The project which is presented in this paper is supposed to give pupils of different forms and levels an introduction to the internet and to homepage-designing. The title „Global Classroom on the Internet“ already suggests that this introduction especially concentrates on the way education and school is presented on the internet. This is, however, not the whole project but only a part of a much bigger planning, namely the school project „Global Classroom“.
„Global Classroom“ is set in an Austrian grammar school. Every year, two days in the last week of the term are dedicated to a project dealing with a certain topic. The normal schedule is suspended and pupils of all different forms join in a number of workgroups to work out a specific aspect of the topic. In this project, one workgroup might concentrate on school partnerships, another might work on correspondence courses and my workgroup tries to find out, as already mentioned above, what role the internet plays in the „Global Classroom“.
Pupils can choose from a variety of tasks according to their interest. The final outcome of the workgroup „Global Classroom on the Internet“ should be a first attempt to design a school homepage. It is, of course, not possible to achieve that aim within two days. Nevertheless, pupils can take a number of steps learning about the subject and in the end the foundations of a school-homepage can be laid.
To reach that aim, pupils must not only inform themselves about their own school and what should be included on the school’s homepage, but also about how other schools present themselves on the internet, how to build a homepage and last not least about the importance of education on the internet. They should use as many sources and aids as possible and can therefore very well experience the boundaries of this new medium. A number of links suggested by the teacher are helpful for getting started but later on it is up to the students which on-line aids they use.
In this paper, I first want to give some background information on the development of education emphasising the role of the internet, and then describe the actual project as detailed as possible. Drafts of worksheets and handouts are intended to complete the paper.
2. The future of education
The main ideas of this section are taken from the book Multi-Media-Campus: Die Zukunft der Bildung by Franz-Theo Gottwald which outlines a new idea of how to teach and learn within an interactive and multimedia campus set up on the internet. It offers interesting perspectives on tomorrow’s education and the changes which have taken place so far.
2.1 Megatrends – a learning society
The world we are living in, changes rapidly. Most of today’s employees work no longer in industry but in service industries which offer information like the press, banking, telecommunications and all the sectors based on computers. The trend moves away from simple manufacturing to processing of information. People must learn to deal with this trend and not only globalisation demands life-long learning.
Nowadays, one is everywhere asked to be flexible. This means to be permanently able to do relearning, to deal with new technologies and to be ready for new requests. Flexibility means also to be capable of taking up new perspectives.
Within hundred years, the amount of freetime available to employees has doubled. Around 1900 people had 2.000 hours per year, at 2030 it will be as high as 5.200 hours. Most of that time will be used for multimedia education. Sparetime will be less used for mere consumption of leisure-time activities but will make up the potential for self-realisation.
Like the leisure industry, also education lives on the people’s growing urge for change. The variety in education can be quite effectively used to make the learning process more interesting and to increase the learners‘ potential.
Not only variety, but also interaction determines the future of education. Interactive communication is a highly flexible means of education which does not aim on the mere imparting of knowledge but rather on communication and the techniques of how to get information from various sources.
The world’s knowledge has organised itself in a gigantic „ocean of knowledge“ which is constantly growing. Not even in one’s own subject it is no longer possible to keep pace. To filter relevant information out of this vast amount of knowledge, we need aids to support us in valuation and evaluation of information. In the future, not detail knowledge will be important but general knowledge about ourselves, our relation to our environment and to our world. We need to adapt our way of how to cope with information to our constantly changing world.
2.2 Open learning in virtual worlds
Tomorrow’s learner is an open system. His thinking, emotions, motivations and learning are integrated into the world surrounding him. He is dependent on his cultural, social and ecological environment. No longer cognitive elements within a learner can be regarded as positive and emotional ones as negative. If we understand a learner as an open system, this dilemma is neutralised.
Additionally, technology is no longer a dangerous tool in the hands of people who aim to seize world domination but it is a helpful aid which can respond to the learner in a particular way. The boundaries between man and machines are covered up as machines are more and more modelled on the human brain.
The more learning takes place in virtual surroundings, the more people are ready to dissolve from the limitedness of previous techniques for presentation and interaction. Much more than just the visual sense is addressed by today’s learning software and this trend is going to continue. Action-orientated mechanisms allow the arrangement of the subject matter according to the educational objective. „Learning with all senses“ is the motto for the education of the future.
Two kinds of learning will be of a great importance of tomorrow’s virtual learning environment. The first is the „anticipatory learning“ which means learning how to cope with unexpected situations which possibly never happened before. Here, the emphasis lies on modelling a person’s subject competence and his personal, leading and sensual competence. The virtual classrooms of the future allow anticipation by integrating the getting of experience in the learning situation. The second kind of learning which will dominate the education of the future is the „participatory learning“ which emphasises social interaction. Participation, to work on a problem together, is highly important to reconcile groups of people who gained different techniques of anticipation.
In the virtual classrooms of tomorrow, learners can autonomously build up their own system of strategies, means and ways of how to learn most effectively. The traditional dependence of the learner on the teacher becomes less important as learning will be more and more self-controlled from the inside than determined from outside. In multimedia classrooms the autonomy of the learner is realised since it is possible for the individual to continue learning of his own accord without support from the outside. Everybody learns differently, so each learner will set up his own learning environment. Lifelong learning can be easily organised since that learning environment is a highly flexible matter which can be adjusted to ever new tasks and jobs.
The most important thing to learn will be media competence, that is to be able to learn with different kinds of media. Media competence means to get as much suitable information as possible and then utilise that information most effectively. Today, a great variety of „edutainment programs“, which combine education and entertainment, are available to learn media competence by doing. Tomorrow’s learner must get to know how to consciously decide for that kind of information which is most important for his learning process.
Especially the entertainment aspect will be of great importance in the classroom of the future. Learning is going to be more and more based on pictures. Already today’s edutainment programs are very attractive because of the learning stimuli conveyed by pictures. For complex learning processes pictorial learning is more suitable than the traditional verbal imparting of information.
Also computer games can contribute to a greater interest in multimedia learning. In most of these games the player can interfere in the story by controlling one or more characters within a virtual reality. By doing so, people get used to navigate within a virtual reality and get the expectancy that tomorrow’s learning will be as easy as controlling a figure in a game. This is a good basis for the anticipatory and the participatory innovative learning of the 21st century.
3. The internet
3.1 A rush for gold or the great hangover?
Although the learning of tomorrow is very likely to be as described above, it is all still up the air. What is needed most for this new educational style are a medium that conveys up-to-date information and a fast and effective means of communication.
The internet is a perfect medium for all these demands. According to Meyers Lexikon in drei Banden this world-wide network, today mainly used for data exchange via telephone connections, started in 1969 as the so-called „ARPAnet“ which simplified the US Army’s communication. It then was only used to convey scientific information and became the internet we know today not before the 1990ies. Since the standard WWW (world wide web) was introduced in 1993, also multimedia applications and online services could be offered. Many people nowadays use the internet for their work or in their freetime. Communication has become much easier because of the e-mail (electronic mail) which allows the transfer of electronic letters and data to any destination on the globe within seconds.
Governments and governmental organisations all over the world put a great effort into making people fit for the internet since this is the medium of the future. Recently, a huge campaign was introduced in Austria to relieve people from their fears concerning the anonymity of the internet which opens the door to criminality, as many think. Especially a number of cases of child pornography have strengthened the arguments of people who are against the internet. The internet is a medium like any other, tainted with the same dangers and defects as any other anonymous medium. It should therefore not be condemned beforehand. In the campaigns, however, the internet is presented as the archive of the world’s knowledge, as the ultimate store of all kinds of information. Its democratic structure which makes it possible for every user to contribute his thoughts allows a totally different view of our society and makes it interesting also for education and open learning. The speed in which information is provided and can be downloaded makes the internet absolutely unrivalled.
This is all very true and yet it is not. The view of the internet which is promoted by various people because of various intentions is not always what the internet really is. It offers such fantastic opportunities that very soon a commercialisation of the internet could be noticed. This is fair enough as long as the intention is clear and as long as it makes things easier for the consumer. Nowadays, all large companies have got their own homepage which they use mainly as an up-to-date and cheap means of advertising. Especially computer-related firms also offer service there. Users can download the newest drivers for their hardware and easily update their programmes. Virus scanners get the newest virus profiles on the internet and all kinds of freeware and shareware is ready for download. This seems fantastic at first. Users should, however, be careful and only trust companies which they would trust in real life as well.
Some companies do not even have an own shop but carry out their business via the internet. E-business (electronic business), a new slogan which can be read everywhere nowadays, is a very practical thing. Items can be ordered on-line, they are paid via credit card and it is only up to the postal service when the products land in the customer’s post-box. Yet, not all people trust the data protection of the internet and are afraid to give away precarious data like their credit card number. Internet shops like the famous bookstore http://www.amazon.com can register large turnovers but not a very high profit. Too few people buy on-line to make the shop, which offers books at retail price but without postage, a profitable institution. Currently, it is in the red.
Looking at homepages without a commercial background, we can find a quite good reflection of our world and of society. Thanks to free offers for homepages and webspace from advertising-financed webservice providers, everybody can nowadays easily publish his views and opinions on the internet. Surfing on the homepages of large homepage-providers like http://www.geocities.com, we can find a rich variety of personal homepages with an ever so different content and orientation. This is positive on the one hand, since information can be made available to the world quite fast and unbureaucratically. It is negative, on the other hand, because there is no guarantee, not even a hint for the quality of the offered information. This is not of relevance when we talk about personal homepages presenting its author. It is, however, of great significance, when we consider the educational value of the internet.
When we go to a library to inform ourselves about a certain topic, we can assume that the books we find there, are of rather high quality. Especially in science and studies, the points of view of the different scholars may differ enormously, but at least we can proceed on the assumption that what finally was published is well-researched and well underpinned. This is guaranteed to us by the readers and the publishers of the publishing house. On the internet, everyone is his own publisher and nobody else than the author himself decides what to make available for the public and what not. Speaking of science and studies, information that has been insufficiently researched or that has yet not been thought through to the end can be easily found on the internet. Not only unknown or even anonymous authors or sources which are not well-known but also traditional and well-known publishing houses offer insufficient information that is sometimes not reliable. Their data is limited just to avoid to compete the books they are publishing. Maybe this unreliable data even makes up the majority of information offered on the internet. It is, therefore, quite risky to fully rely on the internet when looking for important data.
Yet, a trend which is of much greater use to autonomous learners is up-and-coming. Traditional publishers of encyclopaedias and dictionaries which were firstly produced in CD-ROM form, have now made their information available to the public on the internet. Everyone can leaf through the online-versions of high-quality encyclopaedias for free since these webpages are finances through adverts which appear on the top of each page. Excellent examples of this new trend can be found at http://www.britannica.com and http://dictionary.com. Even a web-version of the British National Corpus is available at http://thetis.bl.uk.
It is quite easy to find information from well-known publishers like the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Even if we do not know the exact address of the webpage, the search engines which help users finding data related to the topic they are working on, are very likely to mention it on top of the list of suggestions. Search engines are absolutely necessary for any internet user. Without them, it would not be possible to find any specific data on the internet, which is organised in a decentralistic way. There are no central address books, indexes or catalogues. Services like http://yahoo.com or so-called meta-crawlers like http://www.webcrawler.com, which combine several search engines, ask for the relevant term and give a list of suggested homepages which are in some way connected to that term. The wider we define the term to look for, the more suggestions we are likely to get. This seems to be quite logical and easy but anybody who has ever logged on the internet not just to surf from one homepage to another but to find specific information, will agree that this is not the case. Mario Rieder wrote an interesting article on this topic published in das materialien und ideen heft. According to him, a systematic and planned action is the important basis for successful research work. It is sometimes good to consult different engines and to try it again and again, every time with a slightly different term to look for. Yet, it is also up to a certain amount of luck and coincidence combined with a bit of intuition, if we in the end really find what we are looking for.
To conclude, the internet is a fast and efficient aid in daily working because it makes communication so much easier and faster and because up-to-date information can be very easily downloaded. Yet, this information is not always so easy to find. Additionally, we should pay attention to the quality of the given information and should only trust traditional and well-known companies and publishers. In case of doubt, it is no mistake to consult the printed versions of encyclopaedias or articles in libraries. The internet is the future, there is no doubt about that. We ought to familiarise ourselves with this new technology and should try to profit from it. There is no reason to be afraid of it but whatever we do, this does not only concern the internet, we should do it with open eyes.
3.2 The autonomous learner and the internet
Autonomous learning means to acquire knowledge of one’s own accord without support from the outside. Depending on the level of autonomy, material may be provided and there may be tuition available from a teacher but the learning process itself is fully up to the learner. The more independent he is, the more decisions he has to make concerning the material and his preferred learning styles. In autonomous learning, much effort is put into doing practical exercises rather than into learning theoretical knowledge. Anticipatory and participatory learning, two future trends which have been discussed before, are also a matter of today’s autonomous learning.
To be able to do autonomous learning successfully, learners must define their role in the learning process and their capability as learners, as Anita Wenden in her book Learner strategies for learner autonomy suggests. Learners have to show willingness to take on responsibility and have to have confidence in their ability as learners.
Everybody learns differently. Some people do better in visual learning, that is to view and to read things, others prefer auditory learning, to listen to lectures and to discuss the topic. Some learners go for tactile learning, learning by handling and touching, and others opt for kinaesthetic learning, that is to do and experience things, are learning styles. The more experienced a learner gets, the more likely he is to find his preferred style and in which way he does best in absorbing, processing and retaining new information and skills.
Learning materials published in any kind of the new media like the CD-ROM or the internet is designed to satisfy all different kinds of learners. Most of the programs are a balanced mix of audio-visual elements. This is especially useful for language courses where not only the correct use of the grammar can be trained in traditional text-based exercises but also the right pronunciation in interactive tasks. A number of pictures and even little films can contribute to learning a language in the most natural way possible.
While learning material published on CD-ROMs is limited in its size, the internet makes up the largest archive of learning material ever possible. Again, money and commercialisation is of significant relevance here. Quite a number of companies offer web-based courses similar to self-contained CD-ROM programmes. Learners just follow lection after lection and pay for what they get. This is, however, not really autonomous learning because the courses are built up like classrooms without a teacher. Autonomous learning does not only do without the teacher but also without self-contained concepts. Autonomous learning can take place following certain guidelines but it is far more open and flexible than any systematically built-up course can offer.
Autonomous learning on the internet means to look for various sources of information, assess them and to combine and make use of them according to one’s aim. This is not very easy, especially for inexperienced users. They might be overwhelmed by the mass of information available and are likely to believe everything that is published, similar to the first days of television when everything that was broadcasted on TV was taken for granted. To find one’s way around the internet is something which is best learned by doing. Tutors can help learners by showing them a few examples of well-made webpages which are full of relevant information and of poor sites which promise more than they really contain. It can also be quite useful to work out criteria according to which one can assess the quality of a homepage. Most important, however, is to show learners how to deal with the different internet search engines. It can be very frustrating to know that „somewhere out there“ the wanted information must be available but because the exact address is unknown, it remains inaccessible to the user.
4. The project „Global Classroom on the Internet“
The setting has already been made clear in the introduction. We will now take a closer look onto the project and try to set up some guidelines concerning the timing but also the content. We will define clear aims and the possible steps to reach them.
In the first part of this paper, the theoretical background, we have mainly focused on the role of education on the internet and the opportunities it offers for autonomous learners. The project, however, is aimed at making a first contact with the internet possible for the target group and, moreover, at advising pupils how to deal with information from the internet. Most of the pupils nowadays have been to the internet at least once and have a certain idea of it. The most visited homepages, however, are entertaining ones related to games, to chatrooms (on-line discussions) and to music, especially dealing with the new internet-standard for music, Mp3. If homepages of that kind promise more than they contain that may be annoying for the user but it does not constitute a big problem because nothing hinges on whether the wanted data can be found or not. It is all for entertainment and there are hundreds of similar pages available.
In our project, pupils should learn to look at the internet in a more professional, in a more systematic way. Like already described in 3.2 „The autonomous learner and the internet“, students should experience themselves how to best look for information and how to find out of what value this information is for them. The topic of the project which limits it contentwise, is the presentation of schools on the internet. While other groups of the school-project „Global Classroom“ look at different aspects of school relations and education in other countries, we should be concerned with the way schools present themselves on the internet and afterwards lay the foundations of our own homepage. Speaking of language competence, this is broadened by analysing British homepages and by formulating English texts for their own one.
In the centre of day one is getting in contact with the internet and looking at various existing homepages. Criteria according to which we can assess webpages should be found and an impression of the opportunities and the limits of the internet should be gained. In the centre of day two stands the creative aspect. Now, pupils are asked to inform themselves about how to set up a homepage and try to do their own one.
In the beginning, when the knowledge of the participating pupils concerning the internet has to be levelled, the project has to be controlled by the teacher in a far greater extend than later on when the students are in the creation process. It is, of course, easier to describe those parts of the project which are in charge of the teacher than those which are more autonomous. The imagination of the reader, however, should contribute to getting a more lively picture of the project and its results.
4.1 The basics
Day one, 9.00 to ~11.00
To familiarise the students with the internet, we do not yet let them form workgroups but talk to all of them in the beginning. They all have a computer with internet access at their disposal. At first, the teacher shortly informs the pupils about the history and the character of the internet. Suggestions for this introduction can be found in the theoretical part of this paper. It should be rather practical orientated and should cover the basic techniques of navigation in the net.
Then all the students are given the address http://www.yahoo.com, an easy search engine. Now they are asked to think of any topic which is of interest for them and to see how many homepages and how much information they can find on the internet. The pupils have enough time to visit a number of homepages to be able to come up with a list of the five best sites according to their view. Some students may shortly present what they have found out and may talk about the way they got to the information.
Experienced students will find relevant data quite easy whereas beginners will definitely have some problems which they should articulate in the course of the discussion. The teacher or other pupils can help and clear basic problems quite easily. It is also possible to show how to use a search engine most effectively on the basis of an example. It is neither possible to give a more detailed description nor an exact time-span for this part of the project since here, students should be made „fit“ for the internet so that they can carry out easy tasks on their own. Pupils learn quite easy at that age, especially when it comes to new media, a topic which is of interest for most of the young people. It depends on the knowledge and the experience of the pupils how long this part lasts. Timelines, therefore, can only be a rough structure in a project.
4.2 The topic
Day one, ~11.00 to ~12.00
When everyone is familiar with the basic structure of the internet, the topic is introduced to the students. Their surfing is no longer dedicated to find information on a self-chosen subject but on a specific project-related one.
Tasksheet 1 is handed out to the students and they are asked to fulfil its tasks. Again, experienced students will do easier than beginners. You cannot expect them to understand and to be able to navigate in the internet within an hour. Therefore pupils are asked to help each other and also the teacher should wander around the computer lab giving hints and answering questions.
When they have finished, it is time for a break after three hours in front of a computer screen. Naturally, little breaks during the working process are possible and desirable. Nevertheless, a longer break is absolutely necessary for the pupils to let go of the topic.
Day one, ~12.30 to ~13.30
After the break, tasksheet 2 is handed out to the students.
Firstly, they can find a number of suggested links to the categories of homepages they were asked to find before. The given webpages are good-quality ones and reliable. They should be used by the students as an aid throughout the project. Yet, the pupils are of course invited to use any additional aid they can find on the net. In case of doubt whether the found webpages are of good quality or not, the teacher can help.
Secondly, there are a number of questions on tasksheet 2. These questions should function as first guidelines for the pupils of what they could pay attention to when looking at homepages. They are a good preparation for setting up criteria to assess webpages, which is the day’s aim. The students are now asked to find five webpages of Austrian schools and five ones of British schools which they like or dislike. They should be able to briefly present some pages to the class and say why they like them or not. For this argumentation, the questions on tasksheet 2 can be very helpful.
Day one, ~13.30 to ~14.30
Now it is time to discuss some well-made and also some not so well-made webpages in class. Before it is the students‘ turn, the teacher briefly presents a few examples.
A very nice homepage of an Austrian school is the one of the BG/BRG Kirchengasse in Graz (http://www.kirchengasse.asn-graz.ac.at). Here we can see that not only traditional elite schools like the Theresianum produce good sites, but also other grammar schools like this. The homepage comes up quite fast but nevertheless offers a very well made index-page from which all the sections can be reached easily. A button on the upper-left corner, which can be found on every page, makes it easy to get back to this index-page immediately. The design of the whole homepage is unobtrusive and clear and it leads through the whole webpage like a red thread. It very well reflects the structure of the page and in a way also the school’s attitude – clarity. As the date shows, the page is updated regularly, a feature which is very important in the internet. Pretending, we were prospective parents who want to inform themselves about the school, let us now proceed to the types of school offered at the BG/BRG Kirchengasse. What we find on http://www.kirchengasse.asn-graz.ac.at/schulformen.html is not overloaded with unnecessary pictures but gives very briefly all the needed information. Also the school’s guiding principle is presented in that way on http://www.kirchengasse.asn-graz.ac.at/leitbild.html. Very useful links are the map showing how to best get to the school (http://www.kirchengasse.asn-graz.ac.at/lage.html) or the school’s webbased mailservice offering free email to students and staff which can be checked all over the world (http://www.kirchengasse.asn-graz.ac.at/mailman/mailman.cgi). This is a fantastic site offering a lot of information and service in a pleasing design.
Quite the contrary applies to the homepage of the ORG der Schwestern vom Gottlichen Erloser Eisenstadt (http://www.bnet.co.at/theres/index.htm). The problem here is that there is obviously nobody who is responsible for it. The production of a homepage was the aim of a project in 1996 and since then only once in 1997 it has been updated and changed. If a homepage is designed, especially if it is the product of a project, it must be assured that there is a group of people who take care of updating it regularly. Otherwise, the nature of the internet, namely topicality, is ridiculed. It is a shame since this school seems to be quite modern and future-orientated. To dedicate a project to the internet and to producing a homepage in 1996 is rather remarkable. Offering outdated information, however, is not the only problem of this school’s webpage. Let us take a closer look on the index-page. Here, we neither find a clear menu reflecting the structure of the page and leading us through, nor any link to the school’s email-address. The design is boring, the elements are badly arranged and it is no pleasure surfing this site. Pretending again to be prospective parents, we proceed to the page of one of the school-types, the Hohere Lehranstalt fur wirtschaftliche Berufe (http://www.bnet.co.at/theres/schulehl.htm). The information is presented in a clear and brief way but it is again the boring design which makes the user skip important parts. The same applies to the page of the school’s achievements (http://www.bnet.co.at/theres/erfolge.htm). Outdated information is poorly presented – nobody in this school takes advantage of the internet’s topicality and the opportunities for presentation it offers. Not everybody can design a homepage in a professional way and that is also not the priority aim of a school’s webpage. But keeping it up to date is absolutely necessary.
Turning to British schools now, let us first take a look at the webpage of the Westminster School (http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/default.asp). What is quite remarkable here is that every user is firstly asked to identify himself so that only relevant information is presented to him. We identify ourselves as a „visitor“ to get a nice overview picture of the school. On the page coming up now, http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/index.asp, we find a nice and clear menu giving us the opportunity to proceed to any part of the homepage within seconds. A click on „information“ gets us to the school information section, http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/index.asp. Here, we can choose from a variety of offers. We can either inform ourselves about the school’s prospectus and history (http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/about/prospectus/index.htm) or get a visual impression by looking at a collection of nice photographs of the school (http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/about/photos/index.htm). A useful index (http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/atoz.asp) and the opportunity to search the school’s intranet (http://www.westminster.org.uk/intranet/query/query.asp) are without a doubt necessary in view of all the information provided and round off this well-made and impressive homepage. We must not forget, though, that elite schools like this one, which depend on the pupils‘ school fees and use the internet as one means of recruiting new pupils, pay professional companies for designing and updating their site. Therefore, such a page can by no means be compared to an Austrian one where the school system is completely different and schools are not so dependent on selling themselves. Yet, to believe that all homepages of British schools are like that would be wrong, as the next example will show us.
A British example of a not so well-made homepage can be found at http://www.beck.lpool.sch.uk, the Archbishop Beck High School in Liverpool. In principle, the deficits are not so different from the ones that the homepage of the Theresianum Eisenstadt had. The menu which should make up the centre of the page to guide the visitor is here at the bottom of the site. No clear structure is recognisable and the design is not very inviting. Proceeding, let us now take a look at the prospectus (http://www.beck.lpool.sch.uk/prosp.htm) which constitutes an important part especially in the presentation of British schools. Again, we find a lot of valuable information but it is not split into smaller parts, logically ordered. Instead, it is piled up on a long page. Apart from the fact that nobody who wants to inform himself briefly about this school would read the whole page, it is all set up so boringly that most of the users will soon be disappointed and leave the site. Also the photo-gallery (http://www.beck.lpool.sch.uk/pictures.hmt), normally an attractive feature of every homepage, is not a pleasure to look at. The idea of publishing a map helping the visitor to get to the school is in principle a good one. On this homepage, however, the graphics are of such a bad quality that they are not much of a help (http://www.beck.lpool.sch.uk/find.htm). What remains is the textual description, not the most attractive way.
Now it is the students‘ turn to present a number of examples. In the presentation and discussion the teacher should see to it that special attention is paid to the following criteria: content, design, user-friendliness and last not least, topicality. These are the most important of a number of criteria according to which we can assess homepages. Discussing the students‘ examples on the basis of these will help the pupils afterwards when they are asked to find criteria.
After that, it is again time for a break before the last aim of that day.
Day one, ~15.00 to ~16.00
Now the students are asked to form groups consisting of pupils of different levels. The beginners should be able to profit from the experience of the elder pupils and the experienced ones, on the other hand, should be given the opportunity to get to know the beginners‘ point of view. In discussions which should look rather promising, the groups are now asked to work out as many criteria as they can according to which we can assess homepages. After so much input all over the day they should be full of impressions which they now have to formulate in a systematic way.
Day one, ~16.00 to 17.00
The last task of day one is a short discussion about the criteria set up by the students before. Apart from the four main criteria already mentioned above, namely content, design, user-friendliness and topicality, possible additional criteria could be: conveyed attitudes and values, definition of the target group, definition of aims, clarity in spite of complex content, existence of contradictions, existence of non-kept promises, degree of interactivity.
All these criteria can be shown on the basis of the two good and the two not so good examples of school homepages presented before.
4.3 The creation
Day two, 9.00 to ~11.00
Firstly, the pupils are by chance, e.g. by drawing a lot, divided into several groups of four to five people each. Each pupil is given tasksheet 3 and is asked to think about the questions on the handout in the group to find out how a homepage of their own school could look like. The given links on the tasksheet are supposed to inspire the students and to make them aware of typical mistakes in homepage-designing.
Day two, ~11.00 to ~12.00
Each group is now asked to shortly present what they came up with and in the following discussion a consensus about the homepage’s basic structure should be achieved. The teacher is urgently needed to keep control over this discussion to arrange the pupils‘ ideas in a way that they can be realised.
After the discussion, it is again time for a lunch-break.
Day two, ~12.30 to ~13.00
According to the arrangement worked out before and the pupils‘ interests, different workgroups are now set up which are asked to work on their topic. Possible issues could be: the school’s history, a day in the school, the curriculum, clubs and extra-curricular activities, a photo gallery, etc.
Day two, ~13.00 to ~16.00
The workgroups now have the opportunity to autonomously work on their topics. The aim is to come up with a clear structure of their part of the homepage and eventually ready-formulated texts or ready-made visual elements. It does not matter if experienced students already work out their ideas on the computer and not so experienced ones prefer to sketch them on paper. The actual production of the homepage has to be done by pupils of the informatics-group anyway. What counts is the editorial research work and creativity and the ideas, which accumulate quite fast in a group. The teacher is always there to give a helping hand.
Breaks can be took when the students need them. The more autonomous the project gets, the more freedom does the timetable receive anyhow.
Day two, ~16.00 to 17.00
The project now comes to an end and it is time for all the participants to review what has been done and to present the results the different workgroups have come up with. The material will be collected and further on arranged and used to produce a website. This is best done by students attending the informatics-course. Whether any pupils of this project take part in the homepage-group or if they possibly do not need professional help at all, all depends on the participants and their effort.