The Use of Database-driven Web Pages
Are your an e-consumer? Has your one-click Amazon.com finger been overworked lately? Have you put in the final bid on that classic car at e-bay? Such are the uses of database-driven web pages. Our own Chip accesses our work through a database which gives us an educational use of database-driven web pages. I have become intriqued by their potential use in the everyday classroom since more and more information is expected of me in my role as a classroom teacher.
Our Administration announced this fall that we would embark on curriculum mapping. Each month we would document what we were teaching in our classrooms and identify the Illinois Learning Standard (ILS) they addressed. Since paper forces us into a two-dimensional model, and the eventual use of the information was to determine how well we were addressing the ILS across the school community, I wondered how to make the relational connections more manageable. Another colleague and I -who have been in positions that requried developing coherent presentations of data -began thinking about how this could be done in this situation. In a previous life (building principal), I used FileMaker Pro 2.0 to create databases for mass mailings, test results, team information, scheduling, suspension letters et al. I marveled at the ease and accessibility of FileMaker Pro. Once I had set up the layouts, others could manage their own information (teams) which encouraged a certain amount of autonomy. Since we were often compiling information for grants and school improvement visits, the database helped us keep things manageable. We decided to approach our building administrators with our ideas. We are now working with our building administrators to streamline curriuculum mapping in our building.We hope to create a database-driven web page using FileMakerPro 4.0 that will be user friendly for both of our clients:teachers and administrators.
The Potential of Database-driven Web Pages:
This is especially important today with weighty accountability expectations for those of us in the classroom growing daily. Teachers are expected to perform many information intensive tasks for their own classrooms. Each of us to some extent is producing a generative school improvement plan as we look at the teaching decisions we make. We evaluate them on the basis of standards, department goals, building goals, and most importantly, whether they provide students with coaching and engaging educational experiences to practice higher level thinking so that eventually all that is left is learning.So, technology in my classroom?
Using web-based databases provides a means to address my project inquiry: Why technology in my classroom? Through a web-based database, I could meet my goals of moving students from a reliance upon me to determine "what they need to do next," to their own structuring a learning plan that fits their style of inquiry. As I indicated in my proposal, one of my outcomes is to develop a course web page for my students and parents. Students would be able to access assignments and information about the course and future events and plan accordingly. Parents would have access to information that would provide the basis of a dialogue about "what did you do in school today?" My database-driven web page would put more of the responsibility for learning on my students.
This database-driven web page need not be labor intensive on the part of the teacher. While Peter Sullivan lays out a structure for developing such a site in the May/June 1999 issue of MulitMedia Schools, I have found a temporary solution at Highwired.com. This site while designed for putting high school newspapers online, works well for my purpose. Since my documents for my classes are in Word, I just paste them into the database and voila--it's on the web. I like the fact that making changes or additions can be accomplished through the browser...no ftping-which has been the bain of my coursework this semester. I have had fairly positive comments from my students about accessing information while I have been gone. My son was ill a week in October and again in November. I became ill during his latest illnes, but was able to maintain contact with my students through the web. While in Denver for the National Council of Teachers of English Convention, I kept in touch with students who were discussing Oedipus on the NCTE's monitored Talk-zone. Given the dynamic characteristic of database-driven web pages, the communication has an interactive feel.
My Highwired pages can be accessed at http://www.highwired.com/cntnnial/AdvSL and http://www.highwired.com/cntnnial/AdvAL
Costs: FileMaker Pro 4.1 is available for between $126 - $175.
FileMaker Pro 4.1 is the preferred version over the new 5.0 because 5.0
limits the number of users to 10. So, I think it would irritate parents
and students who couldn't get in when they tried to access the site.
A server is required, but perhaps your district already has this software
and you only need to let them know how you want to use it.
I am excited by the promise that database-driven web pages offer.
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