Monday, June 3, 2013

{Crew Review} ‘Let’s Make a Webpage’ from Motherboard Books


Motherboard Books gave me the opportunity to review a beginning web page program for ages 8-12 called
Let's Make a Web Page ($19.95 e-book).

One of the things I want to gift to my children is the ability to not just be consumers of technology, but I’d love to give them skills so that they can harness technology and use it to their benefit and God’s.  With this in mind, I thought that giving Luke the opportunity to try a computer-based product that gives him creative control and power would be a good idea.

Phyllis Wheeler (the mother behind Motherboard Books) has created a step-by-step guidebook to help explain computer web page design to younger users.  Topics in the book are:

Lesson 1: An Interview (this interview becomes the subject of the webpage. I was the lucky subject for Luke’s page.)
Lesson 2: Download and Set Up the Program
Lesson 3: Add Text
Lesson 4: Make a Table
Lesson 5: Add Photo
Lesson 6: From the Internet, Add Animations
Lesson 7: Browser Check, Backgrounds, Photos
Lesson 8: Sound
Lesson 9: Links
Lesson 10: Post Your Work
Appendix: How to Upload to the Internet

The lesson topics seemed pretty comprehensive in terms of adding most any element I could think of to a webpage (except maybe a video). 

One thing you’ll want to realize first:  This program relies on using a trial version of a software program that does, indeed, build webpages.  It is called Coffee Cup Visual Site Designer.  The trial version has a 30-day full version download, so you’ll want to realize that you only have 30 days to use this product and complete this learning project, unless you plan on purchasing the full version. 

By working on this project 3-4 days a week, we were easily able to complete a lesson per session and complete the webpage (well, nearly complete it) in less than the 30 days.

How We Used This Product: For this review, I decided that it would be best of Luke to have a hard-copy of this product, so I printed it out (it is only 60 pages) and I used my handy dandy comb binder to bind it all together in a booklet for him to use. 

Then, I set to work with him.  I was hoping that the software would be easy enough for my 10 year old to use on his own, but he and I found that two heads were better than one. (Just to remind you, Luke has struggled to read and has only recently become a somewhat fluent reader.  His comprehension for concrete information is pretty good, but this sort of technical reading was a bit over his head, even though it was definitely written children).  I think for Luke the fact that I was asking him to do something totally new (website design) with a totally new product to both of us (Coffee Cup) was a little overwhelming, and he definitely needed me to help him through the entire process.

One of the things that I’m very aware of is the new vocabulary used with new learners {in classical education, this is part of the grammar of a subject}.  I can remember there were a couple times when I wished the guidebook had a glossary which we could turn to to quickly recall the meaning of several terms which were making Luke’s eyes glaze over.  I was able to save the day in the end, but there were a few times I felt like I needed to take over for a few minutes to get us back on course.


Let’s move on to the actually work text.  I thought that Ms. Wheeler did a really great job of writing out the technical steps of what we needed to do to add a picture, text, clip art, and background image.  I appreciate some of the internet wisdom she attempted to impart on my young son by directing him to a website with a lot of advertising and for-pay material, and then she explained why you don’t want to go to such a site for free images.  She also made an explanation of proper use of other’s work via the creative commons licensing.  I appreciated her inserting ethics as well as safe online navigation into the curriculum.

As I was talking with Luke about this project, I have to say that he really loved the idea of learning to create a webpage.  We talked about some of the obstacles we faced completing this project (new vocabulary, comprehending technical writing as I’ve already mentioned).  Another obstacle we faced was the Coffee Cup program itself.  Ms. Wheeler is using this free trial as a vehicle to teach the skill of web design;  however, we both felt a little lost with the software itself since it was totally knew to us and we didn’t find nor search out a tool to help us gain a basic understanding of all the features of the software.  We both felt a little like robots:  only using the features of Coffee Cup that were required to complete the project and never really feeling comfortable with what we were doing.

Another thing to think about:  if you want to actually take your webpage live, you’ll need a host server for it.  This is something we didn’t investigate, but by previewing it in our web browser of choice, Luke was able to see the graphic animations move (the man to the left of me paints with his brush) and hear our bird call.  That seemed good enough for Luke.

In the end, we were able to create a web page as instructed:

My recommendations & thoughts:   Did Luke learn anything?  Absolutely.  He really enjoyed being more than just a consumer of computers.  It was definitely an introduction to web page design though, and I really feel like if he is going to learn more, I need to invest in some other next step for him – including software (and we’ll have another learning curve for that), web hosting space, etc.  But, with blogs gotten for free, I sort of feel like teaching him web design with a blog interface and CCS coding is more the way to go. So, that is probably the direction we’ll continue with any of my boys in the future.

The age range for this product is ages 8-12. Personally, I would look more towards a child’s reading ability, independence, interest and curiosity with computers (and how they work) to gauge if this product is appropriate for your student.  Levi will be 8 in October; and although he is a very good reader, I will wait until after he is 10 before beginning something like this with him.  I feel pretty confident that I could hand the manual to Ben (14) and he could work through it independently.  However, you can only download the trial of Coffee Cup once on a computer, so consider that if you are wanting to use this across a number of children. {I really do wish this program used another web design interface that was more than just a temporary trial.}

If you are looking to whet your child’s appetite for web design and are willing to invest the time yourself in a quick project (especially if technical reading is something with which your student might need some assistance), this might be a fun product for you to try out. 

In addition to trying out Let’s Make a Webpage, Review Crew members were also able to try out Logo Adventures from Phyllis Wheeler.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


Prices are accurate as of posting of this review. 

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