Click, click … web design part 2

I have finished reading Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug. Further to my earlier observations (see previous blog post), I wanted to share a few more comments regarding this book.

 

The point that really struck home for me was the notion of visual hierarchy. Web sites must be designed to enable the end user to quickly identify what is most important, relevant and least important on a page with great ease. Design elements that impact this include layout strategy, fonts, graphic use and colour schemes and choices. 

 

Just as important is the concept of what is NOT there on the page. Many web pages need a serious decluttering to achieve a better presentation and flow of information ~ important content vs. detractors ~ function vs. confusion. There are many good examples illustrated in the book.

 

Graphics are more that ‘just graphics’. They really do need to relate to real world uses to reinforce function to the end user. An example of this is the use of tabs. People know what tabs are – they divide, different information is contained behind different tabs. Tabs provide high level organization on websites because people can easily identify with the concept of how they function.

 

Steve outlines some great strategies around the whole design (check out the ‘truck’ test section and the notion of testing and validating before ‘going live’. 

 

All in all, this is a very informative book well worth the read! 

 

~ Mark

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Upcoming changes to Facebook privacy rules

I was cruising through email notifications this afternoon and noted a new posting re upcoming changes to privacy settings in the Facebook environment. For interested readers, the article may be found at:

http://www.cio.com/article/496742/Facebook_s_Upcoming_Privacy_Changes_What_You_Need_to_Know?source=CIONLE_nlt_leader_2009-07-09

I hope this helps keep you up to date with your online safety and security knowledge – all part of Digital Citizenship development!

~ Mark

So what computer gear do I buy?

Given all of the options available these days, the seemingly straight forward task of buying a computer is now very complex. Desktop, laptop, netbook?  OSX, Windows, Linux? Standard apps, open source or a combination? Multimedia and presentation tools, ease of use, tech support, virus, malware & spam protection, how well can the user support themselves (trouble shooting, ease of updates etc.)?  There are as many questions as possibilities. Oh yes, what does the student need to be successful?

The context of the question? My daughter will be off to university next year and it is time to settle on a plan to meet her school needs. As a well seasoned technology user, I have to weigh in my experiences and perhaps biases into the final solution. 

Desktop, laptop, netbook: I think I would settle on the laptop. Portability is important. I don’t think the netbook is quite ready for prime time as the only machine one has access too – but it continues to get closer to this ideal. From my own experience of using a netbook sized computer, I would land on screen size and keyboard layout as potential hinderances. Cramped typing won’t cut it for a sole source learning tool. Good battery life is critical too. 

OS: This area is more complicated in terms of landing on a final decision. I am not a big fan of Windows Vista. While many linux based OS’s such as Ubuntu offer a nice stable system, the primary user in this case has little exposure to it, at least at this point in time, so self sufficiency comes into question. OSX is a robust system with great multimedia tools, but the ‘how much will you run into Windows requirements’ question still nags at me. Ultimately, it is hard to say, but I think this has to be accounted for.

I believe the best option for personal use falls in line with the direction we are moving as a Board of Education in our elementary schools – Intel based Macintosh hardware configured with the ability to run Windows. Our experiences in this environment have been very successful, and positive for the learning environment ~ a great suite of tools for educators and learners. On the Board front, we are starting a major roll out of this dual boot environment starting in the fall. This combination of OS’s offers access to all of the native tools in each OS platform, lets you benefit from the strengths of each one, and leaves room to add 3rd party software on either OS as required. A total win-win from my point of view.

Our Board solution will be done as a dual boot arrangement with an OSX based image configured with an option to boot into a Windows environment. This choice also allows both partitions to be maintained in terms of imaging, patching and software deployment with robust enterprise level tools. On the personal choice end of things, other options for OS emulation from Parallels and/or VMware come into the picture. I have some experience with the Parallels setup – it is pretty slick in terms of the way it integrates Windows into the OS environment. I the testing I did, the ability to update Windows through the MS UPdates website seemed to fail more than it worked so it seems that manual downloads and installations would come into the picture (still sorting through this). Both the desktop and netbook flavours of Ubuntu seem to be quite stable in the Parallels environment.  I have not personally tried the VMWare solution at this point.  While the notion of the integrated solution is appealing on the personal computing level, I still think the dual boot approach is the most stable solution at this point in time.

Software: Based on a decision to go with a dual boot setup, the software suite will end up being a blend of OSX and Windows native applications, standard applications (Keynote, MS Office, Adobe etc.) and a sprinkle of open source utilities. After all, it is all about getting the right tools to support learning! 

~ Mark

Facebook vs. Face-to-Face

Can Facebook replace face-to-face?  This interesting question was recently posed in the ISTE forum hosted at

 http://www.iste-community.org/group/landl/forum/topics/pointcounterpoint-can-facebook

ISTE will be selecting two responses from submissions to publish in the Sept/Oct. Leading & Learning with Technology journal. The response I decided to submit to ISTE is included below.

:::

Can Facebook replace face-to-face?  

Given the revolutionary change in the internet since its inception and the current capabilities of web 2.0 tools, this is certainly an interesting question to pose. As an avid technology user and life long learner this question has prompted a lot of pondering on my part.

In my view, life is fundamentally about people and relationships. Relationships provide the foundational connection between people as they foster many emotions: love, trust, comfort, sense of well being, caring and personal value. Relationships contain a core ingredient of real time interaction as one of many important components. I do not believe the essence of human interaction can exist in complete isolation. Social networking applications such as Facebook function in an asynchronous communication patterns. I do not believe fully functional relationships can exist with this interactive pattern only.

Based on this thinking, I would have to cast my vote as ‘no’. Facebook can not fully replace face-to-face interactions.

However, I do see an exciting future where people will have more and more opportunities to live in a blended world that maximizes one’s experiences that embrace face to face interactions and relationships, effectively use Facebook, other social networking tools, and other web 2.0 tools, as a way to connect with people, learn and work in a rich and collaborative manner.

As we continue to develop and refine our notions of the meaning of digital citizenship and learn how to embed these fundamental values in each of us, I believe we will have impacted human communication in a truly positive and global way.

~ Mark

Click, click … web design

A couple of weeks ago a co-worker gave me a copy of Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug to read. I read about a third of the book today. As I started to read, I could see that the typical web user patterns described in the early chapters were in fact a reflection of many of my own browsing habits. 

There were a couple of key points were made that really struck me. Although it seems painfully obvious, it is important that web sites be designed to reflect the manner in which the TYPICAL end user will use/browse/interact with the site. The bottom line is, if a site is too awkward to use, people will be less likely to return to the sight. Secondly, in spite of the careful design of most sites, users gather information much in the same way you do zipping down the highway and glancing at a bill board.

Ideas covered in the book so far include: simplistic design, minimizing the amount of text used, establishing a clear visual hierarchy of information and minimizing the clicks – and all illustrated effectively through some great analogies.

My context? As we look at rolling out web sites for large numbers of staff in my Board, we have been focusing on simple design in an easy to use, easy to support environment. Many aspects of the book clearly line up well with our intent and gives me even more insights to planning our rollout of websites. 

I am looking forward to reading the rest of the book. Based on what I have read and learned so far, I would recommend Don’t Make Me Think as a good read for anyone involved in web design whether your plans are big/small or professional/personal. 

~ Mark

Education Is The Place To Be

Working in education is a great place to be. In many respects, we have more opportunities than ever before.  Consider all that is before us: curriculum requirements, improved achievement scores, literacy, digital citizenship, the role of technology,  integration of technology, web 2.0 tools for learning, the changing role of the library, content filtering, the many forms of elearning, use of smart phones, content delivery,  social networking, equity and inclusion, funding, sustainability, infrastructure, sufficient staffing levels, user generated content, engaged learners, teacher training and best classroom practice. This is by no means a complete list, but gives a good idea of the complexity of challenges that all educational institutions are grappling with. 

One of the key points to ponder in my mind, is the notion of systemic change. Every educational organization has a complicated landscape of successes, excellence, innovation, broken fronts and perhaps some failures. How do we capture all of the right aspects of the many educational ingredients I listed above and mould them into a plan for systemic change to benefit all students? 

In my role as a K-12 CIO, I am actively engaged in analyzing and developing strategies to align our IT planning with the learning agenda in a sustainable and progressive manner that will give us the best of 21st century learning and support systemic change for improved learning. While this topic will be the main theme of my blog, I will write about educational technology in broader terms as well as other personal interests.

~ Mark

Connect, Learn, Reflect, Share: Make a Difference Today

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