Project Website Renovation:
7th Grade Social Studies
Anthony Michael Marafiote
B.S. in Education, Youngstown State University, 1995
Dr. Renee M. Eggers
Youngstown State University
Table of Contents
Why a Website
Technology in Education
Web Page Design
Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies is a project that I have long envisioned. The intent is to provide curriculum-matched resources for students, teachers, parents, and guardians. Ultimately, to provide a website that is available to all who have access to the Internet. A website that is an extension of the classroom, providing sources applicable to the topics being studied in class. Thereby augmenting lessons through the integration of technology, and allowing students to become active learners. In addition, students who are at home ill will now be able to check and complete homework assignments by accessing the website from home.
As an educational technologist, I strongly believe in the use of technology in education. From a calculator to an overhead to the Internet, technology enhances our experiences by allowing us to become actively involved in our learning. The New Zealand Ministry of Education best articulates my perspective of this as stated in their technology curriculum:
Educationally… students are motivated to participate in purposeful activities, enabling them to apply and integrate their knowledge and skills from many learning areas in real and practical ways…
Personally… All students are able to participate successfully, individually, and in groups in technological activities at their own levels of ability. (New Zealand Ministry, 1995, p. 7)
As the Ministry of Education elucidates, students are in fact motivated by technology. Today, technology surrounds us; with television, VCR’s, CD players, cell phones, Saga, and Nintendo games many students live in technologically rich environments. However, these environments create a problem for the teacher who has yet to adapt to current technology. Classroom teachers need to understand technology and learn to integrate it into their lessons in such a way that it motivates and benefits the student, a way that enhances their lessons without distracting from them. Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies stems to alleviate the stress the classroom teacher may feel by providing lessons proven to integrate technology while engaging students in motivating and purposeful activities.
One method of effectively integrating technology into education is through the pedagogy of Constructivism. Constructivism as a pedagogy is to simply allow the student to "construct" their own knowledge by testing ideas and approaches based on their prior knowledge and experience, applying these to a new situation, and integrating the new knowledge gained with pre-existing intellectual constructs. John Dewey was one visionary who argued in support of change from traditional education. In his text, Experience and Education, John Dewey expresses the conflict between traditional education and learning:
Since the subject-matter as well as standards of proper conduct are handed down from the past, the attitude of pupils must, upon the whole, be one of docility, receptivity, and obedience. Books, especially textbooks, are the chief representatives of the lore and wisdom of the past, while teachers are the organs through which pupils are brought into effective connection with the material. Teachers are the agents through which knowledge and skills are communicated and rules of conduct enforced.
The traditional scheme is, in essence, one of imposition from above and from outside. It imposes adult standards, subject-matter, and methods upon those who are only growing slowly toward maturity. The gap is so great that the required subject-matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young. They are beyond the reach of the experience the young learners already possess. Consequently, they must be imposed; even though good teachers will use devices of art to cover up the imposition so as to relieve it of obviously brutal features. (Dewey, 1999, pp. 18-19)
Dewey illustrates his message well; a child’s mind isn’t an empty vessel waiting to be filled. Rather, a child comes to the classroom with a limited amount of experiences, yet wanting to learn. Technology provides us with the tools to allow children to discover, to pursue a problem or activity by applying approaches he or she already knows. The teacher is a facilitator or coach in the constructivist learning approach. The teacher, then, guides the student, stimulating and provoking the student's critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis throughout the learning process. The teacher becomes a co-learner. Through trial and error, the student then balances pre-existing views and approaches with new experiences to construct a new level of understanding.
Joan Wink affirms that teaching is more than simply the transfer of knowledge when, in her book Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World, she defines the term critical pedagogy; Wink states, “Critical pedagogy is a prism that reflects the complexities of the interactions between teaching and learning.” (Wink, 2000, p. 30)
Again, technology affords us the tools to help ease the complexities that exit. And because technology can be intimidating, frustrating, and complex, it underscores the need for organized and preplanned activities. Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies aims to eliminate most of this by providing quality designed lessons and resources on an incessant basis.
The primary goal of Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies is to create an interactive, multilevel, resource rich website covering the 7th grade Social Studies curriculum. Interactivity will be achieved through the use of multimedia tools such as Asymetric’s ToolBook II program and Microsoft’s PowerPoint program. The website will consist of interactive tutorials and tests produced using these programs.
While designed around the typical student, each lesson will provide suggestions for the atypical student. Suggestions will challenge the gifted student, while providing alternatives for the special student.
Resources for each lesson will include downloadable worksheets and study guides to enhance the students’ on-line experience. Also, lesson specific website links, provided for each lesson, will minimize the time students spend on-line researching information to complete each lesson.
As stated in the Introduction, the purpose of Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies is to create an online resource for teachers, students, and parents that will allow access to lessons, assignments, resources, worksheets, class syllabus, tests, and literature that relates to the State of Ohio’s 7th grade social studies curriculum.
Additionally, Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies intent is to comply with Ohio’s Raising the Bar grant requirement that our school provide a resource to enhance parental involvement, and a resource for students whose absence from school is unavoidable. Ohio’s Raising the Bar grant provided needed funds to provide technologically rich classrooms in the middle grades. Campbell City Schools’ grant application, my district, ranked number one in the state’s first round of applications. Included in our application, was the stipulation that we would provide a website that would provide parents, students, and the community with a more direct connection to teachers and lesson plans.
Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies will cover the 7th grade curriculum; a period of history from the end of the Middle Ages, around the late 1300s, to the early settlement of the United States. Topic concepts such as trade, including West African trade, the Silk Road, and the Triangle of Trade between Europe, Africa, and America; the rise and fall of early civilizations such as Mali and the reign of Mansa Musa, the Shang Dynasty, and the Hopewell civilization; the Renaissance – the rebirth of ideas, including Gutenberg’s printing press, the brilliance of Leonardo da Vinci and the introduction of perspective in art, and the revolution in science brought forth during the Renaissance; the Reconquista and the Spanish Inquisition, including the reformation of the church brought on by Martin Luther; graphing and the interpretation of data; Democratic revolutions, including the Reign of Terror, the U.S. Constitution, and the French and American revolutions; inventions and the Industrial Revolution; Capitalism and the concept of supply and demand; Nationalism and Imperialism; and religions emphasizing the commonalities between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The website will include lessons based on the State of Ohio’s curriculum model for 7th grade social studies, curriculum concepts will include American Heritage; People in Societies; World Interactions; Decision Making and Resources; Democratic Processes; and Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities. A separate link will be created to access a main page for each given concept. Each concept’s main page will consist of a general format to include the project’s task, objectives, process, evaluation, links, and conclusion. As appropriate, basic lesson structure and concepts, main points, text references, resources, worksheets, homework, on-line quizzes and tests, and literature references will also be included.
To augment each lesson, assignments will be listed including printable web pages, Microsoft Word files, or Adobe’s PDF files consisting of project directions and worksheets necessary to complete each lesson. As I am the only 7th grade social studies teacher in my district, these resources will coincide with my class lessons while meeting the state’s requirements.
Each lesson will include a list describing all required resources necessary to complete each lesson, with links and bibliographies for additional reference. Also, each lesson will include downloadable or printable worksheets, data sheets, etc., needed to complete each lesson.
Asymetrix’s ToolBook II programs will be created to handle on-line testing of each lesson. These programs will include remedial lessons, self-checking tests, quizzes, and concept tests. All on-line graded quizzes or tests will be administered via the Asymetrix’s ToolBook II programs with the results being sent via e-mail to me.
As a result, this website will encompass the entire requirements of the state’s 7th grade social studies curriculum. At home, students will be able to access the website to complete assignments, work on projects, and remain current when illness or mishap prevent them from attending school. At school, the teacher, along with students, can use the website to complete lessons, the Asymetrix’s ToolBook II programs to enhance the class lessons, and for remediation when students need the additional support. Parents and community members can access the website to stay current with their student. In addition, teachers, students, and parents across the state will be able to access the website to enhance their lessons and studies.
It is my hope that through this website parents will become informed and engaged in their child’s learning. No longer will students be able to claim such things as, I have no homework. As the website will be updated weekly, parents will be able to access the website to see this status, and download any worksheets that may have been left at school.
World Wide Web page design will be formatted according to Webquests standards. As stated on the ozline.com website, Webquests should include categories for Introduction, Task, Process, Resources, and Conclusion. In addition, a link will be included for Teacher’s Resources. (ozline.com, November 2000)
Why use the WebQuest format? Ozline.com, on their website states the following:
When students are motivated they not only put in more effort, but their minds are more alert and ready to make connections. WebQuests use several strategies to increase student motivation. First, WebQuests use a central question that honestly needs answering. When students are asked to understand, hypothesize or problem-solve an issue that confronts the real world, they face an authentic task, not something that only carries meaning in a school classroom. Although you can’t count on getting a response, when students do receive feedback from someone they didn’t previously know, they join a community of learners and have their presence, if not their contribution, validated. When teachers choose a topic they know their students would respond to, they add to the relevance.
The second feature of WebQuests that increase student motivation is that students are given real resources to work with. Rather than turn to a dated textbook, filtered encyclopedias or middle-of-the-road magazines, with the Web students can directly access individual experts, searchable databases, current reporting, and even fringe groups to gather their insights.
When students take on roles within a cooperative group, they must develop expertise on a particular aspect or perspective of the topic. That their teammates count on them to bring back real expertise should inspire and motivate learning.
Lastly, the answer or solution the student teams develop can be posted, emailed or presented to real people for feedback and evaluation. This authentic assessment also motivates students to do their best and come up with a real group answer, not simply something to fulfill an assignment. (ozline.com, November 2000)
Ozline.com makes clear that WebQuests lend to increased student motivation, and allow for quality integration of technology in the classroom. In addition, WebQuests are founded in the pedagogy of constructivism, a pedagogy that requires students to become active in their learning.
A quality WebQuest begins by posing a scenario [the task] to grab the interest of the student, and motivate them to become a part of the lesson. One example Dr. Randy Hoover, a professor of Secondary Education at Youngstown State University, uses in his classes on constructivism is as he states, “Froggy”. Dr. Hoover explains the difference between the conventional biology lab and a constructivist biology lab. Students in the conventional lab, Dr. Hoover explains, come in and are told they are to dissect a frog as their lab assignment. In the constructivist lab, however, students come in and are told that they are pathologists and that “Froggy” died at three o’clock this morning. The student pathologists are challenged to determine the cause of death (Hoover, 1999).
Through role-playing, students take on the challenge they are given, become engaged in their learning, and motivated to do their best. According to Ozline.com, makers of WebQuests should, “…use things like metaphors, anecdotes, or a scenario to appeal to the students' innate curiosity” (ozline.com, November 2000). They continue by suggesting, “…get off on the right foot by luring students into what makes the topic fascinating, problematic or controversial” (ozline.com, November 2000). If students are not challenged, they will simply treat the lesson as a routine assignment.
Once a challenge has been made, and students have taken ownership of the project, the task needs to incorporate the challenge. According to Ozline.com in the task you should, “Tell students what they will be doing in this WebQuest” (ozline.com, November 2000). Since details of the WebQuest will be given in the Process section, the task section need only allow students to begin to grasp the big picture of their task. As in Dr. Hoover’s “Froggy” example, the Task section needs to include a question that includes some ambiguity, complexity, or opportunity for the student to develop a new definition. It should be motivating and interesting, and not such that the student is able to answer the question on his or her own, without completing the project.
Following the Task the WebQuest needs to include the Process. The process is an integral part of the WebQuest. Ozline defines the Process step as follows:
Here's where you line out the step-by-step process students will use to solve their challenge. Let them know that what they will be reading and doing are from real people all over the world who care about this topic. Students aren't "playing school," but doing real work that is challenging even to adults. Also let them know that because these are real articles written for people all over the world, the reading level might challenge them. (ozline.com, November 2000)
It is important that you provide as much detail as possible in the Process step. Students need to understand what is expected of them, and how to go about solving the challenge. Since the Task section has given them some complexity, some confusion, it is important that the Process section ease this by providing a road map to completing the project.
The Process section should include prior or background knowledge that the students need to have prior to beginning their individual challenge. This may include text that you want everyone one to read as a class, or links that need to be visited. However, specific instructions need to be given as to the relevance of the information, and reason for completing the exercise.
Once students have the fundamental knowledge to begin the project, you can divide them into groups to work on the project. Personally, I divide students into groups, using a variety of methods to form groups, but remind them that they will be evaluated on the individual effort that they put into the project. The projects that I design give each student a task within their group. Hence, the group finishes with an overall product, which is simply the culmination of each member’s research.
To assist the students in their research, the Process section needs to guide students with links, references, or materials list that they need to be successful. The Internet is a vast ocean of information, some useful, however, a great deal is not, or is inappropriate. Caution should be used when developing WebQuests so that students are not left surfing rather than learning. Links need to be up-to-date and relevant. My recommendation is that you visit each link to ensure that it is active, and appropriate for the project. Students need to be able to find the information they need on the links you provide. As I direct my students, the project isn’t meant for them to learn “how-to” or spend their time surfing the Internet. Rather, the links are provided to minimize their surfing time and to maximize their research time. This philosophy needs to be applied to the references and materials list. Most important when building this section of the Process section is to keep the success of the student in mind.
In addition, Ozline.com utilizes a Debate and Discuss What You Learned segment in the Process section. This is a vital section as defined by Ozline.com:
Draw the gray area, the complexity, the issue into greater focus for the students. Make sure they can see what it is they are trying to resolve. Remind the students that they have be[en] learning about something different from their partners, so now each group member has to come through with the understanding and wisdom he or she gained from the search. Let them know that it's now time to come together with their teammates to see what everyone has learned. Because the topics are so complex, students you will have to examine the details of the Internet sites they learned from in order to persuade their teammates. This is where you must prompt transformative thinking (construction of new meaning, synthesis, etc.) or you don't have a WebQuest, but a Treasure Hunt. (ozline.com, November 2000)
Since students have been working independently, they need to be afforded the time and opportunity to discover what the other members of their team have discovered. This time needs to be guided so that all benefit from the efforts of the individual student.
Completion of the Process section should include some sort of sharing. This may include local presentation, within the classroom; school-wide, with an exhibit or fair where the entire school, including parents, can review the results; with Microsoft PowerPoint presentations; or by publishing results on the Internet via the school’s website.
Also, the WebQuest needs to include a conclusion. Ozline.com’s instructions for this section are:
Return to the hook you used in the introduction and help students to see how far they have come in gaining a deeper understanding to a real, gray, challenging topic. You might symbolically relate what they studied to larger issues in the same or different topics. This will help students transfer the subtlety they have gained in this area to other complex issues. (ozline.com, November 2000)
As with any lesson, you need to provide students with a culminating discussion that draws the purpose and activities together of the WebQuest.
Finally, when publishing the WebQuest make sure to include a Teacher Resources section that provides time frames, rubrics and evaluation methods, hints and suggestions, as well as other resources not provided for in the other sections of the WebQuest.
Beyond the pedagogy of a WebQuest is the website’s usability. To be a functional website for the classroom there are several principles that one must keep in mind. In her book, Web Concept & Design, Crystal Waters points out several tips that need to be considered before publishing a website. One of these is “Spell Czech!!!” (Waters, p. 225). Waters points out that visiting a website that is full of spelling errors leads one to question the professionalism of the organization. Likewise, grammatical errors must also be avoided. I am amazed at the websites that I’ve visited, even some sited here, that are plagued with errors. It causes me to wonder if we have learned the lesson of proofreading we ourselves teach.
Keeping with viewer in mind, Waters offers questions and suggestions to a variety of topics that must be considered when designing a website. Questions that require thought about keeping uniformity among the website, keeping links active, making sure users can easily navigate through the site, ensuring that making routine updates to the website do not require rebuilding pages, and most importantly, making the website accessible to those with disabilities (Waters, 1996, pp. 219-236)
The latter of Waters concern, accessibility for those with disabilities, is a very important aspect of web page design when developing a school related website. The Internet offers several references that simplify and identify standards to follow when considering accessibility for those with disabilities. One of these websites is the World Wide Web Consortium. “The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) was created in October 1994 to lead the World Wide Web to its full potential by developing common protocols that promote its evolution and ensure its interoperability” (www.w3.org). Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web, states, "The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect" (Berners-Lee, November 2000)
CAST sets the guidelines that I intend to follow. Founded in 1984 as the Center for Applied Special Technology, CAST is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to expand educational opportunities for individuals with disabilities through the development and innovative uses of technology. (CAST, November 2000) To accomplish their mission, CAST offers a solution, Bobby:
Bobby is a tool for Web page authors. It will help them identify changes to their pages needed so users with disabilities can more easily use their Web pages. For example, a blind user will be aided by adding a sound track to a movie, and a hard-of-hearing user will be aided by a written transcript of a sound file on a Web page. Bobby will recommend that these be added if they do not already exist.
Many people with disabilities will use special Web browsers, such as one which reads text out loud using a speech synthesizer for blind users. The suggestions made by Bobby will help authors to add information to a Web page which will help the special browsers work more effectively. (CAST, November 2000)
As I began this project I was faced with the question, “Is this project too large to be manageable, achievable?” The answer is quite simply, YES! However, when I decided to take on Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies I conceded one reality, Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies is and would remain a work in progress. Its point of completion at the end of the fall 2000 semester at Youngstown State University would not be the deciding factor in seeing the project come to fruition.
Regardless of the progress achieved, one-fact remains true of all websites they are never complete. There is the continual process of checking and updating links, making sure that all links posted are active. Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies will continue to change as projects are tested and adjustments made to accommodate short comings not previously anticipated.
With that said, I began the task of building Project Website Renovation: 7th Grade Social Studies. I relied upon my prior experience and work that I have done to help me design and begin the website. Having built several websites, including my school’s website, http://www.campbell.k12.oh.us/reed, I am reasonably fluent in web page design and functionality.
So I began, it is early September and things are progressing. Albeit slowly, construction of the website is advancing at an acceptable pace. There have been time restraints such as lesson preparation at school, meetings, in-services, and a second class at Youngstown State University all seemed to be consuming the time I had set aside to devote to the construction of web pages. Nonetheless, I have utilized the time I had to developing and researching web pages. I designed the look that I will use for the Home page to the website, it can be accessed at http://www.campbell.k12.oh.us/marafiote or at http://connect.to/socialstudies.
Then came the unexpected, yet not surprising, obstacles. There were the web pages I had previously used as sources for WebQuests that no longer existed. What should have taken moments to access now became a hunt, the proverbial needle in a haystack.
However, two positives have come from this. I have now decided to take the extra time to incorporate other web pages into my own, and write the authors for permission, thereby insuring that links will be stay active. Secondly, web search results have proved fruitful, producing search results that have lead to many new sources.
Then one of the most frustrating setbacks occurred. For over a year, I have had access to my school’s website via the Internet, being able to publish to the website from any location at school or at home. Well, I made the ultimate error in judgment. Having elected to withdraw from being a Webmaster this year, I assumed that my access was removed and so asked our district’s Webmaster to re-instate my access. Assuming that he had complied with my request, I began to publish to my website. Everything was fine, until I received an e-mail from him, in late October, apologizing for taking so long to honor my request. To accommodate me, he independently elected to create an entirely separate website, and provide me sole access to it. Initially this did not appear to be a problem, however, it took about a to straighten out my access, and left my publishing privileges limited to publishing only at school, no longer am I able to publish from my home computer. This is an extremely time consuming glitch in my plans. Frustrated, I attempted to reason with those involved that if I had access from home before, there logically is no reason why my access now should be limited. Unfortunately, due to their limited knowledge of networks, I lost the argument. Their claim is that I have access at school, and that should suffice. Besides, they claim, they have never been able to publish from any location other than at school.
After a deep breath, and reassuring myself that this is the reality of technology, I continue to focus on the task at hand and the ultimate goal of seeing my dream turn to reality.
Berners-Lee, Tim. W3C Director and Inventor of the World Wide Web. Retrieved November 26, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.w3.org/WAI/
Bobby. Retrieved November 24, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cast.org/bobby/AboutBobby313.cfm
CAST. Retrieved November 24, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.cast.org/about/Mission,VisionandPeople231.cfm
Dewey, John. (1997). Experience & education. (1st ed.). New York: Touchstone.
Hoover, Dr. Randy L. Observed from secondary education class Fall Quarter 1999. Youngstown State University
New Zealand Ministry of Education. (1995). Technology in the New Zealand curriculum. Published by Learning Media Limited New Zealand Retrieved November 23, 2000 from the World Wide Web http://www.minedu.govt.nz/curriculum/technology/statement/TECH_NZC.PDF
Ozline.com. Retrieved November 25, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ozline.com/templates/webquest.html
Ozline.com. Retrieved November 25, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ozline.com/webquests/checklist.html
Ozline.com. Retrieved November 25, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ozline.com/webquests/intro.html
Walters, Crystal. (1996). Web concept & design. Indianapolis, IN: New Riders Publishing
Wink, Joan. (2000). Critical pedagogy: notes from the real world. (2nd ed.). New York: Addison-Wesley Longman, Inc.
World Wide Web Consortium. Retrieved November 26, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.w3.org