In 2011, webpages look worlds different than the plain text and links of the 90’s. Between some amazing Flash and Java examples out there now, educational websites have come a long way in the past couple decades. …that being said, not all websites / hypermedia examples are created equal. Here is a list of three that gives a good overview of the state of educational sites in 2011.
The GOOD: BrainPop.com
BrainPop is a really good example of an educational website that has both content and quality of construction. The content spans most school subjects (from English to History to Art) and each page leads to other nested sub-pages so that users are truly given a self-selected, personalized experience each time they visit the page.
Instead of a random grouping of activities, each video, song or game on BrainPop is easy to find because of the very clear category navigation built in to the site.
Though the main idea behind BrainPop is that each mini-subject gets its own video(s), there are also other activities and quizzes to round out the package. There is also usually an “FYI” section that is more text based, for those learners that retain more through print than visual media.
BrainPop gets a solid “A” for both content and presentation of media.
The BAD: Starfall.com
It amazes me that this ranks up there as one of the “best” or most popular educational sites for kids on the web. When you go to their main page and all of their individual pages, your senses are bombarded with a million flashing icons (of questionable quality) arranged in seemingly thoughtless patterns.
When you go to the “Learn to Read” page, for instance, it is doubtful that a child would find the page appealing or user-friendly at all. There is just too much information jammed into a small space and limited instructions for choosing activities.
Though the content itself may be helpful for younger learners, the outdated layout, cheesy icon sets and ugly split homepage make this a less than stellar example of hypermedia in this day and age. (Get it? Stellar?)
StarFall gets a meager “C” from this reviewer, due to the less than friendly navigation and presentation of the media in question.
THE UGLY: EducationWorld.com
Now, before the EW people come after me and leave nasty comments, let me say this: EducationWorld does have some great stuff for teachers, including some helpful lesson plans that I used a time or two myself back when I was teaching.
…that being said: EW has to be one of the worst viewing / user experiences on the web for this category of website. Almost every navigation results in an annoying pop up with a force close built in.
The home page looks like it’s stuck in 1993 with almost all “old school” text and links and only a single “high tech” scrolling area with a picture and some relatively current info. The individual pages (such as “worksheets”) are no better, with corny graphics sparingly dotting the page to save the eyes from constant reading and glossing over hyperlinks.
It’s like Wikipedia, but your Uncle Bob’s version (the one whose only had a computer for three days and built his page using a GeoCities template).
The icing on the cake? The GIANT Oscar Meyer Ad on the front page flashing at me despite multiple refreshes to see if another ad would pop up. Yep, this page is the “mystery meat” of the educational website world. Grade: “F minus”.