A Difficult Transition: New Windows 7 Kills Long-Used FrontPage Program

At the start of the school year, students and teachers alike noticed a dramatic change in the technological scheme of Staples High School: Windows 7 has arrived.

According to Natalie Carrignan, the Director of Technology for Westport Public Schools, Windows 7 was brought to the district because the end date of support for the previous district operating system, Windows XP, is imminent.

“In order to have our computers in the best operational order with the latest possible security updates and more, we had to upgrade all computers in the district to Windows 7,” Carrignan said.

All of the computers at Staples, as well as those at Bedford and Coleytown Middle Schools, have been updated to Windows 7. By next August, it is expected that elementary school computers will be as well.

For the past several years, the majority of Staples teachers have had an online presence for their classes. For most, that presence has been on Blackboard, but for others, it has been on Microsoft FrontPage, a now discontinued web site administration tool.

Many FrontPage-using teachers have found an issue with the Windows 7 upgrade, largely being that they cannot access the web program with the new operating system.

Social studies teacher Eric Mongirdas is currently unable to access the FrontPage website he created and has used for the past five years for all of his classes, which range from U.S. History to East Asian Studies. He is currently using Blackboard as the website system for the courses is teaching this year: A.P. U.S. History and African Studies.

“It has been difficult to make the transition from FrontPage to Blackboard,” Mongirdas admits. “I put up everything on my FrontPage website. It was a one-stop shop.”

One of the features that Mongirdas has used on his class website over the years is a class calendar, where he has stored, by month, assignments, homework, assessment dates, and academic links for his students. He says that while he has been able to create a calendar on Blackboard, it is not in the style that he has been used to working with over the past few years.

Mongirdas adds that Blackboard has made it difficult to post images on certain pages. Last year on his A.P. U.S. History FrontPage website, he posted a picture of the Constitutional Convention on his homepage. Now, such an action is impossible.

“It’s not the end of the world, but there has definitely been a bit of a transition period to this new system,” Mongirdas said.

According to Mongirdas, some students that were in one of his classes in years past that are in his class again have responded somewhat negatively to his new Blackboard page.

“Some kids that I had before that I’m getting back as juniors and seniors said they liked my old page better. They say that they liked the way it looked before, and it was easier to find things on it then,” he said.

Carrignan says that when Microsoft announced the discontinuation of the FrontPage program in December 2006, Westport teachers were informed of this, and given several options at the time, such as to transition to a different web editing program called Dreamweaver, or to make the transition to Blackboard.

“They could use FrontPage as long as they could, knowing that they would not be able to use it forever,” Carrignan said.

However, English teacher Christina Richardson, who has been using FrontPage since it first came out in 2003, says she has found a way around the system, and has continued to use her FrontPage website even with the Windows 7 program.

“I’m not even a computer-savvy person, but there’s a way around it. It takes a couple more keystrokes, but everything’s the same. All my classes are updated to this year, and I have a whole new class up there, too,” Richardson said.
Richardson says that had she not been able to find a way around the program, she still would not have made the full transition to Blackboard.

“My personal website is so much more complete. The problem with Blackboard is that I would have to redo everything from scratch,” Richardson said. “If FrontPage became completely obsolete, I think there are other free websites I would transition to, like Google Sites.”

Carrignan says that all teachers in the district have been required to have a minimum presence in Blackboard since the district implemented the program. This has yet to be a problem for Richardson, who has simply posted a link to her FrontPage website on her Blackboard page.