After a crazy year (being out half the year due to an emergency), Came back trying to shake things up again! Student blogs added, gamification plugin NEW VERSION rolled out and tinkered with… also working exceptionally hard to get the site tablet friendly! Fully Responsive, cleaner interface, and 20% more awesome!
Moved to wordpress with the first version of the gamification plugin, and experimented with some responsive design elements. Moved things to brainbuffet.net to experiment in case the whole thing crashed and burned!
The new twist that gives this site a half rev is the introduction of the Online Lab using moodle. It’s set an amazing atmosphere in the lab- very cooperative, very encouraging, and students are learning to listen to constructive criticism. They grade each other and can see/rate/comment on each other’s work in the forums where they turn in their work. I’ve abandoned most of the formal writing and used (stolen) another idea from Mike Skocko at the Maclab
Version 4.0.- 2006
This is the Fourth incarnation of this website. It was created since version 3.0 kind of bonked and I couldn’t get into the admin page anymore to update it. It was getting to be time to move to a newer (easier) system anyway, and I’m glad it happened. A lot of work when I didn’t need extra work, but it’s all worth it. WordPress is AMAZING
Version 3.0- 2004
This was the first attempt at using a CMS for the site. I started with drupal and it was a pretty good way to run the site, but over time I realized I was using a cannonball to swat a fly and started looking at a switch. I really only considered a move to WordPress, and then the site crashed and I couldn’t admin any more. During this whole time I was also going through a bad time and frankly, the site suffered for it.
Version 2.0- 2001
This implementation, developed in September of 2001 (right around the time of the terrorist attack on the US) is without doubt, the most aggressive and complex redesign of the site. As a technology teacher, I am always getting questions from friends and family about technology. I often find myself answering similar questions to different people via e-mail. To save myself some time, I decided to add sections to my page that would be a resource to friends, family, students, and parents about all things technological. I don’t claim to have all the answers; but I’m pretty geeky and like to keep up on the PC pulse. If I find some great resources for friends and family, instead of e-mailing the information out, I’ll post it here.
Here’s some neat things I learned while making this new version of the site:
- TEMPLATES! TEMPLATES! TEMPLATES! Redesigning the site took forever because I did not use templates on the first site. Templates allow you to create “stationery” for your web pages. Note that on this site, every page has the same header, navbars, etc. This is done using templates. If I want to change the header on all the pages, I simply edit the template, and VIOLA! All the pages are updated. I heard that SSI is an even more elegant solution, but I don’t know how to use it yet. Templates are an option in most professional webpage editing packages. I recommend Macromedia Dreamweaver. The next time I have to redesign the site, I will only have to do one page, and apply that page as a template to all my pages!
- CSS is the key to consistent page formatting. CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets” and allows you to create a “look” for a particular HTML tag. For example, you see how all the sections are divided up with the text in the light blue bars? That’s done using CSS. I simply told the stylesheet to make all “heading 2″ sections blue with a light blue box around it. You can also redefine colors, fonts, even mouseovers on links as you see in this page!
- Obtain your domain early, and get the “.com” domain if it’s available. Otherwise someone might get the “.com” name, trademark it, and make you move your site! I used tecknowledgey.net for over 2 years, put in hundreds of hours of work on it, and then had to move it because the guy with the .com was trademarking the name!
- PHP is the coolest thing going for webpages. PHP is free, and it’s even pretty simple. There’s a lot more to it than simply editing HTML and making links, but once you get it done, it requires much less work from you. You can create forums, let visitors comment on your pages, develop your own counters and webstats, much more. Check it out.
- Delivery and content over Eye-candy. The old page was SLOW in the Internet. It worked great in class where it was most often used, but students complained it was unbearably slow at home. I gave into using every nifty cool tool I could find and didn’t care much about how long it took to download. Use graphics sparingly. If it can be done in text, do it. Only use graphics when text is really ugly.
Version 1.5 – 1999
In October of 1999, the curriculum specialist for my county (Broward County, FL) faxed me a note about a contest in the county for teachers to enter their classroom web site. He had seen mine and knew that I was using it as my “living textbook” in the tech lab. I jumped online and found that the deadline for entering sites was October 27th! I began working diligently to get the site done in time to meet that deadline with all of the specified items included. This time, I used strictly a free trial version of Dreamweaver 2 and Fireworks 2 (again, I only get 30 days!). So, I spent many LATE nights from October 6 to October 26 (it was due on the 27th) making the following changes:
- Added the Info page (because it needed it)
- Added to Scenarios pages (because they needed it)
- Added Site Maps (to meet competition criteria-very time consuming, but worth it.)
- Added Searches (to meet competition criteria- that one was TOUGH!!! not sure it was worth it )
- Added tree menu (to meet the table of contents/index criteria for the competition)
- Created new headers for certain pages (the ghosted white overlapping images- to add a little.)
- Created text only version of the site (again to meet contest criteria)
- Added Interactive Zone- (to meet competition criteria for interactivity/multimedia- and to see if I could do it.)
- Added Cookies to learn name, count visits, and record visits (to meet competition criteria for interactivity/multimedia- and to see if I could do it.)
- Organized and divided Resource Page into sections (it was pretty unorganized originally)
- Added map to Campus (thought it was a good idea- stop by and see the lab!)
- Added Countdowns on main page (everyone always wants to know those dates)
- Added Date modified script (so students will know when I have made changes- I will probably begin to document them)
- Rebuilt script parameters for the imagemaps for use in the lab- Java doesn’t like relative URL’s over a network.
Things learned in Version 1.5: (TecKNOWLEDGEy.net)
- WINGDING FONTS ARE AWESOME! If you look at many of the headers that have simple graphics on them ghosted in the background on the old site- those images aren’t clip-art, they’re fonts! And because they’re true-type, they resize easily with no jaggies and any program can use them! Use the Character Map application in the accessories folder to find characters.
- You can write a curriculum and hand it out on paper and kids will lose them, draw on them, make paper airplanes, etc.; and if you want to make a change you have to hand out a whole new copy. Do it on the Internet and make changes whenever you want, save a few trees, and your kids will think you’re really cool! There’s no way to lose. You can get started for free using free web page providers (visit Freewebspace.net) and free web page builders (like Netscape Composer). Many of the projects I do can be done with little or no expense, provided you have computers available. You can even download free trial versions of GREAT software from most of the major companies and see what ones you like best! Then buy from an educational software vendor to get great prices! You get special teacher pricing! I save an average of 72% off of retail.
- Javascipt is AMAZING and it’s also pretty easy to modify. You can do it if I can… Writing from scratch is tough, but not impossible. Normally you won’t need to write your own, you can just modify a free script from online archives. No need to reinvent the wheel!
- Time flies when you’re editing a web site. (It’s 12:45 as I write this- planned on hitting the sack at 11:00. Yikes…)
- Dreamweaver and Fireworks are the best applications in the world for managing and creating a web site.
- If you get stuck and can’t figure something out, ask your students. They’re brilliant. (And they make great teachers!)
- Audio is really annoying after the novelty wears off! Use it SPARINGLY! (the whole lab was going “Intelligence”, “Organizations” etc.. at the same time in my edited robot voice! YUK! See what I mean by clicking here, and having someone roll their mouse over the links for 30 minutes.)
- Anfy Team makes the best applets and interfaces on earth… Thanks, Anfy! See the Cube on this site.
- JAVA!! AAARRGGGHHH!!! You gotta love it and you gotta hate it. I had the whole site up and running, and then I checked it using other browsers (IE4 and Netscape 4, 4.7). None of the java worked. All the cool effects, nifty menus and searches just quit working. Can’t figure it out, so I’m just going to recommend that people only visit the broadband site with IE5 until I figure it out. I ended up creating the whole “Fast Modem” area of the site as a result.. another 5 hours just disappeared.
- RealVideo is amazing. (UPDATE- REAL VIDEO IS NO LONGER AMAZING. H264 COMPRESSION IS.) The video of the newscast was originally 100 megs. The high quality version was compressed to only 3.3 megs and the low quality to 1.1. They include a handy-dandy uploader that you HAVE to use to post your pages when you first start or they won’t work. After that, check the changes in the code and you can hand code it. Real producer is a free software package that converts .avi to RealVideo.
I created the first implementation of the website in 1998 using Netscape Composer, plain HTML, and a downloaded version of Fireworks and Dreamweaver (I had 30 days!). At this point it was only being used in my class and was quite limited. The scenarios pages were much shorter and less detailed; including only the scenario, specs, and a link to the intel page. The resources page was really limited and the interactive zone didn’t exist. But I found it to be a great way to get information to the students quickly in a way that they were familiar with and that they enjoyed. I activated the Active Desktop feature of Windows 95 so that the background of the screen is the web page. That makes it very easy for the students to access. I posted a copy on a free web page site (don’t even remember which one now) so students could access from home. I don’t really know where the science fiction interface came from. I must have just been in the mood for some high-tech cyberthriller motif.
The original page, TecKNOWLEDGEy.net was forced to shut down as a company had trademarked the name “TecKNOWLEDGEy.” I was sent a cease and desist letter regarding that name, and was told that the company would reimburse me for any moneys I had spent on the site. They never did, but I was so far down the redesigning road that I decided that I would just go with the new site name I had developed, “Brain Buffet.” (what’s with the name?) (By the way, this domain and two others (.net and .org) were donated to me for this project by Newsub, a division of Synapse Group, Inc. Thanks for the support!)
This site has rather humble roots. I had started teaching a Technology Education course at McFatter Technical Center’s new magnet high school in 1998. To make a long story short, (read the long version here) I had no curriculum. Out of desperation, I created a collection of “Memos” for my students to explore the software and hardware in my lab and learn the basics themselves. I basically just applied problem solving techniques to what would normally be linear projects. Those memos kept getting lost, and students would take them home to work on them for homework. I decided to place the documents in a shared folder on the network to give the students access to the memos(and to keep from having to print a copy every week or two). That collection of word documents on a shared network connection is how this whole thing got started.