Report from WDN 09: Educating the Next Generation of Web Professionals, II

Live blogging the second morning session . . .

Chris Mills listed the core competencies to teach about markup: basic functions of all the elements, good document structure, how and when to extend semantics, principles of accessibility, advantages of using standards, and SEO. Make markup sexy for students by giving them something personal to work on hands-on, get to the practical quickly.

Mills listed some books good for teaching markup, all of which are on my list of Recommended Books.

A validator in development that gives better error messages is validator.nu. This may be helpful in teaching students how to understand validation error messages. Some of these features are being added to the W3C validator. W3C has a semantic data extractor that may help students. Students also need to understand when it’s ok for a page not to validate. Keep in mind that validators check for errors, but not for semantics.

Dave Shea on CSS

Dave Shea was the next speaker. What fun, learning CSS from Dave Shea.

Start with semantic HTML. Then add CSS layout.

DaveValid HTML is esential for CSS. In CSS, semantics means using appropriate class names. CSS can style only HTML elements, id elements and class elements.

He explained the Cascade using some simple code examples that demonstrated what he meant by inheritance and specificity. An excellent way to teach it.

In terms of positioning, he talked about document flow and positioning. Positioning gives you the ability to selectively remove elements from the document flow. He used concrete examples to demo various positioning schemes.

He gave some examples of float and clear. Then he built a layout using floats to create a two column layout.

Shea said that display: table is on the way as a way to create layout. This has been around for almost 10 years, but it finally being supported. Something else coming is CSS3′s multi-column module. Neither is backwards-compatible and neither is supported in IE 6/7.

Design essentials Shea talked about were image replacement, sliding doors, faux columns, and CSS sprites (essentially, applied image replacement).

Teaching applications

Aarron came back to talk about some things in the assignment handout that relate to Dave’s talk. He said CSS empowers students, especially image replacement, but floats and positioning are a challenge.

Aarron suggests lab exercises to develop a sense of how floats and positioning work. He recommends positioniseverything.net. He also said that it’s a challenge to help students keep things simple when they start learning CSS because they want to keep adding things instead of going for simplicity. He says a good lab assignment is CSS Zen Garden, or a redesign of a small non-profit.

The books he mentioned as useful are all included on my Recommended Books page, except Andy Clark’s Transcending CSS.

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