photo credit: Cortes de Cima via photopin cc
photo credit: Cortes de Cima via photopin cc

Thinking about redesigning my COETAIL website had me very excited.  Excited because I love restrictions.  Restrictions in a system such as WordPress make me want to know ways in which I can get the most out of the constraints.  Twitter conversations with @Joe Teft, @itsallaboutart, and @anneinistanbul had sparked my interest making my blog look a little more professional and possibly less clunky. So I set out with this in mind.

Less is/always often more.

Images need to attract and connect.

Organization needs to be clear.

I figured this list was a good start.


My Site Before the Revamp

My Blog Before Part 1
Blog Before Original screenshot – Before the revamp


Initial Analysis

So – some through some analysis of the screenshots I identified a few things I wanted to change about the layout and design of my blog site. Number one seemed to be the clunkiness of the footer information. I didn’t want to have people to scroll down to get a sense of everything that might be available on my site. I wanted this information such as my twitter feed, etc. easily visible on the initial landing of the blog.  I also wanted to showcase more of what I am about on the initial landing site.  What am I really learning? and how might I use this blog as a vessel to really show this information in a way that others could use.

Theme Choice

Out of the 16 choices I wanted something graphically oriented allowing me to express some of what I do every day as an art teacher.  I think Magazino – the theme I have chosen does this in a good way.  What I realized was missing was some polish.

Further Connections

Thinking about “good design” had me reflecting on how my own personal design decisions might impact my teaching.  This year our school has adopted the new Core Arts Standards and working through these over the summer and early this year has brought to my attention the huge impact visual literacy really is amassing.  The Core Art Standards are exciting as a Visual Arts instructor as they provide a framework which is really rooted in understanding not only what artists create, but also how they got there.  There is a real emphasis on process and product and I appreciate this a lot as do many of my students who are worried they are not good artists.  As I mull over these new documents with colleagues, and explore them in other ways with students I cannot help but be impressed with the connections between them and the work I am doing towards enhancing my own knowledge of Visual Literacy.

Essential Questions

How do artists work? How do artists and designers determine whether a particular direction in their work is effective? How do artists and designers learn from trial and error?

Taken from: National Arts Standards, Creating Strand, Visual Arts, 2014

How does refining artwork affect its meaning to the viewer?

Taken from: National Arts Standards, Presenting Strand, Visual Arts, 2014

What is an image? Where and how do we encounter images in our world? How do images influence our views of the world?

Taken from: National Arts Standards, Responding Strand, Visual Arts, 2014

The After Effects

The Menu Bar
The Menu Bar


After many alterations (too many to screen shot – trust me).  I feel like I am on my way towards revamping my site in a way that I can continue to be proud of and may attend to some of the goals I wanted to achieve.  First thing I wanted to tackle was, “less is more”.  To this end, I chose to use pages over widgets on my main site.  You can see the pages are neatly organized in the menu bar at the top and definitely take away from the clutter and irregular shapes of the content in the footer.

Blog Before
Old Footer Organization
New Footer Organization
New Footer Organization

I was hoping by keeping things organized at the top of each page I could allow viewers to move back and forth between content on the site.


A big part of my theme and site in general is the use of images to connect content and entice the reader into the site.  With this in mind I want to ensure I am using really pertinent and excellent images.  When I look at Nicki Hambleton‘s site I am always inspired to try to find ways I might be able to get some original imagery onto my blog.  My goal for duration of this course will be to look deeper at some of the images I have already posted on this site and urge myself to work at finding the best image to connect with my content.  I hope as I get better using sites such as compfight, photopin, wikicommons and other sites with easy attribution I will be able to add images to my site which really speak to the content I am producing.  Likewise as I start to become a producer of images for sharing (another goal is to use my flickr account more) I know the content available to me is increasing every day!  Talk about connectedness!


As I sort of alluded to – keeping things organized seems like a great way to allow others to get the most out of my site.  Again, I have opted to try using pages vs widgets, my hope being that I can keep things neat clean and possibly compartmentalised or grouped.  I am also hoping I can populate these pages with richer content that I possibly could using just widgets – this being said I am already having issues with how my twitter feed looks on a page.  I was hoping to recreate a tweetdeck sort of look with things I am following alongside my own content but alas this still eludes me.  Instead I went for a smaller height and dark background color.

Proud Moments

Something I am proud of is how I created my own tag cloud by taking screen shots of archived tags and linking them on a page to the corresponding content they refer to.  Probably clunky and old school but definitely doing what I want it to do.  I also am pleased with the revamped Learning 2.013 page and added content that the group of teachers I attended with collaborated on.  In keeping with the interest in Flipboard – I threw in a Flip it button – hoping someone might give it a try.  I’d be interested to see what it looks like.  Oh wait – I can try that myself!



9 thoughts on “FALL PRUNING

  1. Matt,

    Great to see your thought process laid out for others to follow and learn from. I love some of the changes you’ve instituted here, especially the twitter page. I think you might benefit from learning a bit of simple HTML: I wonder if you could code in an invisible table and have each of those individual widgets displayed in 3 columns or, if you add another feed, as a 2 x 2 block?

    I love how you’ve problem-solved your tag cloud idea. There might be another way to do it, but it’s working and it’s working for you and that is all that matters!


  2. That looks great!

    I’m not sure how you coded the table but on my screen the three columns are all (slightly) different widths. Is that a conscious choice (the widest width is the most important)? There is a way to specify the width of each column as a percentage of the entire table, i.e. column 1 = 33%, column 2 = 33%, column 3 = 34%, or as specific widths, i.e. if the entire table is 600px wide, then column 1 = 200px, column 2 = 200px, column 3 = 200 px.


    1. K – I’ve read through what you said and have polished it to a level I am happy with – you will note the coding has been changed to allow for equal spacing. Let me just admit – the fact that I searched out what to do – taught myself how to do it and then actually did this is exactly what I am trying to share with my students. I am completely going to use this as a teachable moment in my class today! THANK YOU!


      1. Awesome work Matt! I know your students will love hearing about how you went through the same process that you are asking them to go through. It just shows the authenticity of what you are asking them to do…

        (And the twitter page looks awesome!)


  3. Matt,

    I always glean so much insight from your posts! The revamped site looks great.

    Intrigued by the new Core Arts Standards, I had a look and it made me think about how New Media Literacy competencies and ISTE standards fit. It’s such a transformative time in education at the moment. A simple observation I had was that design thinking seems to be reflected in all of them.


    1. Andrea,

      I can say the same about your work as well. Always a thoughtful read.
      I am getting a good feeling for the Core Art Standards and I am really enjoying digging deeper into them with some colleagues here at my school. I can’t agree with you more that design thinking is built in in so many ways. There is a huge push towards process vs product and I think my students and I are finding it totally liberating – albeit sometimes an interesting conversation with admin who may want art on the walls. This being said, seeing growth and progress from students is great wall art!


  4. I like the Twitter page. Thanks for the tip about the Flip It button. I might try that.

    You might find the Tags page a bit burdensome to keep up. I once had a page called “Do You Need an Idea?” where I posted links to other pages of useful ideas, but I never kept it up. In the end, I took it down. There’s a way to make your categories widget as a drop down menu. That’s how I handled avoiding having it clutter up my sidebar.

    Your new site looks great. Very clean and polished. It’s great to have another art teacher taking Coetail. I know that when I went through Course 3, I made a point of following blogs of Art teachers (like @aaronreed) and they always gave me extra insight into my learning as they brought with them extra expertise.

    Hope your cohort follows you and @itsallaboutart the same way!

    Thanks so much for sharing. I picked up a few things to try with my blog 😉



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