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Exercise * Assignment
Creating Your Own Website

Joe Old

How about your own website?
In Unit #2, we talked about linking your classroom to the World Wide Web. That unit was an introduction to the web and its uses. But you may actually want to create your own website so that students can always have available basic tools that you have created. Over the years, I have made varying use of such websites, ranging from minimal to extensive. You must decide whether this is an option that you want to adopt.

You will have to decide for yourself what things would best benefit your students. I decided that I should put four different kinds of things on my class websites:

  • Administrative matters, such as syllabi and assignments
  • Discussions I found myself repeating
  • Things I wanted to model
  • And things I want to elaborate on

Over the years, this has amounted to a large amount of material for the various courses I have created. I have created a page in this module with all the links I have created which will give you some ideas. (You will notice that some are much more elaborately developed than others.) There are three I especially want to discuss:

  • My "Virtual Classroom"
  • English 1302: "Weblinks" Page:
  • World History Web Page

    Virtual Classroom:
    Once I had begun to develop web pages, I decided it was easier to have one special page to which I could refer students so I only had to give one address in class. I left them to find the specific subject they were interested in. Originally I had a link for each class and the "online magazine" called Prolix-Skylark, which I had created with a colleague. We developed Prolix-Skylark at the beginning of the World Wide Web craze and much of it was developed in an era when there wasn't a good selection of HTML writers, and many of the documents were converted by manually adding the HTML codes, or "tags" directly to a document, perhaps one created for another purpose.

    (This is one of the websites I have been a bit lax at maintaining. There are, however, many useful things for students still on the site, so I have left it. I have received various comments over the years about the page on the site called "Orientations: What Students Need to Know to Succeed in College," in particular a piece I wrote called "Time: You Have as Much as the President." I also use material from this page in my lectures at the beginning of the semester, particularly, "How to Survive College, Or At Least the First Year" by Ruth E. Vise. )

    After a while, I discovered that my Virtual Classroom could be used as a site for displaying things that were common to all courses, so I reorganized it and created links to those documents so any student in any class could read it. Sometimes I use the materials in lecture and refer students to the page so they can examine the pages at their leisure. (In classrooms linked to the web I can show the materials directly. I can and have made copies of the entire website to carry into class as part of a multimedia kit. As discussed in another unit, you have to adapt your methods to your infrastructure.)

    I also decided that the Virtual Classroom -- created before the college had a mechanism that would let students even access the Internet! -- would be a good place to put links to all my pages, so I use it as my personal web page.

    English 1302 "Web Links" Page:
    In many ways, this is my favorite page, as it contains teaching materials I developed over the years as I tried to find various ways to get across complicated ideas about literary analysis to my students. The page had its origin in an online course I was teaching. The title merely refers to other material created by me, besides the online course, that they could find on the web. The idea was to develop a cache of materials whose existence I could both control and guarantee for students. (One thing about the World Wide Web is that it is in constant flux, and links often go bad. With my own web site, this is less a problem.)

    Here I modeled various types of analysis, particularly for individual poems and short stories, and have tried to write honest and helpful -- even provocative -- pieces that will jar students to new realizations about literature. In this regard, I would refer you to a piece I call "The Awful Truth About Correct Analysis." I also have various tips for students and in a couple of cases, material linked to the textbook we were using at the time I created the page. I also post assignments on this page, as well.

    In short, the page is designed to be a storehouse of material that students can mine for helpful information.

    World History Web Page:
    This page has a different feel from the one I created for my English 1302 classes. Instead of modeling analyses, I have tried to accumulate here a collection of materials with provocative ideas about history. The page is not as elaborately developed, as I have not been teaching history as long as I have been teaching English -- and most of my energies in developing instructional materials have gone into collection things for my multimedia kit, rather than producing web pages.

    As I suggested above, each course will have different needs, and yours will certainly vary from those I have developed here. (Feel free, however, to incorporate into your own web pages any of the materials I have put online.)

How to proceed:
I have tried to show you a variety of pages that I have created. In making these pages, I have tried to adhere to one basic principles: make the pages simple and easy to read and use. None of the pages is very elaborate, and I don't choke them with visuals. I do however, create the visuals as needed. The one used to illustrate an analysis I did of Ernest Hemingway's short story, "Soldier's Home," is about as elaborate as I get with visuals. The analysis is called "The World of Harold Krebs," and different spots on the image are linked to different parts of the analysis.

The simplest way to go about developing a webwsite is to set it up in a folder on your desktop. While people will not be able to access the site from there, it gives you a place to work and test out new ideas. After you get enough material developed -- using the kinds of pages you have created in the exercises for this module to "go public," for example, you can then add to it whenever you want to.

How do you "go public"?

By this I mean simply uploading it to a server that can be linked to by others. That will entail contacting your local webmaster, asking him or her to create password-protected space on the institution's server, the computer which stores the files accessible by the public through the Internet and World Wide Web. The webmaster will also list your site at some convenient public place.

In my case, El Paso Community College has a page called "Faculty Web Pages," where my "Virtual Classroom" is listed. Once you have space on the server, your webmaster will give you directions for uploading material, usually through a program called FTP, for "file transfer protocol." This will allow you access to your site on a 24-hour-basis.

The key is for you to make sure that any time you modify a page in your website folder on your desktop, it's necessary to "upload" it to the site on the server. You should think of the site on the server as a mirror image of the site on your desktop. That means that if you, say, correct a spelling error on a page on your desktop, you need to upload that page to the server. When you upload it, the new file will write over the existing file and the correction will then be made.

This may sound difficult, but it's not once you have done it a couple of times.

Handling images:
If you decide to illustrate your pages with images you have created (such as the ones I have created and posted on the "Image Table" and the "Instructional Graphics Page" in this module), it will be important to remember to upload them as well, or there will be a "hole" in the pages you create, a notice that something is missing.

While some web designers advice you to store images in separate folders, I think this is unnecessarily complicated. And for the relatively simple websites that I have created, it's sufficient to store all the pages and the images in the same folder. The added benefit of this is that you when you create a new image, you will be unlikely to accidentally overwrite it by assigning it a name identical to an image you already have.

As you begin to develop your website, the number of files and images can grow, literally into the hundreds (this module, for example, has more than 150 files), so your website folder on your desktop will eventually become pretty big. You will want to be careful to assign filenames for both images and for web pages that are intuitive and logical. That means that similar items should list together.

Here are two images (made with the "Print Screen" function of the keyboard) to illustrate how the similar page files and image files are named so as to list together when I open the folder:

The image above shows you the file names for the exercises in the "Litening Web Pages" section of this module. The filenames are in order, and you can tell the size, the type of file, and the date created.

In the second image, the list of file names for the red unit number icons used in this module are all listed. Here for example, is the icon for this unit:

Once you have the image in the the folder you can use it as many times as you want to in a web page or a website. For example, the "Unit 7" icon is used twice on this page (one immediately above and one at the top of the page), but there is only one "Unit 7" icon. You insert it wherever you want it, and the same image is simply displayed.

In any case, it will become intuitively obvious how best to name your image and page files so that you can find them easily.

A caution about images:
Because images may be copyrighted, it's best to generate your own, as discussed in Unit #3 You can do this by using a program such as Paint or by using a digital camera. If you find that the imagery you have found somewhere on the World Wide Web is indispensable, you must either get permission to use it or create a link to it so that it will be visible in a context that also gives credit to its creators.

This unit is intended to give you a basic understanding of how to go about developing and maintaining a web page. Before you can have a functioning website, however, it will be necessary to contact your webmaster or someone at your information technology department and have them explain to you and give you the necessary training about how this all works at your institution.

It won't be long until you are creating web pages right and left!.

It won't