ROCK RAPIDS—Behind the sleek Central Lyon School District website is a team of high school students who are tasked with keeping the page full of fresh, accurate content.
Since 2001, Central Lyon High School teacher and web manager Denise Snyders has led an elective course called webpage which teaches students the basics of web creation and design.
“I put them on three units of an online class to learn the history of the World Wide Web, HTML, a little coding, some of the terminology and then we also at the same time take care of the Central Lyon webpage,” Snyders said.
Two students — sophomores Kaylee Davis and Colton Vander Streek — are in the class this semester, and six are signed up to take it next semester.
Snyders described the class as more of a work environment: Once the students learn the inner workings of the school’s website, they complete assignments that consist of posting up-to-date information on the site.
“It’s cool that we can edit our school webpage and have access to that,” Davis said.
Unlike in previous classes, where students gain gradual access to the website, Snyders gave Davis and Vander Streek full access this semester.
“We pretty much just jumped right into the deep end,” Vander Streek said.
One project the students have been working on in class is updating the website’s “We The Lions” tab, which contains archives of the schools sports teams and extracurricular organizations.
To update the archives, the class has recorded win-loss records for sports competitions, listed out names for team rosters and graduating classes and posted all the awards Central Lyon High School students have won through the years.
Students in webpage also maintain records of current sports teams and student organizations. That means they regularly communicate with coaches and faculty advisers to get accurate information and recent photos of student groups.
In addition to learning how to maintain a website and do basic graphic design work, students in Snyders’ class learn how to organize their time and work as a team to complete their tasks on a given day. They also learn to take pride in their work because the end product is not just for Snyders to see but something everyone can look at.
“It’s not just, ‘I’m going to hand in a C product and be OK with a C.’ Whatever they do, ‘Mom and Dad and Grandma and my cousins in Arizona might see,’” Snyders said.
The idea for the webpage class originated in 2000 when the former instructor for the school’s Talented and Gifted program, Terry Van Berkum, created a website for the program. He then asked Snyders if students in the computer applications class she was teaching would like to help maintain the site.
In the early years, the class used free web-editing software programs to build and maintain the website. Those programs had required students to learn extensive coding, such as HTML, to update the site.
“There was a lot of hiccups with it,” she said. “It was to the point in 2008, we had to really invest in some new programs, not shareware and get serious about it.”
That year, the class switched to using a web-hosting company called Simplified Online Communications Systems, which required less coding because it came with pre-made web templates on which students could insert content.
Snyders offers the class each semester of the school year for different sets of students. However, if a student shows a particular interest in the class, she invites them to return as a webmaster to help her manage the next class.
Although the number of students who take the class has dwindled in recent years, Snyders said that has not posed much of a problem.
“In the past, I’d have 10 or 15 a semester, but that’s kind of changed,” she said.
“But I can get by with two highly motivated students almost better than I can 10 students if they’re taking it because they don’t know what else to take.”