(always under construction, somtimes a bit messy and apologies for the typos)
2. On pedagogic views
2.1 Protective pedagogies
2.2 Esthetical pedagogies
2.3 Society critical pedagogies
2.4 Functional pedagogies
3 Where stands WebWebsite@School?
3.1 A practical example
4. On form and content
4.1 Cascading Style Sheets
4.2 Bazaar Style Style
5. On websites for primary education
5.1 What is a primary school and what it's not
5.2 Design philosophy
5.3 Theory in practice
6. On educational software
7. Links we like
8. Concluding remarks
The team behind the Website@School wants to be clear about its pedagogical views. In this text we will try to explain our known pedagogical assumptions and search for our hidden ones. That is, we have nothing to hide, but it might be the case that we are unaware of our own assumptions. Like the fish in the water, when asked about it says: "Water..? Never heard of."
Website@Scnool is grounded in firm philosophical and pedagogiccal principles. It's roots lie in the pedagogical views of the Brazililan educationalist Paolo Freire and the French educationalist Celestin Freinet. It's philosophical roots are with the viewpoints of the Frankfurter Schule philosopher Jürgen Habermas. Introductions on them can be found everywhere ont he Internet. I did some writing about them on http://dscho.home.xs4all.nl.
Below we devide pedagogical views in protective-, esthetical-, society critical- and functional pedagogical views. In the views below, computers, the Internet, educational software, games etc. are seen as 'media' like film, television, textbooks etc.
We have not that good experiences with this pedagogical view. Besides what the school has to offer or denies its pupils, they also have a home with a TV set and a computer with an Internet connection. Most times there is little or no parential surveillance or guidance. The parents do not even know what exactly could or should be surveilled.
This pedagogy leads to to 'Cops and Robbers'. The teachers
fence the school and and the pupils try to find the holes in the
firewall. When found, fun really starts with attempts to bypass
the proxyserver, sneaky downloads and visiting undesirable (by
whose definition?) sites. And the biggest reward is finding the
The pedagogical view has little respect for the natual inquiring tendency of children in general and pupils in special.
Ofcourse the problem with this pedagical view is to find
acceptable definitions of 'good' and 'bad'. Sooner than you think
you are in the nands of 'authorities' who know what is 'best' for
you and your pupils. Managing the proxyserver is time consuming
and special companies will do this for you, of course for a
'reasonable' financial fee. What is the price in pedagogical
values? Why should pupils have a special desktop? At home they
have a desktop that can do everything. Learning a special desktop
is a waste of their precious time. The company 'Station to
Station' asks a ot of Euros per workstation for a mutilated
By the way, there is a strange contradition in the notion of the Station to Station desktop when observing the request from schools to have Windows XP on the workstations, with the argument "That's what they (and we) have at home".
[here the text on 'a classroom in not a living room']
It can lead to uncritical notions about media and technique, promoting value-free notions on technique. "There is no politics in a computer, and the Internet is a reflection of us all".
Another problem is that this notion can easily lead to
uncritical acceptance of 'another' view; a revolution for
example, be it a Marxist, anoter social one, or a technical.
Resistance against a complete turnover of society prevents the complete commercial exploitation of the Internet as well as it prevents better education for those who need it most.
Of course, the the day-to-day practice of school life these
pedagogies occur in mixed forms. We think the conbination of 2.3
and 2.4 attractive.
The combination makes it possible to educate critical civilians (the Dutch state asks for it) and to accept the differences in cultures and in pupils.
There is yet another choice to make; between receptive and
productive use of media and their combination. Len Matersam's
seminal work "Teaching the Media"  is a fine example of a
completely worked out method for receptive media education. When
you want to analyse the TV Guide with your pupils, or one of the
many computer gamees they play, Len Masterman is good
Media Action Projects is an example of productive media usage. In mediapedagogical viewpoints both "Teaching the media" and "Media Action Projects" can be seen as examples of 2.3 and 2.4. The book is downloadable in .pdf format.
Len Masterman's "Teaching the Media" can be found on the Media Action Projects site as a dutch summary.
 Len's book is reprinted! See http://gpn.unl.edu/cml/cml_product.asp?catalog_name=GPN&product_id=1504.
CORRECTED UP TO HERE
The guestbook module permits visitors on the site to leave a
message. The visitor is asked to give her e-mail address and URL
(if exists) and to enter a message. The e-mail address is shown
in an unharvestable way, i.e. for example yourmane (at) provier
Whenever a visitor makes an entry in the guestbook an e-mail alert is sent to the guestbook administrator(s). Here is an example of such an alert:
Monica's input is emphasized in the example. Observe that the
mail to the guestbook administrator contains the exact time and
the IP address the guestbook entry is sent from.
When the guestbook administrator receives an undesired mail, she can immeditely take action, i.e. remove the entry from the site and still have the mail with the content.
Until recently everyone was happy with this guestbook. We
onece received an unwanted entry which we could trace down to a
school; even to the pupils that made the entry. With the help of
the 'other school a pedagogical issue could be made and the
pupils in question learned from it as they expressed by making a
new entry in the guestboo and apologising for their action.
So far, so good.
Recently we received a feature request: "Would it be possible
to have the admin check the entry before
At first glance, this seems a reasonable request. It prevents undesired entries on the site anyway.
However, in our opinion, there are a few pedagogical considerations to this request that, in the end and after long discussions, led to it's rejection.
These are the arguments so far:
We can already hear the feature requester's voice: "Can you
make it configurable, so we can decide what to do?"
Again, a reasonable request. However, at that moment the pedagogical views of the makers of Website@School enter stage. We are not value free software developers that make what education asks. As long as there exist oppressive forms of education, forms that promote straight lies, that exclude 'other' visions and values, we cannot do without taking a position in the debate. This position is expressed in every feature or option and its design.
Our ideas at this moment are:
Karin, our ICT coordinator and Website@School team member on
the 12th of September 2005 in Forum:
In the three years that we use S@S and the guest book in our school we have had only five entries that we deleted because of their bad content. In all five cases the writers have been caught and were confronted with their bad behaviour. Because the guest book sends alerts and we check our mail daily, an inappropriate message will not be visible for long (in our case: from one hour to half a day).
We have been able to educate the wrongdoers because we check the guest book AFTER a message has been posted. Up 'till now the management of my school finds, that checking the alerts regularly is enough to keep the guest book clean.
Karin adds to this in a mail:
I did write something in the Forum. It does not mean that I agree on Dirk. I only wanted to explain how we deal with these matters and how we manage the guestbook. We have always found the 'wrongdoers' and have been able to educate them, also due to the good policy of our principals.
However, when we would get an attack by Russian spammers, and I would have to manage the guestbook for a weekend, I would sing another song.
I am very much against giving management tasks of the guestbook to pupils. It can be done under good guidance of an adult, becaause, which norms are used when judging entries. This wold not fit in our ICT policy.
This discussion is not yet closed.
Choosing to make the feature not configurable is a choice for a critical and functional pedagogy.
Another voice says: "But in the pupils pages you do have this
option, so you are not straight in line yourselves".
On which we say the following. There is a big difference in these features. On the pupils pages the teacher knows her pupils and makes an informed judgement based on, maybe discussion, maybe autthority, deserved or undeserved, etcetera. However, she is in direct contact with the one's the use of the feature will affect.
In the guestbook it's different. Most times the people who put undesired entries in the guestbook do not want to be known, because of the language they use in the entries. But that is not an excuse to deny them access. You give them access but you manage it. Or you remove the guestbook, which is also an option. We have done that for some time and we did not feel it was a bad idea.
Our point is that one should not opt for a technical solution where obviously a non-technical problem is at stake.
To be continued, because there are more arguments. And, technology is not value free. It reflects the values and ethics of its designers.
Our conclusion so far: the feature reques is counter productive to educational goals.
In october 2007 we came to some conclusion in the Forum. It's
worth to do some 'cut and paste'.
Frank d writes:
� on: 29 September 2007, 23:13:21 � Is there an easy way to edit guestbook entries (or respond to them in the same entry)? Only way to do this (it seems) is to go through phpmyadmin, but that I'd like a more easy solution.On which Harm writes that it's not possible. And --Peter adds:
� Reply #3 on: 30 September 2007, 16:00:43 � Interesting thoughts! Maybe only the functionality to respond on an entry?And he adds to his post:
Now I know again: I had someone who posted a URL in a guestbook but made a typo. I would like to be able to fix it, so the URL works allrigt...Frank d says:
� Reply #6 on: 1 October 2007, 22:27:06 � Hi, Quote If someone says something bad about the school, it gets deleted, no need to edit there. Hm... Interesting school you work for. Good way to prevent debates about values, critical awareness and a few other educational goodies. I have seen lots of guetbooks. In bed & breakfast houses, in churches, in educational institutions, in hotels and some other places. None had an option to correct entries. Sometimes you saw a page was torn out. Quote Let's compare an average forum with a guestbook. That seems not such a good idea. A Forum is a place for debate. We should not mix up functions. However, since we are doing research for S@S version 3, we might consider a few modifications. For example: in the guestbook you can have an intro text. In this text you can write something like: "Entries marked with an * are links to comments on this entry. Click the * for follow up". This link can bring you to a Forum, a page with text, a module, ...., etc. I do not know if this can and will be made. We have a team that discusses feature requests. DirkOn which Karin poses the question:
� Reply #7 on: 3 October 2007, 22:21:31 � Now I'm wondering... what's the definition of a guestbook? KarinDirk finds an answer:
Hi karin, van Dale (Dutch dictionary, authorative) says about 'guestbook': Quote gastenboek 1.....[unapplicable meaning DS]; -2. book in which persons that visit an institution write their name and eventually an expression of gratitude and suchlike. DirkAnd --Peter adds:
� Reply #9 on: 4 October 2007, 11:37:57 � Karin, Why not take a look at the definition of 'guest book' in http://dictionary.com? Alternatievely, http://reference.com provides a link to a somewhat longer article in wikipedia. Perhaps wikipedia is a little less authoritive compard to 'Van Dale' or 'Webster' but the article is informative nevertheless: --PeterIt's worth visiting the links. Here is what they say:
And Wikipedia says:
A guestbook is a logging system that allows visitors of a website to leave a public comment. Traditionally, the term applied to the actual ledgers held, for that same purpose, at B&Bs and museums.
It is possible in some guestbooks for visitors to express their thoughts about the site or its subject. Generally, they do not require the poster to create a user account, as it is an informal method of dropping off a quick message. The purpose of a website guestbook is to display the kind of visitors the site gets, including the part of the world they reside in, and gain feedback from them. This allows the webmaster to assess and improve their site.
A guestbook is generally a script, which is usually remotely-hosted and written in a language such as Perl, PHP, Python or ASP. Many free guestbook hosts and scripts exist.
Often, e-mail addresses, the visitor's site's URLs and IP addresses are collected, and sometimes published. A good example of this is the free flat file PHP guestbook called BBguestbook which features emoticons or smileys and anti-spam scripts. A guestbook is not intended to be a place for discussion. Due to this, a guestbook is different from a chat room (which is more or less realtime communication), or an Internet forum (which is intended to be a location for discussions), or a blog (which is intended for regular updates and more involved exchanges).
Some newer guestbooks include a map that visually displays the
visitors' geographic locations. Such guestbooks are sometimes
referred to as guestmaps.
In the Forum Dirk tries to summarize:
� Reply #15 on: 5 October 2007, 20:35:17 � Dear Peter, IMHHO your URLs conclude a discussion that has taken years. Why did you wait that long!? :--)) I will add the content of the URL's you provided to http://wyxs.net/mansas/man2.5/sasped.html#h3 Now that we are discussing the features of S@SV3, what lessons can we learn from this exemplaric example.? Why is it exemplaric (i.e. a model example)? Some thoughts: - Always users will ask for features. That's fine. It is one of the reasons Website@School is so popular in educational institutions. - The team has to cope with these ___reasonable___ feature requests. If we just say 'no' to a request, we would alienate users from our dear project. Without users it would die. - We have our own viewpoints about 'good and bad', about education, about 'creeping featurism', and some other issues. We can only vent these opinions, discuss them, consicer them in the light of differing opinions, think and rethink them, etcetera. In this way lots of feature request were incorporated, some rejected. My conclusion: - Debate is a good way to handle these matters. When we take ourselves as serious as we take our users, at this moment we can only say to the them: "Unless someone has better arguments, we consider the guestbook case closed for the moment". That is; guestbook entries will not be editable. They cannot be moderated, only tolerated or deleted. With humble greetings, DirkAnd indeed, the discussion continues with a posting by Harm:
� Reply #16 on: 5 October 2007, 23:39:15 � [Harm correts an URL: removed DS] And, there were two issued in the discussion: - Editing entries (case closed) - The possibility for admins to respond to an entry. I really would like that featere. To thank someone for her comment or to let him know that the info he didn't found can be found on page X,...The case is not yet closed....
We have not incorporated CSS as it is normally used because we think it's a highly problematic issue in a content management system specially designed for education.
To begin exploring the matter, let us start with a rather long
HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide
4th Edition by Bill Kennedy and Chuck Musciano
Published by O'Reilly, Sebastopol 2000
Chapter 8 on cascading stylesheets begins with:
Style sheets are the way publishing professionals manage the overall "look" of their publications, backgrounds, fonts, colors, and so on from a single page to huge collections of documents. Most desktop publishing software support style sheets, as do the popular word processors. All desktop publishers and graphic designers worth their salt are out there making web pages. So the cry-to-arms was inevitable: "Whaddaya mean HTML has no style sheets?!"
From its origins, HTML focused on content over style. Authors are encouraged to worry about providing high quality information and leave it to the browser to worry about presentation. We strongly urge you, too (as we do throughout this book) to adopt that philosophy in your documents, especially those destined for the World Wide Web. Don't mistake style for substance.
However, while use of the <font> tag and related attributes like color produce acute presentation effects, style sheets, when judiciously applied, bring consistency and order to whole document collections, as weIl as to individual documents. Remember, too, that presentation is for the benefit of the reader. Even the original designers of HTML understood the interplay between style and readability. For instance, readers can quickly identify section heads in a document when they are enclosed in header tags like <h2>, which the modern browsers present in large and often bold type. Style sheets extend that presentation with several additional effects, including colors, a wider selection of fonts, even sounds so that users can even better distinguish elements of your document. But most importantly, style sheets let you control the presentation attributes for all the tags in a document-for a single document or a whole collection of many documents, and from a single master.
So far the lengthy quotation. We would like to draw attention
to the following points in the three paragraphs.
In the first paragraph the web professionals show up. It seems they specially like CSS. That's understandable. CSS might give pages a professional look, thus supporting the professional himself in his role. Furthermore CSS might as well be a time and money saver; an important aspect of professionalism.
Schools have different objectives with their websites. One of them, and not the least, might be an educational objective. This objective might lead to an approach on professionalism that has its own standards and virtues. For example, teaching something to students.
The second paragraph cuts a lot deeper. It tell us to put our
emphasis on content, not on form. HTML in conjunction with the
browser gives us enough tools to handle form. CSS prevents us
from thinking about form because the thinking is already done for
us. When education is about aquiring skills, the skill of putting
content in a suitable form is part of the skills needed to
The third paragraph deals with control. The control of the
form is handed over to the style sheet in stead of being in the
hands of the writer(s).
There is a deep truth in architect Sullivans words that "form ever follows function". A school seems one entity. In reality it is a hetergenous assembly (Gesellschaft). In that assemb.y CSS is a Procrustes bed with the webmaster in the role of the innkeeper.
A severe objection against CSS might be 'the differend', as
understood by the French postmodern philosopher François
What is 'postmodern'? There are, and that's a part of postmodernism, many definitions on Wikipedia, from which we take just one:
A worldview that emphasizes the existence of different worldviews and concepts of reality, rather than one "correct or true" one. Whereas modernism emphasized a trust in the empirical scientific method, and a distrust and lack of faith in ideologies and religious beliefs that could not be tested using scientific methods; postmodernism emphasizes that a particular reality is a social construction by a particular group, community, or class of persons..
When we look at CSS from a postmodern perspecitve CSS is the
embodiment of the 'truth'. However, this truth is not plainly
postulated as in good old positivism, but it hides itself in a
single style. One style throughout a site is (silently) posing
there is only one truth, the one that is spoken by the style. The
uniform style massages the differing contents to make
them more alike.
By adopting CSS other (metalinguistic) discourses are implicitly rejected. Only with the greatest effort one web author can free herself from the usurpation put on her writings by the cascading style sheet.
The cascading style sheet can be seen as the 'grand theory', obstructing the legitimacy of the performative, of "small" narratives, of the multiplicity and heterogeneity of language and the existence of knowledges. In plain words pupils, teachers and parents are individuals that have their own (differing) rights on differing forms of expression. In content ofcourse, but since CSS is at stake, also in form.
After a long period of thinking and silence, followed by a
demonstration by a developer and a discussion with Peter new
viewpoints have emerged on CSS in education.
In the end it turned out that we are not so much against CSS but only against the C in CSS. And if SS can be taken up in plural (Styles Sheets) then the matter can be brought to the educational stage again.
A bit of explanation may be necessary. The C of CSS is the main cause of our objection. If the style is cascadeed, i.e. influenced site wide, diversity is endangered. If we only use Styles Sheets (plural), then the style can easily be adapted. If, for example, each area, section and page has it's own style sheet, the webmaster that wants CSS only has to cut and paste it n times. Since most school sites are not changed every week, and changing all SS's is only a 'cut and paste' job taking approximately a quarter of an hour, diversity is taken care of. That might not be 'professional' in the eyes of a professional webmaster, but it certainly is in an educational environment.
The first step was set. Another advantage of the SS approach is educational. The style becomes easily accessible for those who want to learn. Changing the style is a rather harmless operation and you can easily get your first hands-on training in reading code and adapting it.
The discussion stopped for a some years. In that time we developed the practical implementation to our educational problems. We are proud to present Bazaar Style Style.
The term 'Bazaar Style Style' refers to a 1997 essay by Eric Raymond, later published in 'The Cathedral and the Bazaar'. He coined the term, describing the development of software as a 'bottom-up' process, contrary to 'top-down'. When developing a cathedral (CSS) a select company defines the object for the remainder of the world. In the Bazaar it is each one is there for himself and together we create a thing of beauty. The Bazaar Style Style is 'many small hands make a big work'.
BSS is a feature that enables, despite the style sheets, despite the cascading character of them, to do whatever you like for yourself as a little man in the pyramid.
How does BSS function? We try to explain it with the aid of
CSS. CSS is cascading, like a waterfall. At the uttermost top
level, one can say: "A website must look like so and so.". The
'so and so' are style definitions. For example, the website must
- A font like 'a' and a font size like 'b'.
- The content must have a background color 'c' or a backgroudl image like 'd'.
- All images must have a border with color 'e' and they must vave a big border like 'f' pixels.
- et cetera.
With CSS you can add numerous style elemenst to the content.
This is done at the highest level, for the complete website.
Everything under that level, i.e. the sections and pages, inherit
(take over) these style elements.
You can say, for example: "Our company changes style. All images must have no border". In CSS it's a piece of cake to change it. You just force it at the top level in one fell swoop.
What we do with Bazaar Style Sheets, is to still overrule the top level instructions at our own small spot, namely in that particular section or at those particular pages. There we do what we like and say with our instructions: "No, at this little section or pages, belonging to us, we like images with a golden border". This is BSS.
The kick of BSS is that you can separate style from content.
At two levels you can manipulate content:
1. You can change the page content with the CKEditor, or if you are a pupil or a purist, with the plain HTML editor.
2. You can change the page layout with BSS. You can do something different from what the principal has ordained.
If at the highest level the font is set to Arial, and you need something different for your paper on the Gothic alphabet, do it. CSS commands can be found in every book and on http://w3cschools.org.
Bazaar Style Style has 4 levels to influence the
If the school has decided to create its own theme, the school 'says': "We have our own style.css that reflects how we wnat our website. All images will have a gold colored border."
In this way you get a cacaphony of styles, a Bazaar. een kakafonie van stijlen, een Bazar. To put the matter in other words, as long as you stay withing the rules fot the principal, (the choise of the theme), you can do what you want on Area, section en pagine level ... if it's allowed.
The level at which you can influence style is determinded by
two on/off switches. One switch is at Area level. Here you can
determine if section and page level style information is
The other level is at section and page level. Users that only have permissions to change their page content have no access to the Advanced properties of a page. Users can add, remove, change and save (!) style information, but have no access to the switch. Please bear in mind that, if style is added but the swithc is off, the Page Preview funcion does not show the added style info. It only shows what the website visitor sees.
"You should be able to look at the home page of any site and figure out what the site is about within four seconds. If you can't, your site has failed"
It was almost literally said by a principal when we discussed
the need for a new template for their website.
The quote raises some questions which we will not answer. Why four seconds? Why not three or six seconds? What is 'failed'? Completely failed or partly failed? I do not care, I do not know anything about companies. The quote may be true for a company that sells or produces vacuum cleaners, although I have the feeling that their websites might be very differing. But is it also true for a school? On this question we will come back.
Another example from Mr. Flanders' site. The article starts with a section called "1. Believing people care about you and your web site." It has a fine explanation why people do not care but want products, or their problems solved, or want information, etcetera.
One thing I know for sure; lots of people care about their school. Every day they bring their children there and expect them to be safe and expect their children to get some sort of education, preferably 'good'. For the moment we conclude that a school is not a company.
[Here comes a text on 'A school is not a company'. It can be found in Dutch on: http://www.rosaboekdrukker.net/index.php?section=6&page=914]
Let's try to discuss what a school 'is' in terms of its website.
Most primary schools are not that big. In Holland an average
primary school has some 200 to 300 pupils, some 30 to 40 teachers
and some staff. Many schools attract most of their population
from the neighbourhood where the school is located. Most children
stay at the school for almost a decade. The parents also have a
long relationship with the school; some even work as volunteer.
And the teachers and principals sometimes stay half their lives
on the same primary school. For these groups; pupils, partens and
teachers, the website resembles a kind of an 'intranet'. The
relationship between the groups (grades) is mostly close, the
lines of communication are that short that it almost seems no
website is needed. The site contains 'our shared content'. The
'weekly' distributed as leaflet in print and delivered to the
parents via the children. There are parents without Internet
connection. The weekly is also published on the site. Everyone
knows where to find it because it's always there and always on
the same place and time.
'No website is needed' could be a nice design paradigm to start with for a primary school.
under construcion Mystery Meat Navigation
Emily Changs blog contains a long article on design: Design 2.0: Minimalism, Transparency, and You