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CREATEing the Website

Building the website - Richard Clift

Creating CREATE: the Website

With the help of the Helios Foundation, the University of Arizona College of Education embarked on the ambitious redesign of its early childhood teacher education program. Based on the Funds of Knowledge, Communities as Resources in Early Childhood Teacher Education (CREATE) envisions a fundamentally new paradigm to prepare early childhood teachers that will impact children at the Pre-K to 3rd grade level in unique and positive ways. The Helios Foundation saw that CREATE, its successes and struggles, would be a model for other programs around the country and endorsed developing a website to chronicle CREATE’s efforts.

Our project team prioritized what our website should include:

•The ability to play video cases for instructors to use at UA and elsewhere

•A platform to post research findings

•A calendar for the project stakeholders

•An organizational structure around the Funds of Knowledge four guiding principles

•Professional resources and links to other exemplary programs

•News about the project

•Curriculum strands and applicable resources

•Project accomplishments

•A section accessible only to the team where documents and information could be shared

•A blog by different participants about the project

•A book search and listing of books appropriate for Pre-K to 3rd grade

We started with a demo site on Google to test out initial ideas, layouts, and navigation. We shared all of this with our Board of Advisors who made wonderful suggestions. Chief among them was the idea to have different portals to the site for different communities (preservice ECE students; community partners and families; and teachers, educators, researchers). We then needed to decide:

•Who would develop our site?

•What platform should we use

•Where should we host the site?

We realized the developer would be invaluable in helping us answer the final two questions so we made that decision first. We also wanted him/her to be local so that we could communicate ideas more easily. Once that decision was made, we knew that we would need to work in some capacity with UA technology services since they hosted the wowlit.org site where we could access our large database of children’s literature instead of creating a redundant one. The wowlit.org site uses WordPress, but it also has some limitations that would make doing everything we wanted more difficult. The university, at the time, was hosting and supporting Drupal. However, we were unsure of its support over time. Finally, we decided on Plone as a platform since it allows a public and a private site, uses a more familiar OS style folder system, and allows documents to be tagged so that they appear in different areas of the site (making the portal requirement easier to manage). We chose a commercial hosting site for CREATE since it more fully supported the Plone platform and had less restrictive on how we could use it.

Adding content has been more of a challenge than anticipated. CREATE began in a whirlwind of simultaneous redesign and execution. Courses had already been planned, needed to be taught, and were amenable to only minor modifications. Our project team for the first year was teaching, innovating, and planning a five-year redesign all at the same time. Consequently, a lot was being done, but little of it was ready for publication. Participants were otherwise engaged and had little time for content production.

As we embark on a new year, we want to be able to keep a regular blog schedule, add more critical content, share what we have learned, and eventually be a “go to” place for ideas in preservice teacher education. Every now and then check us out and let us know how we are doing.

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