Ahead of its time | Defender of the People


Bill Lewis began teaching computer science at PHS in 1979. (Provided)

By Ashley McCarty

Defender of the People

Before Google, Facebook or YouTube 25 years ago in 1996, Peebles High School became one of the very first schools in the area to have a website.

“While we were constructing the new high school buildings, the school district sent several teachers to participate in workshops across the state. In one of these workshops, they taught us a bit about how to build a website. I had been teaching computer science at PHS for a number of years now, so it was an amazing thing to me that these tools did that. It was really possible for the students to do it. At that time, Microsoft was behind a project called Schools on the Web. You can build a website and then upload it to them, and that’s actually how we started, ”said former PHS computer science professor Bill Lewis.

The original group of 11 students credited with creating the website were Amy Farquer, Dale Fitzpatrick, Cori Hanna, Mandy Hedrick, Amanda Howard, Jason Howard, Beth Myers, Justin Myers, Jake Phipps, Regina Smalley and Robyn Workman. Since then, nearly 400 PHS students have been directly involved in its design and development.

“[Back then] we used notepad [to create the website]. While [during my tenure] we upgraded to Notepad ++, we continued to write the code for the whole website in hand-coded HTML. We wrote it by hand, we never used any web tools. I always felt that for the students, if they coded it by hand, it gave them a better understanding of what was going on. If you can code it by hand, you can adapt to using web tools very easily because you can understand the concepts behind it. Since then David Vogler has replaced me as a computer science teacher, and they continue to start doing manual coding, ”Lewis said.

Over the years, not only have students been able to learn the intricacies of HTML through the website, but they have also learned how to create graphic images, design, as well as the value of content writing.

“They learned to create graphic images, such as gifs, jpegs, to create icons or headers. We were extremely frugal. In 25 years, we have spent less than $ 1,000 in total. We have bought a few digital cameras over the years. We used Paintshop Pro instead of Photoshop, and we used it to teach them how to do graphic editing. Beyond the mechanics of writing HTML and graphic editing, it was about learning to design; using the right colors as well as wallpapers. There was also written content, and [all of the aspects that go with that to do it properly]”Lewis said.

Along with working on the school website, students were encouraged to create pages about themselves.

“They would be so excited about it. It was something that many of them were very proud of, ”he said. He remembers many personalized and thoughtful pages created by his students reflecting their hobbies, interests and passions. Even without the Internet, these pages could be created and opened in a web browser.

“Once it started, I became very passionate about it. I always started the year by telling the students that I was very proud of the fact that this was a website created by them, by the students. I got my hands on it, but most of the time everything was done by the students. I took it and I’m so proud of it, ”said Lewis. Always very passionate, Lewis devotes two or three days each year to the guest instructor of the class.

“[Over the years the website] has taken many forms. At first the site was very basic, but it was something, and we were proud of it. As the students got used to seeing websites, they wanted to do different things. One year I remember the background for the school homepage seemed inspired by the Grateful Dead, ”Lewis said with a laugh,“ although something might not have been mine. taste, I supported the kids, because that was their website, “he said. Although Lewis was always adamant in making sure everything was tasteful and properly readable.

Since its inception in 1996, the website has been visited by all states and continents except Antarctica.

“Shortly before I retire [in 2014], he had been visited by someone from every state except two. I swore that if those two states had still not surrendered by the time I retired, I would go there and log into the website myself, ”he said with a laugh,“ but this happened before I retired.

Over the years, Lewis has had the opportunity to bond with some of these people in other states and countries and create a plethora of fond memories.

According to Lewis, between 2010 and 2012, the district switched to using a single central website for different areas of school attendance. Despite this change, the original PHS website continues to be updated.

“Since I left they have added a Twitter thread and integrated the school calendar which contains upcoming school events. It contains the bell schedule, teachers, course descriptions, news from various clubs, sports schedules, graduation information and much more. The website that students create is much more personal, ”said Lewis. Other than that, there is the story.

“There is a page on this on the history of PHS. One of the last big projects we undertook before I retired was to digitize all of the old senior composites. They are all over there. Many people in the community were enthusiastic about this. It contains information on the history of the buildings and even on the teaching staff. There is a lot of formal history outside of the [history students have created just by creating the pages]”Lewis said.

For those who want to experience the deeply nostalgic and captivating content that the PHS website has to provide, visit https://www.peebles.scoca-k12.org/.

“This is something that, in my last few years at Peebles, I was very proud of. I think we’ve created a new tradition that still continues. I hope to see it continue for many more years. If people visit the site I think they will find a lot of interesting and wonderful things, ”Lewis said.

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