Welcome to my website. Mandybarrow.com is one of many websites I run, the most well known being the Woodlands Junior website. I am completely self taught and have created most of the content of all my websites during evenings and weekends. My paid job today is teaching computers.
I started the world famous Woodlands Junior website from scratch fourteen years ago and new very little about computers at the time. In fact, I bought my first computer in February 1999 and launched the website in October the same year.
Today, not only is Woodlands Junior School the most visited school website in the country (by far), but it regularly hits the number three spot for all educational websites in the UK. Each weekday the site receives a minimum of 100,000 visitors. During the last twelve months a total of 31,339,106 people visited the site.
The Early Years – Creating my First Website
When I started I didn’t really have any master plan. Not many schools had their own website and a survey I conducted at school showed that only 53% of parents had internet access at home.
I started the website because I wanted to create a presence for the school on the internet.
The website consisted of only a few pages to start with. I created pages for displaying the school prospectus first. After the school bought a scanner and a digital camera, I was able to scan some of the students’ artwork and take photographs of school life. The best of these were then put onto the internet in the newly created classwork pages.
I then decided to add some games to our website to attract more visitors and to entertain our students in the evenings. Other pages soon followed including Homework Help, Teacher Zone, Cool Links, Jokes page and a Maths Zone.
Getting the Students Involved
Once I was confident I started to involve the students more. A small group of Year 6 worked together to produce the first Woodlands student website, which gave an insight into school life through the eyes of the students.
Later, I let more students produce their own homepages during their computer lessons. At first these were only a basic page with a brief introduction about themselves and their family. Then, as I became more ambitious, I let the students create their own mini websites using Macromedia Dreamweaver, software used by many of the big companies at the time.
The websites they created were made by using a set formula:
- My Family,
- My School,
- My Holidays,
- My Diary,
- My Hobby.
So, every student had the same six page web site but it was up to them to create their own style.
A small group of students became really interested in making we sites so I gave them an opportunity to help create and update pages on the main website. I found there was a hole in the market for good child friendly websites about England and also to help primary aged children with their homework.
The Benefits to Students
There is no better motivation than having your work read by thousands of real people every minute of the day! Exercise books are yesterday and are only often read by a teacher and parents. Websites, blogs and wikis don’t get thrown in the bin or lost and are read by millions of people.
The school often receive letters and postcards from students around the world. Some of these are just asking questions about life in England, whilst others are looking for pen friends. This gave the students a fantastic insight to life in other countries as well as identifying where each country is in the world.
After leaving Woodlands Junior School in 2003, I worked for the local education authority as an ICT Consultant for seven years. I now work part time at The Granville School, an independent school in Sevenoaks, teaching ICT to 3 year olds up to 11 year olds. I also work at St John’s Primary School in Sevenoaks, where I am an e-learning co-ordinator working alongside teachers helping them embed ICT in their lessons using iPads and computers.
Although the resources remain on the Woodlands Junior website, I have created two new websites to host all the resources.
Project Britain www.projectbritain.com
Homework Help www.primaryhomeworkhelp.co.uk
London Topic www.londontopic.co.uk/