Saturday, April 23, 2005

Give a child a computer.... and they might teach YOU a few things!

I put our old computer in my 8 year old daughter’s room. Just leaving it in her room and allowing her to play on it unsupervised has taught her so much! She has figured out how to use the Paint program to design wall paper for her computer. One day when I walked into her room the marquee told me, “Kelsey’s Room GET OUT.” Watching her at the computer is very puzzling because she uses many shortcut keys that I didn’t know existed. She has picked up on other things that are a mystery to me, too. She’s recognized and explained some HTML coding to me!

Today, while browsing the internet looking at some homeschool family websites, I happened onto a web site created by a child. His web page was simple and listed his hobbies, his siblings, pets, and finally, a drawing. I called my daughter into the room so that she could see his artwork. She was very excited and said that she wanted to make a webpage to show off her artwork. I was thrilled. This is my dream: to have my children design their own web pages!

I opened up Netscape Composer and showed Kelsey how she could easily change the background and fonts. That’s where I always start (play) when I make a page; color and style. To my dismay, we couldn’t get the background to change colors. Netscape wouldn’t accept our selections! You never notice how frustrating something is until you try to explain it or show it to a child. She wanted the page light blue and every time we made that selection and pressed “ok” the page was white! This kind of thing never happens to me when I sit down and make a web page; why does it happen when you try to show someone else?

I decided to check the HTML source to see what was going wrong and I noticed that Netscape was giving us selections using a different code in the menu than was actually being written into the HTML source code. So, we started playing around with the numbers on the HTML source page until I made a terrible mistake and erased the whole background color code. I went to the menu again to change the background color, selected light blue, and viola! The background changed to light blue! It had to be broken before we could fix it.

What really fascinated me was that my daughter knew what color each numerical value in the parenthesis represented. The source code would define a color by three variables: (x,y,z) the X stands for red, the Y represents blue, and the Z represents green. (it might be blue and then green) When we were trying to change the background color through the menu, it would give us HEX codes to choose from. Hex codes look like this: f#abcdef where the alphabetical letters can be any numeral. I found several HEX charts on the internet so that we could figure out how to make any color we wanted directly in the HTML source. By sitting down with my daughter and encountering problems I learned so much!

Every time my daughter would make changes to her page, I would show her how those changes looked in the html source. She knew what tags started the page and what tags ended it and that HTML stood for “Hyper Text Mark-up Language.” All the codes to tell the browser how to display the web page would appear in-between those two symbols. I don’t know what these TAGS are called, technically, but we call them “start” and “the end.” I guess we use a form of REDNECK HTML here at our house.

Growing up, I always referred to the “control” key as the “citril” key, because I didn’t know what the proper name for it was.

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