Pam asks “Can teacher templates be made that are easy and flexible for even the as Terry puts it in my tagboard, the ‘joes and josephines’ to use?” Well, um, yeah it can. But if you start counting all of the Manila carcasses out there, I think the only conclusion I can arrive at is that the basic teacher needs more than the basic template. I’d guess that 80% of the regularly updated Manila sites (not Radio) are personalized in some way, and what that says to me is that the basic template is leaving a lot to be desired.
Case in point: I’ve been supporting one of my teachers in implementing Manila into his Lit class. (Sample) The major tweaks that I had to add to the template for him were the Links and Department lists to the nav column. Let me say first of all that to me, those two are essential and should come with every template. Now maybe I just don’t know how to do that, and I know that a while ago David had been discussing some call backs that could be included into templates to facilitate this. But I’ve had to go and create the story pages, then insert the include macros and create the departments etc. for every single site I’ve created. Seems like it should be easier. In addition to those tweaks, some of the templates don’t work with news days, others have table cells that mysteriously expand off the page and on…just enough to drive me crazy.
And yes, this brings me back to the building the better tool debate. Manila is a wonderful tool for those of us who have the time, skills and inclination (ask Pam about inclination) to tweak and personalize it to our needs. But isn’t it getting obvious that there aren’t that many of us out here? Pat is lamenting the fact that none of his workshop teachers in Atlanta are showing any interest. My teachers a complaining that just posting is too hard. Frankly, whoever named the functions in Manila must of been hungover. News should be Post. And my kids constantly get thrown by Create a New Topic. What is that? Waaaayyyy too unintuitive (if that’s a word.)
Anyway, this talk of templates has more importance that I think we realize…if we really want to promote use of Web logs as a tool to improve teaching and learning, we have to improve the tool first. That or create a new one.