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Introduction & Assumptions

Joe Old

Do you need this course?
This short course is designed for those who—like many of my own colleagues—are knowledgeable in their fields and who have a basic understanding of, say, word processing, but who know little about other instructional technology which is becoming increasingly available and increasingly easy to use. This is an on-ramp for quick access to powerful technology. I chose the name Lite Tech so as to avoid frightening people away!

If you already know your way around the World Wide Web (WWW, aka "the web"), know how to build basic web pages, how to create images or capture them online, how to make PowerPoint presentations, and how to burn CDs, this short course is too simple for you. But if any of these things are a mystery to you, maybe this course can help you.

We will cover basic World Wide Web Exploration, building basic web pages, creating images, capturing images online for use in class, building simple PowerPoint applications, and creating CDs—both to transport to your classroom or to a computer that you can use to upload them to the web. We will also cover use of technology to get this onto the WWW or into your classroom.

The goal of this course:
What we want to accomplish in this course is to expose you to some basic aspects of some powerful programs that will give you a foundation so that you can confidently and immediately use technology to enhance (or supplement) your classroom presentations. And once you have the basics down, you should have enough confidence to explore on your own the more advanced aspects of the technology we discuss and possibly even move out and explore new instructional technology.

As this is a self-study course, you can pick and choose what you want. While much of the technology is similar, and what you learn (and produce) in one unit can help you in another, each is more or less independent. All that is to say, you can pick and choose what you want to work on. A good plan, though, if you're just exploring, is to work through the units systematically.

Course description:
This short course consists of nine units designed essentially for self-study, although they can be "taught" in an online environment, such as WebCT. Some of the units require you to make occasional consultation with local campus experts, but that is intended to clue you in to the specifics of instructional and information technology at your institution. The course is approximately 25 hours long, but the length really depends on the student. Some will do more with the exercises because they are fascinated and may even find immediate use for the material. That, I suppose, is the ideal situation.

All you really need to do this course is a computer that has Word and Microsoft PowerPoint on it, preferably a computer of the XP variety, which will let you quickly and easily burn CDs. It is also desirable to be connected to the Internet. You do not need to know up front how to use FTP (File Transfer Protocol) to upload onto the World Wide Web pages you develop during and after this course. (But you can get help locally from your institution's webmaster, who can either show you local processes for uploading web files or arrange for it to be done for you. In fact, one of the exercises asks you to find out who on campus can help you with this once you're ready.) Of course, to be able to carry into the classroom the materials we develop in this course and as a result of this class, it would be nice to have access to a classroom equipped with an LCD projector. Failing that, there are laptop computers and portable projectors that are available in many classrooms.

Lacking the equipment should not be a deterrent, though. I found early on that by charging ahead in learning the technology of the web, even when El Paso Community College, for example, had only limited capability and limited offerings for the students, I created a demand that resulted in expanded facilities the following semester.

HTML software:
If you're not familiar with this language, don't let the following discussion scare you! You can get by with Microsoft Word if you don't have access to other software.

But let me say a word or two about HTML editors: These are programs that let you create documents that can be seen by anyone on the Internet once you have loaded them onto a web site connected to the web. HTML stands for "hypertext markup language," a system of coding documents that turns them into hypertext.

The nice thing about Microsoft Word is that you can create a hypertext document simply by saving an Word document as a web document. The not-so-nice thing about doing it this way is that you don't have as much control over the final appearance of the document as you would using an editing program specifically designed to create HTML documents.

There are several of these. My personal favorite is Dreamweaver, but it takes a bit of effort to learn. Another complex program is FrontPage. Both of these programs are very powerful, but it takes some effort to learn them.

A wonderfully easy program to use is Netscape Composer, a program that comes packaged with Netscape Communicator. It's an easy program to learn (you simply use it like a word processor). And while it's not that powerful, it lets you create handsome web pages with very little experience. The problem, of course, is that as Netscape is losing the battle with Internet Explorer, it is not as popular as it once was and it is often not already installed on computers.

It can be downloaded though. I have included a supplemental set of exercises built around Netscape Communicator 4.7, which includes Netscape Composer. It's easy to use.

If you don't have Netscape Composer handy, go to the Mozilla web site and download the Mozilla 1.5 free software. That software has almost identical toolbars to those of Netscape Composer. Moreover, Mozilla will work perfectly well with the supplemental HTML exercises I have included in this module. This link will take you to them. (The exercises are also listed on the Table of Contents page of this module; see the navigation bar above.)

Course arrangement:
Each of the units of this course contains the following components.

  • Lecture
  • Exercise and/or Assignment

There are some activities I ask you to do as you are reading the lecture. They can be done by minimizing the course window and opening, say, Internet Explorer or Paint. The exercises tend to be designed to walk you through activities from start to finish. Once you have done them once, you should know the activity. If not, you can repeat them using different content The assignments ask you to apply things you learned in the lectures and exercises.

A suggestion: You will find it convenient to keep all the materials you generate in one place. I would open a folder to store everything in. The individual pages you will create can all be kept together. As a rule, if each separate project -- which usually involves a number of files, such as web pages and image files -- should be kept in a unique folder.

Also, you should get into the habit of making all file names a single word. If you require two- or three-word file names, connect the words with an underscore. Otherwise, they present problems once you upload them on the web. Here is an example: A file named my_office_desk.GIF might be a photo of my office featuring my desk. The computer reads it as a single word because of the underscores. The .GIF (read dot-GIF) is an extension that that tells the computer to read the file as an image.

So, if you create a set of interconnected web pages related to a single subject, keep them and their relevant images in their own folder. The same is true of PowerPoint presentations. There will be one PowerPoint file, but it may have dozens of images. For ease of handling, each project should be kept in its own folder.

With that as a preface, let's get started. The exercise for this unit is mostly designed for people who don't know much about web surfing. If you're comfortable with that, check out the assignment.

How to proceed:
The entry way to the
Lite Tech course is a link to the opening page. You should "bookmark" this page by adding it to your "favorites" so you can get back to it easily. (If it's offered as an online course, you will be given access through WebCT or some other software and taught how to long on. After that, you may start and work at your own pace.. I recommend reading the lecture first and then checking out the assignments and the exercises, which are accessed by links at the top of each Lecture. If there is an instructor assigned, you should direct questions to him or her. Otherwise, e-mail questions to the creator, Joe Old, at this address:

[email protected]

I will be delighted to answer any questions that I can.

I hope you enjoy the course.