Thursday, June 19, 2008

Goodbye, ECIT

And so, my tenure here in ECIT has drawn to a close. I just wanted to take a moment to publicly thank the three people who have mentored me through the year. Shannon O'Daniel has been a canny resource for discussing iTunes U, web design, and all things Apple. Alan Cattier has been a tremendous support in being always enthused and interested in what I have been doing here. And most of all, Wayne Morse has encouraged me to explore the different tools that ECIT offers, let me follow my nose to the things that interested me most, and given me opportunities to teach various groups here. I've learned a lot about academic computing and how to effectively use various tools this year, but I've also grown from the friendship of Wayne, Alan, and Shannon, as well as the other ECIT grad students. And I'm glad to say that working within timelines was not something I only did while in ECIT: I've also got my dissertation under review by my committee for an August graduation. So the fellowship did exactly what it was supposed to.

This blog will likely cease updating regularly, but I plan on starting a new, more permanent blog presence where I can continue talking about my use of technology in the classroom, as well as reflecting more generally on what I am about. One of the best lessons of the year has been the value of regular writing in this space and the interaction that I have had (online and off) about what I have written. I'll let you know the address when I resurface.

My New Website, AKA Behold the Power of CSS!

My fellowship here in ECIT recently ended. As I had finished my timeline tutorial in the middle of May (but not yet, I'll concede, the Advanced Customization Page), I was left trying to think about what I could most profitably do here for the remaining days of my employment. I decided that creating a better web presence for myself made a lot of sense. And so I spent a few days looking at other academics' personal websites and thinking about what mine should look like.

ECIT occasionally is asked to teach faculty or students how to write their own web pages. This basically means giving people a crash course in Dreamweaver. And if you've never really spent much time learning anything about HTML, then it really turns into a crash course. Dreamweaver is not intuitive for first-time users and neither is our teaching all of the time. For example, when I was a student in an ECIT class that included some Dreamweaver instruction, a lot of time was spent talking about tables (!?!). One thing that has been exciting about the blog and wiki tools within Blackboard is that they allow students to create media-rich websites within a matter of moments using a very simple WYSIWYG interface. I'm personally not a fan of Blackboard, if only because it all lives behind a passworded interface that students are not inclined to check on a regular basis.

In any case, I have spent a lot of time this year using Dreamweaver for one thing or another, so I didn't have a problem using it to build my website. What I did skip out on, however, was using tables to arrange my website. Instead, I've done the current (and far better) thing and used CSS to compose the page. I started to learn CSS as I customized different aspects of the timelines that I have written this year. But I really caught the vision when someone pointed me to css Zen Garden. This site provides some information about the benefits of using CSS. But then it shows you how powerful CSS can be by using different style sheets for the same page. For example, this page uses all the same information in the Body of the web page but only has different CSS. This Boy Scout-themed one is another favorite, since I'm a fan of 1950s-inspired graphic arts. Browsing this site, you start to get an idea of what you can do with CSS, and it gives you a chance to start looking at how you can write your own style sheets.

Thus inspired, I spent some more time poking around and ended up getting my start using Owen Briggs's classic CSS boxes to help me design my site. I've done a bit of tweaking on the style sheets and have had a lot of fun doing so. Don't worry: every once in a while I remember that I'm supposed to be an English professor-type.

In any case, you can see my new website here. I'd love to hear what you think or if you find anything broken (besides the as-of-now empty pages where my course materials for this Fall will go). I'm still not sold on the yellow, so if you'd like to vote for other options check out the blue or green versions. Only the front page's links and visited links are in different colors here, but you get the idea.