Must attend: Web Directions USA

I’ve mentioned Web Directions USA before, but I want to devote an entire post to urging everyone involved in web education to make an effort to get there this year. It’s happening in Atlanta, September 21–25 and events are shaping up to make it a great experience for educators.

There is more involved that what you see on the program. There will be workshops for educators (maybe some you don’t see on the schedule yet) and a hack day for students. These special edu focused activities happen on the days immediately before or after the schedule conference days, so make plans and reservations for more than just the two actual conference days.

John Allsopp, one of the Web Directions organizers, was also a major force in the creation of OWEA. John wants the September conference in Atlanta to include events that both inform educators about OWEA and benefit OWEA as well.

You can follow @webdirections on Twitter.

Now Available! InterACT with Web Standards: A Holistic Approach to Web Design

InterACT with Web Standards coverInterACT with Web Standards: a Holistic Approach to Web Design is available today.

This announcement is a BIG DEAL.

This book puts everything you need to teach a class in web design or development with web standards into your hands. The book is easy to use in connection with InterACT’s 17 courses in 6 learning tracks making it the perfect tool and resource for teaching or learning contemporary web design best practices.

If you are a student who wants to learn about building a web site with web standards, this book will lead you there.

For educators, your semester will be a snap to plan with this book. It’s all right there for you.

The book is published by New Riders (2010). There are 10 authors. The major contributor being Chris Mills, with additional expertise from Erin Anderson, Virginia DeBolt, Derek Featherstone, Lars Gunther, Denise Jacobs, Leslie-Jensen-Inman, Christopher Schmitt, Glenda Sims and Aarron Walter. I’m really proud to have been a small part of making the book a reality, because I think the book is going to be very important to students and teachers who are looking for the a reliable resource for web design best practices.

In addition to the writers, a number of other people worked to bring this book to life. They include Aarron Walter as project manager, Patrick Lauke as technical editor, Jeff Riley as development editor, Leslie Jensen-Inman as creative director and Jessi Taylor as book and site designer.

Many kudos go to Leslie Jensen-Inman and Jessi Taylor. When you see this book and hold it in your hands you will realize what a work of art it is from a design and typography point of view. It’s a beautiful book.

Take a look at the table of contents:

  1. InterACT
  2. Tools
  3. Learning on the Web
  4. Internet Fundamentals
  5. Writing for the Web
  6. Information Architecture Intro
  7. Site Planning
  8. Content Analysis
  9. Content Strategy
  10. HTML Intro
  11. CSS Intro
  12. <head>
  13. Headings and Paragraphs
  14. Whitespace
  15. Links
  16. Images
  17. Lists
  18. Tables
  19. Forms
  20. Floats
  21. Positioning
  22. Accessibility Intro
  23. Accessibility Helps
  24. Accessibility Testing
  25. Bringing it All Together
  26. Index

The InterACT with Web Standards book site has everything you need to know. There, you’ll find links to purchase the book, links to code examples from the book, links to bonus content, and links to the sample project. The site has links to information about InterACT, OWEA, and the Web Standards Project. You can take a peek inside the book, read some reviews, grab links to all the resources cited in the book, and MUCH MORE.

Buy now and take advantage of this limited time offer tweeted by @waspinteract.

InterACT With Web Standards, the first book from The Web Standards Project, is out. Save 35% on it with code INTERACT. May 17 16:00:20 via CoTweet

Meet Glenda Sims on Ada Lovelace Day

Glenda Sims is a whirlwind of accomplishment in information technology, web education, museum accessibility, web accessibility and web standards. She’s someone who makes things change and gets things done, and the worthy honoree of attention on Ada Lovelance Day.

Ada Lovelace Dayis an international day of blogging (videologging, podcasting, comic drawing etc.) to draw attention to the achievements of women in technology and science.

Take a visual tour through Glenda’s life, from her childhood in Texas to her current position as Senior Systems Analyst in Information Technology Services at the University of Texas at Austin.

Her blog is Oz: the blog of glenda sims (the goodwitch) and she’s @goodwitch on Twitter. The rest of her information is listed at Flavors/goodwitch.

Before we get into the professional activities that made her an Ada Lovelace topic, let Glenda tell you a bit about her personal life.

I’m happily married (20+ years) to the love of my life, Scott. We have two of the most wonderful children on the planet (both boys). I am a native Texan. Born in Houston. Bachelor’s Degrees in Psychology and Business Management from the University of Texas at Austin. Began my career as a human resources professional at UT Austin. Had an opportunity to become a programmer (for Human Resources) so I could automated the tasks that could be done by computers, allowing employees to use their brains for more useful tasks.

I love to read. I’m really into kid-lit and discovering new authors with my youngest son. Last year we had a blast reading almost all of the book son the Texas Blue Bonnet Reading List.

One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to making jumping origami frogs…and yes…I still love to make them.

At UT-Austin, Glenda works on Team Web and help supports the central web site for the University.  She is the self-appointed web standards and accessibility advocate at UT. Her work on campus includes museum technology, usability, accessibility and universal design. She’s currently leading the project to redesign UT’s mobile web site.

She works with Knowbility, an accessibility training and advocacy organization based in Austin, Texas. She’s been an accessibility consultant, judge and trainer with Knowbility since 2001. She said,

My dear friends at Knowbility are a huge part of who I am today.  Sharron Rush, John Slatin, Jim Thatcher, Jim Allan and the whole accessibility crew in Austin have filled me with the burning desire to make sure that the web is available to everyone, regardless of their disabilities. Knowbility is like family to me.

I know Glenda best through her work with Web Standards Project, the InterAct curriculum, and OWEA (Open Web Education Alliance)—all projects I’m involved with myself. She’s an influential and dynamic leader in these projects and is moving mountains to bring change to web education. I asked her how she got into this area.

My journey into Web Standards started in December 2000 when I asked if I could become the web accessibility expert for UT. I was quickly introduced to Dr. John Slatin, an international accessibility expert and faculty member on our campus. John and I were an incredible force on campus. We shared new techniques, brainstormed creative solutions, developed training classes, policies and guidelines for campus and ran accessibility competitions for our webmasters.  We weren’t merely satisfied with teaching the “how” of accessibility…we wanted to build a culture of universal design on campus and created accessibility evangelists. My years working with John were priceless.

John introduced me to Sharron Rush and Knowbility in early 2001. We become the 3 Accessibility Amigos.

In SXSWi 2005, I was preparing to speak on an accessibility panel with James Craig, Ian Lloyd and Derek Featherstone. As we worked on our game plan for the panel, I was introduced to a whole new crew of web and accessibility advocates from the Web Standards Project. As I sat and listened to the vision and plans of the WaSP members I felt deeply inspired to take my work to the next level. Up until 2005 I was focused on making things accessible here in Austin. After SXSW this year I realized that I wanted to act globally as well as locally. I set a personal and private goal for myself. I wanted to become a WaSP.

In 2006 I had an opportunity to volunteer to work on a project that Molly was kick-starting called the WaSP International Liaison Group (ILG). Steph Troeth and I were asked to co-lead this project. I had the honor to work for more than 2 years on this project with an incredible group of web professionals who spent countless volunteer hours spreading the message (and the techniques) for ensuring an open web.

Glenda delights in telling the story of how InterAct and the now-forming Open Web Education Alliance came into being at SXSW in Austin. Here’s how she describes it.

At SXSWi 2008 I met the energetic Aarron Walter at the Red Eye Fly. Aarron had this idea that what the web really needed was a web education curriculum framework. His vision to build this framework as a way for educators, industry professionals and students to build and sustain a living curriculum gave me goosebumps. Within 24 hours of my conversation with Aarron, I was approached by Chris Mills who was already working on a similar and complimentary project (the Opera Web Standards Curriculum). Then Leslie Jensen-Inman and I were having a conversation where she was focused on solving the challenges of teaching the web and preparing students for real-world expectations.

I shook my head and said…”this is the magic of SXSW”…and realized I had to get these three people together. The next round of conversations took place in the middle of a bowling alley (at Geeks Love Bowling) and continued throughout the conference. The result of these conversations (and the hard work of many dedicated individuals can be seen at

Every time I talk to these people, whether it is in person, Skype or email, I’m filled with energy and excitement of what we can accomplish when we pull together.

In early 2009, John Allsopp was hosting Web Directions North in Denver. John has heard about the InterAct Curriculum and brought many members of the InterAct team together to host a Ed Directions Day in Denver. The synergy that occurred in Denver was off the charts. What happens when you add equal parts of WaSP/InterAct members + Passionate Educators + Web Industry Visionaries + Brilliant W3C Minds? You get the magic we call the Open Web Education Alliance.

A completely different facet of Glenda’s personality is her love for art museums. She said,

I’m deeply and madly in love with art museums.  And there is nothing I enjoy more than making museums and their collections accessible. I have had the great honor of working on a number of projects with the Blanton Museum of Art. My favorite project was developing an interactive handheld tour (iTour) for a research project. The research question:  Does having access to rich multimedia (on a handheld device) enhance or detract from the experience of exploring a work of art inside a museum gallery. Our research paper is published. The iTour project lead to a string of exciting adventures with Anne Manning, Dan Updegrove and Eric Guaglione.

Web Education Rocks
If you attended SXSW Interactive this year, I hope you ran into Glenda there. She was on a Web Education Rocks panel with the WaSP  team.  She says,

I have the great fortune of living in Austin where the amazing SXSW Interactive Conference occurs every year. What is SXSWi? It is like spring break for geeks…where geeks come to be with their own and dream beyond the edges of the horizon…and then…filled with some magically SXSW energy…actually turn those dreams into reality. SXSW is nothing short of magical.

She works to make the web accessible and she works to train the future professionals of the web. So, what does she look for in a web page?

There are two types of sites I love:  1)Super useful and usable sites  2)Immersive sites that make me think in an entirely new way.

One of my favorite “super useful” sites is Basecamp. If Basecamp were alive I would want to marry it.

One of my favorite “see things differently sites” is SFMoMA’s Art Scope.

I don’t think I look at websites like normal humans. I tend to turn websites inside, outside, upside down. I’m a big believer in the principles of creating a delightful user experience for the end user.

That is a fitting last comment from Glenda Sims. A big thank you to Glenda for her help and cooperation.

Learning from the top bloggers

Oh, I know The Bloggess isn’t for everyone. She’s profane and outrageous. She’s offensive in so many ways. She’s also funnier than Robin Williams and extremely successful at blogging.

One of the hints you get when you read tips for being a better blogger is to summarize your posts in a weekly roundup. Another tip is to point out your most popular posts. I do remember to do those things every once in a while. I’m not very organized about it, but I remember once in a while.

The Bloggess writes in more than one place on the web (as I do). So she publishes a weekly summary of “shit-I-was-doing-when-I-wasn’t-here.” This feels like another edict from on high from a successful blogger: tell people about all the other stuff you’ve been doing.

In that spirit, my aim today is remind you off all the stuff-I-do-here-and-there-on-the-web.

  • WaSP InterAct Curriculum. This is a web standards based curriculum produced by a worldwide volunteer group of experts from education, business, and many web related fields. It is freely available for use in education and business. Some courses are available now. More will be available in March. Several members of this group are working on a book.
  • eHow. This how-to site is home to several hundred articles  of mine explaining all sorts of web related things in step by step fashion. I’m approaching a million page views at eHow, which is possibly a greater readership than I have anywhere else.
  • First 50 Words. In a past life, I taught writing. I wrote some books about teaching writing. I embrace a technique called “writing practice” which calls for writing about any topic whatsoever. Most days of the week, I create a writing prompt for writing practice and post it at First 50 Words. I write about the topic and invite readers to write about it as well.
  • BlogHer. I’m one of several Contributing Editors at BlogHer who write about technology and the Internet. I haven’t counted the number of posts I have at BlogHer, but I’m sure the number is in the hundreds now. For purposes of comparison, I’ve posted about 1000 writing prompts at First 50 Words and have over 1300 posts here at Web Teacher.
  • TGB Elder Geek. TGB is Time Goes By. It’s a blog about what it’s really like to get older. There are so many elder bloggers who read Time Goes By that I was asked to write some geeky posts aimed at elders. Those posts aren’t much different from any other basic technical post I write.
  • I mostly ignore my home domain. Recently I reworked it to reflect more of what I do now, and pared it down to about three pages of information. First time I’ve revised the material there in years. You can find a few more tidbits about me there, such as presentations I’ve done, books, and links to some stories.

There it is: stuff-I-do-here-and-there-on-the-web. With a tip of the hat to The Bloggess.

Useful links: OWEA, Scrunchup

Industry body forming to address IT graduate skills is an interview at Computerworld with OWEA co-chair John Allsopp.

The Open Web Education Alliance (OWEA), which is due to be launched early 2010, will be dedicated to promoting the best ways in which Web professionals and IT graduates can gear themselves up for the workforce.

OWEA co-chair John Allsopp, said there is concern among people in the industry around the world that educational institutions are not addressing all the relevant skills potential Web designers, Web developers and other Web professionals need.

“Even if they study things that are relevant to their role in the industry, what they’ve learnt is very little to do with the reality of the Web,” Allsopp said. “Most of the very experienced Web practitioners, no matter what their background, are largely self-taught because the industry is so rapidly evolving.”

The first issue of Scrunchup is out. Scrunchup is web magazine for young designers and developers. The founders are Anna Debenham and Paul Randall. Their purpose:

We made Scrunchup because we were fed up with the lack of decent advice out there for students wanting a career in web design or development. Most of the courses on offer are out of date, and don’t teach relevant skills, and many young people come out of courses without the required level of knowledge to get a good job.

Sure, there are lots of websites out there that give advice on writing really good code, but not many of them are aimed at young people who are just starting out. We also want to foster a community, and create a friendly atmosphere for young people to ask questions without feeling intimidated.

The initial issue of Scrunchup contains an interview with high school web design instructor Zac Gordon, an intro to web standards by Chris Mills, a piece on employment by Paul Boag and Marcus Lillington, and a story about the path to success by Anna Debenham.

American Innovation

The President of the United States released a whitepaper called A Strategy for American Innovation: Driving Towards Sustainable Growth and Quality Jobs (PDF). The plan has three parts. At the base you see a section called building blocks which includes a statement about 21st Century education.


The paragraph describing the education building block is:

Educate the next generation with 21st century knowledge and skills while creating a world-class workforce. President Obama has proposed initiatives to dramatically improve teaching and learning in K-12 education, expand access to higher education and training, and promote student achievement and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields.

Drill down into that Technology part of STEM, and think specifically about teaching web design, web development, and front end skills like HTML, CSS, JavaScript. What does it mean to promote student achievement and careers with 21st Century skills?

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