Thursday, January 22, 2009

File structure and web design

Generally speaking, my students don't understand computer file structure. After multiple experiences losing their assignments, the majority of them can at least save into their network folder. It's kind of like the backpack many of them carry. They stuff their work into the vast void and feel secure that it' in there somewhere. Maybe not immediately retrievable but accessible.

I've read a couple of articles stating that because of tagging and improving search functions, it will someday not matter that you have your files scattered across a morass of oddly named folders and a hundred files all called "untitled". Considering the state of my physical desktop, my office and my garage, I don't have much of a high horse from which to preach. So, for most of my kids I only mock their tangled files, help them organize if they want and not accept "I don't know where I saved it" as an excuse for late homework.


My web design students need to know how to organize their files and understand their relative position to each other and how to describe the path to a specific file from another. Editing programs, like Dreamweaver, let you get away from thinking about this and link pictures and files from where ever they may lurk on your hard drive. If you were never to move those files up to a server and only look at your pages from your own machine separated from the eyes of the world, that would be fine. But, we create web pages to share. To post. To be looked at by someone other than the nagging, bearded teacher looking over your shoulder.

Therefore, I spend time trying to get my web students to understand the concepts of "tree" and "relative" and "absolute" and what "../file.doc" means. Every one of them will have to eventually troubleshoot a broken link on one of their pages. Every one of them will have to organize the multiple files and folders it takes to create a web site. I, as the teacher, need to figure out a way to help them do that in a professional manner without ranting or beating them with blunt objects.

I've tried having them map out a file structure using a graphics program but unless they are really adept at using the program, the process seems to get in the way. I was planning on looking into some of the online mind mapping programs when I stumbled upon WriteMaps from a posting by Jennifer Kyrnin on It has one purpose and that is to visualize a site map. It's simple to use. It's online. It's free. You can share your work with others. I am thinking this is the program for my class.

Students would each need to create their own account and need an email address to do so. You only have the choice of one graphic. One color. But, I think that may be part of it's usefulness. There are no distractions from the purpose of the program. You map out your site and that's it.

I'll let you know how it works out in my classroom.

[via About.Com]

[Image: A badge from the WriteMaps website:]
[Image: 2nd image was created in WriteMaps]

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