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Why you need your own website?

John Simkin

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i am also looking for websites that enable you to produce better teaching materials for students. It is often helpful when writing about the past to be aware of changing money values. A good website for this is the following:


Here for example is a page that allows you to make calculations in British money:


Often one knows the price, cost, or value of something in a particular ("original") year, and one wants to know the value of this money amount in another ("desired") year. There are many contexts in which such a computation might be performed. Examples include the determination of the appropriate level of deferred compensation in a legal case, updating the price of a commodity fifty years earlier, and assessment of government expenditure on health care in one year relative to another. There is no single "correct" measure, and economic historians use one or more different indicators depending on the context of the question.

This calculator performs such computations for amounts in U.K. currency. The technique is as follows. (1) select a general measure of price, income, or output, and (2) multiply the money amount by the desired-year/original-year ratio of the measure. The resulting, "updated", monetary amount may be termed the "relative value" of the original amount.

The measure often used is the price of a "bundle" of goods and services that a representative group of consumers buys or earns. In the U.K. that measure is usually taken to be the "retail price index" (RPI), which corresponds to what is called the "consumer price index" in other countries.

However, there are problems with the RPI as a measure. One problem is that the bundle changes over time. For example, carriages are replaced with automobiles, and new goods and services are created (such as personal computers, cellular phones, and heart transplants). Another problem is that the RPI is oriented solely to households, and so omits attention to business investment or government expenditure. Perhaps most important, the context of the monetary amount may lead to a measure preferable to the RPI. It is a fair statement that the RPI is used far too often without consideration of its consequences.

For values before 1830, consult Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1264 to 2007, where you make these comparisons using only the RPI and average earnings.

Prior to February 15, 1971 ("Decimal day," or "D-day"), monetary amounts in the U.K. were expressed as pounds (£), shillings (s.), and pence (d.), where £1 = 20s. = 240d. After 1970, there were 100 pennies in a pound, so one (new) penny = 2.4 old pence. All numbers should be entered in decimal rather than fractional form (for example, 1.5 rather than 1 1/2).

Descriptions of the indicators

The retail price index (RPI) shows the cost of goods and services purchased by a typical household in one period relative to a base period. It is best used when the monetary amount is the cost or price of a simple product, such as a loaf of bread or a pair of shoes.

The GDP deflator is an index of all prices in the economy. It is a good measure for complex products, such as personal computers, or commodities purchased by businesses, such as machinery.

Average earnings are a logical measure for computing relative value of wages, salaries, or other income or wealth.

Per-capita GDP, the average share of a person in the total income of the economy, is also indicated in this context.

GDP, the economy's total output of goods and services in money terms, is the best measure for large-scale projects or expenditures, such as the construction of a bridge or government expenditure on health care.

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I just wonder what people who use blog, wikis and VLEs think about having to have a website. Some people's wikis look great and are now very easy to set up. If you have to choose one application as your 'main' platform, which would be best?

The answer to your question depends on your objectives. When I started my website in 1997 my main objective was to produce teaching materials for the students that I taught. However, I also wanted to make free materials available to any student who had access to the web.

I expect most teachers who create online materials have similar objectives. However, the situation has changed considerably since then. When I started there were virtually no teaching materials available on the web. Today, we have an abundance of content and the teacher should think very seriously about producing content if it will only be duplicating what is already available. As internet guru Jeff Jarvis has pointed out: “If you can’t imagine anyone linking to what you’re about to write, don’t write it.”

It is always worth producing materials on subjects that are ignored by traditional textbooks as there is every chance that it will be not available on the web. Online local history content is desperately needed. Especially if it covers popular school topics such as the two world wars, industrial revolution, the struggle for the vote, etc.

A website is the most flexible way of producing content. However, there are cost implications for this approach. VLE will be a more attractive option for most teachers. This is fine if these materials are then made available for others to use.

Blogs are a good way of publicizing what you have done of your website. The problem with Blogs is that you do not have individual URLs for your material and therefore it is not ideal for producing teaching materials. Forums are better than Blogs for this. Good forums like this score highly in search-engines and therefore are a better place to produce materials than Blogs.

If I was still in the classroom I would definitely have a history department Wiki. I would get my students to post their research on the Wiki. For example, you could produce a Wiki on your area in the Second World War. In this way you could create a tremendous resource for the local community. It also turns your students into producers rather than consumers.

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