Are teachers the final link in the chain?

I watched a fine interview with Molly at backstage.bbc.co.uk the other day, and it hit me that education and teacher training are the last link in the web standards chain. Well, okay, so Molly had a few things along this line to say. But not exactly what I’m about to say.

The technical people have all figured out that web standards work and make life easier. The corporate interests have all figured out that web standards bring a better return on investment and make good business sense. The accessibility advocates have all determined that web standards promote accessibility. The browser makers have all (finally, mostly) come into compliance with web standards. Everything is in place, everyone is convinced, but new sites are still being created using less-than-standards compliant code. Is education holding us back?

I’m going to generalize a bit now. It seems that all those busy, over-scheduled teachers in all the large and small colleges and universities around the country haven’t gotten the word yet. They haven’t had the training they need. They haven’t had time to figure out CSS for themselves. They don’t have the textbooks and resources they need. They are hamstrung by outdated requirements and antique regulations for technology education. And, as a result, they are not turning out students trained in standards, ready for industry jobs, who can produce sites based on best practices.

Of course, there are examples of colleges and universities where teachers are given the needed training, resources and opportunities to learn. When I find such examples, I’m quick to point to them here. But that’s the thing, isn’t it? There haven’t been many good examples to point to.

Teacher’s need to kick and scream to be sent to seminars, conferences, and classes; to have expert trainers brought to them; to hear what industry wants from their students. Yes, education is a bureaucracy, a slow-moving behemoth. But teachers can go to department heads and demand travel money to attended the right conferences, to have the right trainers, to plan a budget that will promote change.

I write books I think will help teachers teach standards. I review books to find the good ones that will help teachers teach standards. I can come to your college and help teachers learn about standards. If there is anything else that I can do for any college to make change happen, just let me know. I’ll be glad to do what I can.

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4 thoughts on “Are teachers the final link in the chain?

  1. The corporate interests have all figured out that web standards bring a better return on investment and make good business sense.

    Boy, I wish this were true. I haven’t seen it. The company where I work and where I used to help maintain the external corporate web site just unveiled a completely new web site a couple of months ago, throwing away the old one that I worked on. Perfect opportunity to jump on the web standards bandwagon.

    They blew it. Oh, sure, the code on the site is better than on the old one. It’s made the leap from 1996 to 1998. (I can’t begin to explain the frustration I felt having to work on that old site, and then not being allowed the opportunity to fix all the problems with it for the new site….)

    And I’m looking for a new job. Hopefully with one of those corporate interests that have all figured out that web standards bring a better return on investment and make good business sense. I’m not holding my breath on that part, though.

  2. Generalizations always fall apart when you get down to particular instances, don’t they, Ralph? I used to work in a place that could have saved a bundle on a redo with CSS and they wouldn’t let me change a thing because “a redesign wasn’t in the budget.” So I know you are describing a real problem. However, many large publishers have adopted standards because they’ve become convinced it is a sound economic decision. The recent suit filed against Target by the Organization for the Blind shows that standards adoption by commercial interests is not 100%, but it is improving. In the Web Standards Project task forces, the “horror stories” coming in to them are more often about educational problems with standards than commercial problems with standards.

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