(always under construction, somtimes a bit messy and apologies for the typos)


1. Introduction

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

1. Introduction

Every tool reflects (shows) values; at first sight it tells you about it's usability, at second observation it might reveal values about it's design, at further inspection it might tell you something about the world-view of it's creators and maybe, at it's deepest level show views on nature and mankind.
Educational tools are no exception. They reflect notions about how education is seen, notions on pupils and how they learn and on pedagogy in general. And, also in the end, on nature and mankind.
It is, to say the least, surprising that most educational software comes with extensive documentation about which mouse movemnet to make, but lacks references to its pedagogical roots and viewpoints.
Covers that wrap gaming software tell us about the required adulthood (or lack of it) of the intended users, how we can ingeniously create empires or effecitvely slaughter the elderly. So we can make an informed choice on what is best for us. Why does software that is written for our pupils not contain information about the pedagogical values it exports to our most beloved (our children)?

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


2. On pedagogic views

In this section we explore where Website@School stands in its pedagogical assumtions. To do this we first present a kind of framework which might serve as a touch stone for judging pedagogical aspects of materials used in education, hard- as well as software.

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.

2.1 Protective pedagogies

In these pedagogical views it is necessary to protect the young against the evils of modern media. In some religioius communities it leads to banning television, the Internet and computers altogether. In less strict communities it can lead to providing the pupils with antidotes in the form of materials demonstrating the badness or the superficiality of what a medium has to offer.

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.

2.2 Esthetic pedagogical views

Actually, this the hidden agenda of first view. In short it says: "The Internet is bad place to be, however there are some good sides (sites in this case) at it".
This leads to things like:
- The proxyserver only permits the 'good' sites. The rules of the proxyserver are definde by the teachers or a company is payed to set (whose?) rules. Management is an impossible task.
- The normal desktop, whatever that might be, is too complicated and has too many options. Pupils need a specially designed simplified desktop. The Dutch IT company 'Station to Station' is a good example. Everything is banned except the applications that are allowed.

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 root password.
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 desktop.
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']

2.3 Society critical padagogical views

These views focus on the relations between media and society. The media are a cultural industry that help to maintain the existing social structures. The new media and the Internet reflect existing social relations.
The media are an important means for leisure and to promote an image of reality in which certain values are depicted as good, unavoidable and unchangebable.

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.

2.4 Functional pedagogies

This is a notiion that slightly differs from the previous ones. There are normative values when the media are at stake but the point of focus is the role the media play in the lives of the pupils.
At the heart is a positive evaluation of the own culture and that of the pupils. It leads to questions about which sites are visited, which games are played, which TV stuff is watched, what magazines read and why. The user value of the media are the focussing point. Which functions do the media fullfill for the pupils and the way these are performed.
To discover these funcitons pupils can do research facilitated by teachers and question themeselves on the media they consume.

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" [1] 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 company.
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.
[1] Len's book is reprinted! See


3. Where stands Website@School?

In my previous employments the most interesting results in terms of learning experiences, happily learing pupils, enthousiastic teachers, supportive parents and endorsement by the Educational Inspection were archieved with the conbination of critical and functional pedagogical notions as explained earlier.


3.1 A practical example

In stead of yet another lengthy theoretical explanation of the pedagogical position of Website@School, let's make this discussion practical. We take the guestbook module as example.

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 (dot) org.
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:

Date: 21-03-2005 - 10:23:07
Name: Monica James
Website: http://I do not have a website

Text: Hi All, 
Nice site! I was pupil at your school in 1990. 
Is master Frits still there? 
Best wishes to him. I\'m now living in Australia. 
Had a great time at your school. 
Monica James-van Rossem 

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 publication?"
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.

Ah, btw
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 #2 on: 30 September 2007, 15:12:36 �
(playing the Devil's Advocate for a minute)

Why would you want to be able to easily edit Guestbook entries?

If I post an entry in the Guestbook (as a visitor) the
 contents of the message is connected to my name. If I
 say something about the school which the school
 considers 'bad' and the moderator changes this
 criticism into something else alltogether? The piece
 still has my name connected to it. I'd say: either
 delete the entry completely (if it violates some
 previously published Terms of Use of the site) or
 simply leave it as-is. I would surely not like my
 words be changed, this could very easily have a bad 
 effect on my reputation.

Another thing is this. If the moderator were to be able
 to edit a Guestbook entry, would the original poster
 be able to comment on that by editing her original
 entry too? Would the original poster be able to pull 
 the edited post? How can you be sure that the person
 editing the entry is in fact the original poster and 
 not some random visitor (authentication)?

IMHO making the Guestbook easily editble is like
 opening a can of worms. YMMV.

On which Harm replies:
� 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 #5 on: 30 September 2007, 18:41:04 �
Quote from: peter on 30 September 2007, 15:12:36
(playing the Devil's Advocate for a minute)

Why would you want to be able to easily edit Guestbook entries?

to correct typos
to make a direct comment on that entry so that both are
 kept together.  If I make a reply like a normal
 guestbook entry, answers will not be adjacent.
Example.  Look at the 22-6-2007 guestbook entry here. 

Quote from: peter on 30 September 2007, 15:12:36
If I post an entry in the Guestbook (as a visitor) the
 contents of the message is connected to my name. If I
 say something about the school which the school
 considers 'bad' and the moderator changes this
 criticism into something else alltogether? The piece
 still has my name connected to it. I'd say: either
 delete the entry completely (if it violates some 
 previously published Terms of Use of the site) or
 simply leave it as-is. I would surely not like my
 words be changed, this could very easily have a bad 
 effect on my reputation.

If someone says something bad about the school, it gets
 deleted, no need to edit there.

Quote from: peter on 30 September 2007, 15:12:36
Another thing is this. If the moderator were to be able
 to edit a Guestbook entry, would the original poster
 be able to comment on that by editing her original
 entry too? Would the original poster be able to pull
 the edited post? How can you be sure that the person
 editing the entry is in fact the original poster and
 not some random visitor (authentication)?

IMHO making the Guestbook easily editble is like
 opening a can of worms. YMMV.

Let's compare an average forum with a guestbook.
Can the forum admin edit your topic on this forum?
Yes, he can, same thing in my opinion.
Can the user edit his own message?  Usually he can do
 so for a limited amount of time / until someone else
 has replied in the same topic.  But there's nothing
 preventing him from writing a new message in the
Dirk enters the discussion:
� Reply #6 on: 1 October 2007, 22:27:06 �
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.

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.
On 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?
Dirk finds an answer:
Hi karin,
van Dale (Dutch dictionary, authorative) says about 'guestbook':
gastenboek 1.....[unapplicable meaning DS]; -2. book in
 which persons that visit an institution write their
 name and eventually an expression of gratitude and 
And --Peter adds:
� Reply #9 on: 4 October 2007, 11:37:57 �

Why not take a look at the definition of 'guest book'
in Alternatievely, 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: 
It's worth visiting the links. Here is what they say:
"a book in which visitors to an institution, lodging, or event may write their names, addresses, and any remarks".

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.
[end Wikipedia]

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

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,

And 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....


4. On form and content

4.1 Cascading Style Sheets

NOTE: This section about CSS was ritten before we adapted CSS as BSS in 2011.

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 quotation from:
HTML & XHTML: The Definitive Guide
4th Edition by Bill Kennedy and Chuck Musciano
Published by O'Reilly, Sebastopol 2000
ISBN: 0-596-00026-X

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 produce texts.

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 Lyotard.
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.

4.2 Bazaar Style Style

Bazaar Style Style (BSS) emerged because we were worried about the educational limitations in the application of Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). With CSS it's possible to top-down force a certain style to the complete organisation. In that way CSS is good for companies; but a school is not a company.

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 have:
- 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

Bazaar Style Style has 4 levels to influence the style:

  1. The style sheet of the theme itself (Frugal, Rosalina, Axis, et cetera). This style information can be found in the file /program/themes/<theme name>/style.css. The style information in this file is sent to the browser. If you don't like this style, you can change the file name or remove the file. However, in that case the browser defines the style. And not even the principal can change that.

    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."

  2. The second level to add, remove or change style is the Area level. For example, as coordinator of the Seniors, you can say: "We don't like gold. For all Seniors levels we prefer a red border.".
  3. The third level to influence style is section level. The teacher of Grade 8 can say: "Red is too leftish, we want purple borders of 30 pixels for all images."
  4. The fourth level is page level. In Grade 8 are Herbert and Catherine . Herbert doesn't like borders and Caterhine wants some picutres with small pink borders.

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 visible.
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.


5. On websites for primary education

This section deals with the question 'What to do when Website@School is up and running? Ofcourse you can follow the easy way; select a tempalte, create sections and pages and fill them with content and/or modules. That's a quick solution. But is it the best one? In our opinion the matter is worth some more consideration. A primary school on the web is a complex isssue. Time for some reflection.

5.1 What is a primary school?

This question may sound ridiculous. We all know what a primry school is. We do not need elabore definitions; almost all of us have visited a primary school in our childhood and many of us have children which we bring to school every day. Some of us even know the school from the inside; as teachers, as principal or janitor, or as parent that reads books or perform ohter volunteers tasks in the shcool.
This basic understanding of what a school is, is immediately forgotten as soon as the school has a website. At that moment the school undergoes a magic transformation and becomes a 'company' . Design ideas and notions are copied from, for example, WebPagesThatSuck, Vincent Flanders' website on bad web design. One of his articles is called 'Biggest Mistakes in Web Design 1995-2015' from wich we quote:

"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:]

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.

Pupils pages
under construcion Mystery Meat Navigation
Under construction

5.2 Design philosophy

Heavily under construction. Needs updating.

Emily Changs blog contains a long article on design: Design 2.0: Minimalism, Transparency, and You

Here the desighn priciples of Website@School?

5.3 Theory in practice

Here the intro with the general features?

6. On educational software

Creating software for education involves not only writing content, code, and a manual.
Educational software itself is also educational material. When you want to learn, the tools with which you learn must also be learnable. So, we have a WYSIWYG editor and a plain HTML editor to create texts. Pupils can take their first steps in coding by writing their pages themselves from scratch. With the Bazaaar Style Stlye they can further expand their knowledge on code.
By that time they might also like to read 'Code' by Charles Petzold. A great explanation, not only fecause Petzold does a good job, but it's the way he explains that makes this book excellent in its field.
The next step might be learning PHP, so pupils can work on Website@School itself. From there on the sky is the limit.
Software that is used in schools must be educational in itself. It must be organised in a way it is learning material in itself. This asks for high standards in the design, the code, excellent developer documentation, up to the end user documentation.


7. Links we like


8. Concluding remarks

This is 'work in progress'. We keep thinking about Website@School. We keep listening to our users. We hope they appreciate our standards in which, according to a Dutch proverb the customer might be the king, but bear in mind that Education is the Queen.


Author: Dirk Schouten <dirk (at) websiteatschool (dot) eu>
Last updated: 2014-09-06