FCIT Home > A Teacher's Guide to School Web Sites > Chapter 7: Other Issues



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Accessibility

One issue of great importance is that of accessibility. School web sites should be easily accessible to a wide range of audiences including persons with disabilities. By following certain guidelines, your school site can be made more accessible. A general principle to keep in mind is that all non-text content (graphics, audio, video) should have a text equivalent.

Visual considerations:

Hearing considerations. Video and audio are great additions to a site. Users with hearing impairments can be accommodated by adding captions directly to the video or a transcript of the audio that can be accessed separately. In other words, video and audio should be accompanied by equivalent text versions.

Language issues. When writing for the Web, it is important to consider how your words will be interpreted. For example, your students may be from other countries and their parents may speak a first language other that English. Therefore, it is important that the wording you use be very clear. Clarity can be improved by avoiding slang or jargon unfamiliar to non-native English speakers. Writing out acronyms is also helpful.

Checking your site for accessibility. When your site is complete, you should have it reviewed for accessibility. One site, Bobby, reviews your web site, analyzes its accessibility, and provides feedback on parts that do not meet specific criteria. This site can be found at http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/index.jsp. If all pages on your web site are without accessibility errors, you may display the Bobby Approved icon. A similar site for checking accessibility is the W3C HTML Validation Service at http://validator.w3.org/.


Safety

When publishing work or information on the Web, it is essential that the safety of your students be a primary concern, as well as that of your faculty, administration and staff. It is likely that your school district has precise policies regarding this issue. The guidelines below are basic and may vary from your district’s policies. Be sure to check before publishing anything to your site.

Photographs. Students love to have their photographs published for all to see, but it is important to keep the students anonymous. Be sure parents have signed a release to publish their childís photograph. Publish photographs with three or more students and do not include the studentsí names. Instead, describe the activity that is taking place.

Personal information. Do not publish personal information about students or anyone else such as their home address or phone number. In addition, avoid giving information about family members or friends.

Student work. If student work will be published on the site, be sure to have the parentsí permission to do so. Some school districts allow a studentís first name to be published as long as a photograph does not accompany it. Keep in mind that student reports or movies that are published to the Web should not include any content that gives personal information or identifies a personís daily routine indicating where they can be found.


Copyright

Teachers and students have a somewhat flexible, but not unlimited, copyright privilege under the “fair use” clause of the U.S. Copyright Act. “Fair use” is the means by which educators in nonprofit educational institutions may use copyrighted works without seeking permission or making payment to the author or publisher. Teachers and students are also protected to some extent by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which went into effect in October 1998. Under current guidelines, teachers and students are able to make limited use of copyrighted materials for instructional purposes.

Currently, copyright law as it relates to the Internet is vague and being challenged and reinterpreted on an ongoing basis. However, the guidelines of the “fair use” clause can be applied to Internet use in the classroom. Although classroom use allows teachers and students to be creative, you must be extremely careful. Teachers and students should realize that all materials found on the Web are protected by the same copyright laws as printed materials. Copyright protects “original works of authorship” that are in a tangible form of expression.

Copyrightable works include the following categories:

These categories should be viewed broadly. For example, computer programs and most "compilations" may be registered as "literary works"; maps and architectural plans may be registered as "pictorial, graphic, and sculptural works."

Important questions to ask:

It is allowable under copyright guidelines to use copyrighted materials for class assignments. Check specific guidelines for the length of time the material can be kept on a web site.

When in doubt, ask. If you and your students find a graphic or portion of text on the Web that you want to utilize in a class project, locate the source of the web site and email the webmaster to ask permission for use of their material. Some web site owners are happy for you to "borrow" their graphics and words. Some ask that you give them credit and others do not. Although your students may be too young to comprehend copyright law, they can understand the concept of respecting someone elseís property.

For more information on "Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia," go to http://www.utsystem.edu/ogc/intellectualproperty/ccmcguid.htm.


Promoting Your Site

Now that you have produced a terrific school site, you need to help visitors find it. As a first step, youíll want to add your schoolís URL to newsletters, flyers, business cards and other printed material. You should also attempt to get your site listed with the major search engines. This process involves both preparing your pages and then submitting them to the search engines and directories.

The most important consideration is to include focused content on each page—something that was already stressed in the writing section. Secondly you should include both <keyword> and <description> meta tags within your <head> </head> tags. For the <keyword> meta tag, list important key phrases that people might search for when looking for your site. Do not needlessly repeat words in the <keyword> meta tag—that may get your site kicked out of the search engines altogether! If there is a common misspelling of one of your key terms, include that in the list as well. (Don’t worry. The misspelling will not appear on your page!) For the <description> meta tag, write a concise summary of the page to appear in the search engine’s results list. The <keyword> and <description> meta tags for the Sunny Skies homepage might look something like this:
<meta name="description" content="Sunny Skies Elementary School in Tampa, Florida, is committed to the success of every student.">
<meta name="keywords" content="Sunny Skies Elementary School, Sunny Skys Elementary School, Tampa, Hillsborough">
Then you should go to the major search engine and directory sites and follow their directions for submitting your site.



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