer Blogger for this blog).

Weebly
Offers 40 free accounts for educators, which means 40 students could use it under your control. After that I believe it's about $1 per account. It doesn't let you customize much, but the interface is far less cluttered than Edublogs/Wordpress. There's an HTML/CSS editor inside the themes, so you can replace background pictures and go into the code and pick colors or anything else that you know how to do. Fantastic for junior high age students who don't necessarily need to learn how to code from scratch, but could maybe pick up changing parts of the code.

Classpress
I haven't tried it yet, but it looks like it might offer the customization I'm looking for. In addition, it offers DropBox assignment turn-in, PDF 'journal' printing of the entries, and I can even add links that show up on every student's blog, that could be cool. Unfortunately the overall layout is ugly and cumbersome.

I'm sure there are plenty of other solutions out there, but I'm going with Weebly. It's simple, it's easy to use, and I can manage my student accounts easily, setting up their usernames and passwords, setting their sites to private so that people need a password to be able to see them, and setting up classes to easily view each student's work. I tested it with a class of 31 7th graders and most of them quickly figured out how to do a lot of fun stuff on their own, without me needing to show them, and I could go on about the benefits of the discovery model of learning. And the $1 price per student is incredibly manageable considering most of my students pay a $5-$8 fee to be in my class in the first place. Bravo, Weebly.

1 comment:

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