Developing & Improving an ASA website:
Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith

by Craig Rusbult, website editor

a quick summary:
If you want to help in any way (check the Table of Contents for possibilities), please let me know:  Craig Rusbult,   Currently, our main need is finding high-quality resources on the web, so if you are expert in an area — or you're interested in it and want to become more expert by studying it — we can use your help. 

Table of Contents:
How can you help us, and why might you want to help?   Finding Web-Resources 
Increasing the Impact   Improving our Appeal — Visual, Verbal, and Functional 
Appealing to websurfers who "only want to learn a little" but are curious 
The Process of Accountability: Your Feedback and Our Responsibility 
Appendix:  The Audience  Marketing  Website Structure  Coping with Controversy

      WHY might you want to help?
      It's a Wonderful Life is my favorite movie, partly for its art (the plot, script, acting, filming,...) but mainly for the message:  Each of us affects other people, and life is better if we affect others in a way that is beneficial for them.
      One of the many ways for you to be a good "steward of knowledge" is to help us improve our website so it will be more beneficial for its users.

      HOW can you help?
      A good starting point is to explore the website — beginning with the homepage and sitemap — so you can see what is there, and decide whether you want to become involved in some parts of it.  In developing our website the main productive activity, which is challenging yet enjoyable, is to search for web-pages with good ideas and style.  Or you might write a links-page (describing the pages you've found) or a content-page with "good ideas and style."   { The main function of a content-page is to communicate ideas.  A links-page summarizes the main ideas about a topic, and describes the content-pages it links to. }
      There is more information about how to help in the next three sections:  Finding Web Resources, Increasing the Impact, and Giving it Appeal.

note:  The three sections below, plus the "why and how" above, are quoted (sometimes with minor revisions) from Improving the Website in the Science Education Commission Newsletter (October 2004).

      Finding Web-Resources

      Filling Gaps
      Currently, the website has many under-developed areas.  The homepage explains that whole-person education "is defined broadly so it includes a wide range of interesting ideas."  This is beneficial for users, but doing all areas well requires time, and currently the website is underdeveloped in many areas: in Effective Teaching (with Teaching Strategies and Teaching Activities), parts of School Options (especially for Private Schools) and World Views (for many topics), plus The Nature of Science (in stories and debates), environmental science, and more.
      Since much of the website is underdeveloped, and all of it can benefit from thoughtful evaluation, and science education is broadly defined, you can probably find some way to use your interests and expertise.  For example, some of you have devoted your careers to Christian schools.  Compared with you, I know very little about this area, so you would be more skilled in developing it.  If you look through the website, you'll find some areas where you are relatively expert and your knowledge would be useful.  Or, if you're interested in a topic you can become more expert by learning more about it while you're developing the website.
      If you find a fascinating area that is underdeveloped, and you can help us develop it, please let me know:  Craig Rusbult,

      Searching and Deciding
      Because many excellent content-pages are already on the web, our main strategy for developing the website will be finding these web resources and writing links-pages.
      In searching for content-pages, the key is selectivity.  With a search engine and a few minutes, it's easy to find lots of pages.  It's more difficult to find the best pages, but this is the goal.  We want to recommend only high-quality pages, so users can learn quickly and well, and they won't be overwhelmed with too many choices.  But selectivity will not be censorship, and for controversial questions the range of views will be wide.
      Selectivity requires effort.  If you look at one page and say "I like it," this might be useful.  But it's much better if you look at 15 pages and then, after careful evaluation, you decide "I like these 2."  Or you could look at 50 pages and say "I like these 5, here is why, and they can fulfill these functions in the website."  Or you might evaluate 50 pages and make a short-list of 10, which you submit for discussion and evaluation.  Yes, a careful selection of resources requires more work by us, but this will make the website better for those who will use it in the future.

      Origins Questions (an important area)
      In my opinion, this is the area that is most likely to be noticed, and to make a positive impact in the educational community.  It will be the main focus of attention in the near future.   { At the annual meeting of ASA in 2003, two commissions — Science Education, and Creation — met together, mainly to discuss the Origins Questions area in the website, and Robert Newman, chair of the Creation Commission, wrote a report of this joint meeting. }

      Increasing the Impact
      Will people use the ASA's website for Education in Science & Faith?  So far, I haven't tried to get it more widely known and used.  This will change in the near future, sometime in 2009.
      When we decide that we want to attract more users, how should we do it?  Do you have ideas for doing this effectively?  Do you have training and experience in marketing, or an intuitive feel for it?  Are you a socially adept networker, skilled at gracefully "advertising" a website to your colleagues?  Do you know how to write effective emails that will get return-links from web editors whose pages we cite?  Do you know how to make a page rank high in Google and other search engines?  All of these skills will be useful for increasing the educational impact and ministry value of the website.

      Giving it Appeal
      Part of our marketing will be intrinsic, by making the website more verbally and visually appealing.
      Visual Appeal:  We want to make a good "first impression" and this includes the gut-level emotional appeal of "looking good" to a viewer.  Do you have ideas for improving this?  Do you have training, experience, or intuition for graphic design and page layout?  Are you (or is someone you know) a clever cartoonist?  And are you willing to help as a volunteer?  { I've contributed thousands of hours as an unpaid volunteer because I view this work as participation in a beneficial ministry, and we won't be able to pay you, either. }
      Verbal Appeal:  Writing should combine solid content and fluent style, with interesting ideas expressed briefly and clearly, illustrated by examples, analogies, or stories.  While finding or writing content-pages, imagine yourself as a reader who is asking "Why should I read this?", and give yourself (as a reader) a reason to begin reading and to continue.  Is the process interesting? (Is it fun now, while I'm reading?)  Will it be useful? (Will it make my life better in the future?)  Potential readers will ask these questions — Is it fun, and will it be useful? — when deciding how to use their time, so we should try to find or write pages — especially at the beginning of each sub-area in the home page and introductory pages — that are interesting and connect with felt needs.  { Later, I'll provide links to pages about Writing for the Web. }  {examples of stories I've written}
      Functional Appeal:  To develop a website with useful content-and-structure, we can imagine ourselves as a particular person (in one segment of a much larger potential audience) and ask "what am I looking for" and then make it easy to recognize that this is available and findable.   more about Functional Appeal

      INFORMATION OVERLOAD?  The web makes it possible to offer "levels of learning" with options for those who want to invest 1 minute, or 10 minutes, 1 hour, 5 hours, or more.  Currently, this website is more useful for those who are enthusiastic about learning and want to learn a lot.  But it's weak for "drawing in" casual websurfers who are not already motivated to learn.
      How can we make the website more appealing (visually, verbally, and functionally) for websurfers who only want to learn a little, or aren't convinced they want to learn anything?  One way is to develop "Read Me First" pages that are easy to read, and fun, with stories and graphics, with enough content to educate (and motivate so a reader wants to learn more) but not to overwhelm with too many ideas.  Then, near the top of each home-page and links-page we should make prominent "Read Me First" links, thus making it easy for readers to find these intro-pages.  One way (of several possible) to describe "read me first" pages, in a way that is familiar to websurfers, is to make FAQs with questions that grab attention (with dramatic flair and by matching what viewers want to learn and hope to find) and quick "answers" that are fun,
      And maybe the home-pages and links-pages could also be rewritten in a more "popular" style, as in the read-me-first introductory pages.

Hopefully, in the near future we can invest the time and effort that is needed to transform our goals into realities.


      • from the newsletter:

      Improving the Website
      Why am I asking for help?  My goals are improved quality and accountability.
      Quality:  Our website will be useful for ministry and outreach, if it has quality.  I think the current website is excellent in some ways, but in other ways it needs to be improved.  We should make it better, and you can help.
      Accountability:  When the ASA is represented in official media — in its journal, and in newsletters, email discussion groups, bulletin board forums, and websites (of the ASA or its affiliates or commissions) — this should be done in a way that is consistent with ASA policies, and that honors God.  Until now, I've made most decisions about the ASA Science Education Website without external accountability.  But the Science Education Commission is all of us, so you should be part of the process.

...< eliminating everything between the introduction above and conclusion below >...

      Evaluating the Website
      You can explore part of the website or all, and provide feedback about anything you want:  look-and-feel, navigation structure, logical structure, idea quality, writing style, page layout and graphics, or choice of content-pages.  When you're evaluating, honesty is important.  If you think some aspects of the website are good, I'll be happy to hear this.  If you think other parts need improving, I'll want to hear this, too.  Why?  So we can make the website better for its users.  In the long run, you'll be doing me (and ASA) a favor if we fix a weakness early, before it's seen by more people.

      • And here is a counterbalancing principle, illustrated by a story:

      The Miller, His Son, and Their Donkey
      "I shall have to sell that donkey of ours," said a miller to his son.  "I cannot afford to keep him through the winter.  I will take him to town this very morning to see if I can find a buyer.  You may go with me."  In a little while the miller, his son, and the donkey were on their way to town.
      They had not gone far when they met some girls going to a party.  They were talking and laughing as they went along.  One of them said, "Look at that man and boy driving a donkey.  One of them surely might ride."
      The miller heard what they said, and quickly made his son mount the donkey, while he walked along at its side.
      After a while they came to a group of old men who were talking very earnestly.  "There," said one, "I was just saying that boys and girls have no respect for the aged.  You see it is true in this case.  See that boy riding while his old father has to walk."
      "Get down, my son," said his father, "and I will ride."  So they went on.
      They next met some women coming from town.  "Why!" they cried, "your poor little boy is nearly tired out.  How can you ride and make him walk?"  So the miller made his son ride on the donkey behind him.
      They were now in town.  A man coming down the street called to the miller, "Why do you make your donkey carry such a load?  You can carry him better than he can carry you."
      At this the miller and his son got off the donkey.  They tied the donkey's legs together, turned him over on his back; and began to carry him.
      A crowd soon gathered to see the strange sight.  As they were crossing a bridge the donkey became frightened at the hooting of the crowd.  He broke loose, fell into the river, and was drowned.
      The miller was angry and ashamed.  He said, "There!  I have tried to please everybody and have only made a fool of myself.  After this I shall do as I think best and let people say what they will."

(from Fifty Famous Fables, edited by Lida Brown McMurry)

      • the overall result:

      Our Responsibility
      I place a high value on your feedback and evaluations, and my thinking will be influenced by what you say.  But as editor I'm ultimately responsible for the website's content and quality, so usually I'll have to make the final decisions. (*)   Knowing this — that I will have to make my own decisions — you can feel free to say what you want.   /   * But my decisions will be accountable to some people within ASA.  The details — of who these people are, and what the "process of accountability" will be — these things are being discussed, and this will continue during 2009.


      The Website's Audience
      Learning and teaching occur in many contexts, so this website could be useful for a wide variety of people, including teachers, students, and self-educators.  Therefore, the current homepage describes "potential users" in general terms.

      More about Marketing
      Producing a useful website is a two-step process: • make a website that is worth using;  • get people to use it.
      The second step is needed to transform the website from being potentially useful into actually useful.
      How will people find the ASA Science Education Website?   a) by a link from the main ASA website,  b) links from other websites,  c) links from search engines, and  d) in other ways, such as networking.  We can explore possibilities for optimizing each of these.
      a) Currently there is a link from the main website, via the "education" topic, but later — if it becomes more worthy of attention, as judged by leaders within ASA — there can be a more prominent link.
      b) We can make connections with people whose websites are related to parts of our website.  One approach is to look at each website we link to, and (when it's appropriate) contact the developers, saying that "we are recommending you as a resource because ___ , and the goals of your website and our website are similar because we both want to ___ so you may want to make a link back to us."  Whether the common interest is for evangelism or ministry, science or education, we can look for opportunities for win-win cooperation.
      c) Search engines work in different ways — differing in what they "search for" and the criteria they use — and we can try to take full advantage of each mode of searching.  Initially we should focus on the most widely used search engines, especially Google.
      d) We can think about "networking" in a broad sense, to include a wide range of possibilities:  word-of-mouth grapevines (among educators and other scholars, in churches and home-school support groups,...), e-mail discussion lists (of educators,...), conference talks and journal papers, and so on.

      But even if our website is visited, it may not be used unless the initial impressions (in the home page and introductory pages) convince a viewer — due to verbal and visual appeal, feeling comfortable with the structure and navigation tools, and sensing a connection with felt needs — that exploring the website will be a fun and/or useful experience, that it will be worth an investment of valuable time.

      Website Structure

      The structure of a website should help make it functional appealling by clearly showing viewers that "something they want to explore" is available and findable.   { Of course, the content should include things they'll want to explore, and we should provide the verbal/visual appeal that motivates viewers so they'll want to explore. }

      The structure of a website should allow an effective expression of its content.
      The current Science Ed Website structure has three PARTS and seven AREASTEACHING (Teaching Methods, Teaching Activities), SKILLS (Learning Skills, Thinking Skills), IDEAS (Nature of Science, Worldviews, Origins Questions) — and each area is divided into sub-areas.  A user can get a quick education by exploring many topics at many levels.

      Structure and Navigation
      In structuring a website and providing navigation links, BREADTH and DEPTH should be balanced.  For example, consider a website with 140 pages.  If the home page offers 140 links, one to every page, there is too much BREADTH and deciding "what to do next" could be overwhelming for a viewer.  At the other extreme, there is too much DEPTH if the home page (and each successive page) offers only one choice, and 140 clicks are needed for the final page in the chain!  With a better balance of breadth and depth, a user will have some choices (but not too many) in each part of the website and at the end of each page.
      Two goals for a navigation structure are:  1) helping a viewer UNDERSTAND the website structure, and  2) making it easy to MOVE AROUND in the website.  Ideally, viewers will be able to freely explore within and beyond the website while maintaining their orientation, always knowing "where they are" and how to get to other places with a minimum of backtracking, frustration, and wasted time.  They will be free to wander without getting lost.   { Improving our website's functional appeal is the main focus of a follow-up page, motivated by suggestions from Sandra Holmes, about developing the website's content & structure. }
      For consistency, in every page of the website two kinds of links will be used:  italicized links keep you inside the current page, while non-italicized links open a new page in the same window.  For both types of links, your browser's BACK-button will take you back to where you were before you clicked the link.

      Eventually, there will be a comprehensive sitemap for the website.  But in the near future a temporary sitemap (An Introduction to the Areas) will show only areas and sub-areas, but not the categories within sub-areas.  But some areas will provide more details.  For example, in Origins Questions you can see the area structure (with 3 sub-areas and 11 categories) in the navigation-table at the top of this page.
      The website can be searched by using the "SEARCH THE WEBSITE" link near the end of this page.  This link takes you to a page explaining how to use the search-function (run by Google) to search the entire ASA Website or just the ASA Science Ed Website.

      Relational Organizations
      In the web, two structural relationships are funneling and fanning:
      Several foundational concepts can be "funneled into" the teaching of a new concept, by providing links to other pages (or other places inside the same page) where the underlying concepts are explained, and by showing how these concepts are combined in the new concept.
      And "fanning out" describes the way we can show the logical and practical consequences of an idea, the ways it can be applied, the other ideas it inspires or can help explain, and so on.  A base-page (that is a base for the fanning) provides links to "what you can do with this idea."

      Coping with Controversy
      The field of education is filled with controversy.  In one area of conflict, regarding Creation Questions, we're trying to treat hot topics in a way that will promote understanding and respect.

      Who is speaking?
      Except for its Statement of Faith, the ASA rarely adopts an official position.  Therefore, each links-page will have a disclaimer like this one:

In this page you'll find links to resource-pages expressing a wide range of views, which don't necessarily represent the views of the American Scientific Affiliation.  Therefore, linking to a page does not imply an endorsement by the ASA.  We encourage you to use your own critical thinking to evaluate everything you read.

      But individual ASA members do adopt positions, which are expressed in the website when one of us writes a page and also when we link to a page.  Therefore, each page (including each links-page) will list its author, in order to avoid an implication — which would be a logical conclusion if no author is listed — that a page represents the views of ASA (as an organization) instead of just the views of an author or editor.  This will also allow more freedom of expression for writers, who can say what they want, including claims (made as individuals) that "Many members of ASA think..." or that "Most members..." or even (if it seems appropriate to assume there should be no dissenters) that "ASA..."
      We can also link to a brief bio-page "about the author" that is already available or that we'll write.

      Pages from Other Websites
      When we cite pages from another website, usually we don't "import" the pages into the ASA Science Ed Website.  Why?  Because this is simpler, and it gives a viewer an option to explore the other website and find additional pages in it.
      But occasionally it may be appropriate, after getting permission from an author or website editor, to have a duplicate page moved into the "education" folder on the "" webserver.  This allows control of the page's format, and by adding customized links from it to closely related pages (plus the generic bottom-of-page links to the seven areas) this page can be situated in "the context" of our website.

This website for Whole-Person Education has TWO KINDS OF LINKS:
an ITALICIZED LINK keeps you inside a page, moving you to another part of it, and
 a NON-ITALICIZED LINK opens another page.  Both keep everything inside this window, 
so your browser's BACK-button will always take you back to where you were.

   This page, written by Craig Rusbult ( in 2001 with major revision in 2004, is

Homepage for ASA Science Education Commission

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Whole-Person Education for Science and Faith
The Nature
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