Web Publishing Basics
One of the fun things about the Internet is
that anyone can get involved. Web sites range from high-tech corporate
sites to personal sites about pets and hobbies developed by middle schoolers.
Developing a Web site can be relatively easy.
It has also vexed many developers who have not taken the time to gain
a little background knowledge before beginning.
Consider reading this
article as your homework. It should help develop your background knowledge
and prepare you to build your class Web site.
Why Build a Class Web Site?
Setting up a Web site for your class
is an inexpensive and fun way to get your students involved in the Internet.
Plus, it gives them the opportunity to see their work displayed—literally
for the whole world to see!
Your class site can be about anything the class
wants it to be. You can create a site that highlights the special projects
your class has done. Perhaps you want a site that informs people about
your hometown. You can collaborate with students to build a site devoted
to a class subject that can teach others about what you're studying.
Whatever you decide, the Web holds endless
possibilities for involving your students in meaningful projects that
are motivating. It can also help you meet technology integration goals.
Web pages are most often displayed in Web browsers (i.e., Internet Explorer,
Netscape Navigator) using a language called HTML (hypertext mark-up language).
If you used early versions of Word Perfect, the mark-up codes may look
familiar to you. Although there are other languages being used today,
this is still the most common one.
HTML is a code that Web browsers read to interpret
how to do everything from laying out text and graphics on a page to linking
to other pages. While you may hear some people refer to HTML coding as programming, it is not an actual programming language per se. At its most basic level, a Web page is a text file with
HTML code in it.
Here is a simplified version of how HTML is used to create a Web page:
- A Web address points to a specific HTML
file on a server.
- The browser reads the file, which specifies
how the text is to look on the page and what graphics files are to be
used. The browser constructs the Web page by pulling the graphics files
and text together in the way the HTML has specified. Links tell the
browser where to go when they are clicked.
- Voilá, a Web page is displayed!
Although knowing HTML is not a requirement to create
a Web page these days, it helps to have a basic understanding of how Web
browsers use it to construct pages.
Hosting the Site
Web sites must be hosted on an Internet server. One of the first
questions you'll need to answer is, "Who is going to host the site?"
A server is a computer with a direct connection to
the Internet that is running server software. Web page files, both the
HTML files and the graphics files, are located on the server. If you have
high-speed access, whether through a cable modem or a DSL, you can make
any computer a server.
For classroom purposes, however, it's usually not
feasible to make the class computer a server. Many schools do not have
high-speed connections. Besides, if you use your computer as a server,
you open it up to attack from Internet hackers. Most servers are protected from hackers
by special software called an Internet firewall.
Many teachers look to the school or community to
host their class Web sites. Check with your school administrator to see
if a hosting service is available. If not, there are other places to go.
Many companies offer hosting services; some charge
a small monthly fee, others offer commercial sites for free. Fee-based
hosting services usually offer more options in terms of site design, functionality,
Hosting a site that contains just text and a few pictures is relatively
inexpensive since it takes up little disk space. Audio and video files
tend to be much larger and, consequently, cost more to host.
Many Internet sites offer free hosting services,
too. You can put together an extensive and appropriate Web site and still
only use 5-10 MB (megabytes) of storage. The tradeoff for free hosting
is that the company hosting your site will put advertisements on it, usually
by having an extra browser window open when someone visits the site. You
rarely have control over the type of advertising that appears.
When you sign up for any type of Web hosting service, be sure to read
the user agreement thoroughly. It can be very tempting to click "I
Accept" without reading the entire agreement because they are often
long and full of legalese.
Usually, user agreements don't contain anything problematic.
However, accepting certain agreements may mean that you give up the copyright
to any material you post on your site. Know what you are signing before
you accept such an agreement.
When you put together a class Web site, be careful not to plagiarize.
Posting something to a Web site is a form of publishing, and it is illegal
to publish someone else's words without their permission or without giving
proper attribution. When you post information on your class Web site,
make sure it is original work or that it has been properly cited.
Unfortunately, the Internet is not always the safest place in the
world. While most people who surf the Web are decent, law-abiding citizens,
there are some real dangers out there. This does not mean that your class
can't experience the wonders of the Internet. You should
take some precautions, however.
Keep yourself and your students safe by
following two general rules:
- Never post pictures of students on the Web
- Never disclose any personal information,
names, or location on a public Web site.
Most schools have developed their own acceptable
use and privacy policies. It is best to defer to these when developing
Now that you've learned something about how Web sites work, you are ready
to begin planning your Class Web site. After you determine your goals
for the site, you are ready to outline the site structure and content.
Check out these class Web site tips
for more information about creating a great Web site for the classroom.
Class Web Site
In this second part of our series on publishing class Web sites, we get
down to the nuts and bolts of creating Web pages, including authoring
software, FTP, Web graphics,and file directories.