Tales from the Trenches

The young man carries an 18 hour class load this semester, but he found time to come to my presentation on CSS layouts to the New Mexico Adobe Users Group last night. Every class he’s taking relates to web design: HTML, Dreamweaver, Flash, Director, Photoshop, etc., and leads toward a certification as a web specialist. He complained that over a month into the semester his HTML instructor has yet to explain how HTML and CSS interact. Apparently the instructor does not take kindly to questions about CSS, either.

A second attendee commented that he’d taken a Dreamweaver class at a community college in the northern part of the state where he learned a whole lot about Photoshop and nothing about how to use Dreamweaver to create CSS layouts.

I taught in systems that organized classes in exactly those patterns when I rebelled and began working out a way of teaching HTML and CSS at the same time. That system ultimately ended up in my book, Integrated HTML and CSS: A Smarter, Faster Way to Learn. Readers learn to use HTML and CSS simultaneously to create standards-based and accessible web pages in the book.

The tales I want to hear from the trenches are about classes where the instructors understand what standards are, understand how CSS works, and give students skills that reflect current best practices. Surely there are classes like that out there! I want to hear some success stories.

Much of the problem comes from above the classroom level. State agencies set requirements for what has to be taught in certain classes and hand teachers a laundry list of ‘required skills’ that a student must have on exiting the class. To satisfy accreditation agencies and other educational overseers who control funding, teachers are expected to teach the skills on the laundry list, whether or not they reflect current standards. Maybe teachers are the wrong audience for my message. Maybe I need to take it to the state and national education agencies who determine what classes are offered in our schools. I’m going to be thinking and talking about this to see if that may be a better way to effect change. Ideas are welcome.

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