Your Website is Due Friday

Why have your students write a report when they can create a useful, interactive, and interesting website instead?
Written by Christopher Dawson, Contributor

With the advent of countless free and easy to use HTML editors (WYSIWYG or otherwise), it is easier than ever for students to create websites quickly and easily. So why have your students write a boring report when they can create a useful, interactive, and interesting website instead?

I can imagine the firestorm I will touch off among the 3-R crowd (of which I'm actually a card-carrying member) if I suggest that the traditional report is dead.  Students obviously need to be able to put together a solid, cohesive document with actual paragraphs, sections, etc.  However, the basic organization of most reports lends itself to a simple web structure.  For example, here is how a traditional report could easily be mapped into a website:

Traditional Report Online Report  
Cover Page index.html A home page is an obvious choice for their cover page. This could either be combined with a table of contents or just contain a single link to a table of contents page.
Table of Contents toc.html Each entry in the Table of Contents should link to the appropriate section of the report.
Individual sections intro.html
There should obviously be as many HTML pages as there would be sections in the traditional report. Internal reference documentation can point to the works cited page.

Students can then either hand in their entire site on a diskette, USB key, via FTP to a folder on a web server, by giving you a link to a free website they create, or via email in a zip file. No paper, no muss, no fuss.

The important thing to remember here is that this is simply a new and richer medium for presenting the same content as always.  Students still need solid sentence structure, well-formed paragraphs, and a well-organized set of sections.  They still need to document their sources in a bibliography and they still need to document what they have learned in their research without overtly copying.  But imagine the ease with which they can now include images, links to useful sites, and links to their online sources.  In fact, imagine the ease with which you can now check their sources by requiring that any online sources be properly linked in their works cited page.  No more works cited entries of "Google"!

Perhaps even more important is that this addresses many of the points readers have touched on in their responses to these blogs.  Not only are we engaging students by utilizing a medium they understand and relate to, but we are integrating technology education with traditional learning.

For reference, here is a very brief list of free html editors:

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