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.
  • vdebolt.com. 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.

Semantic HTML, or why Chris Mills is my guru

Chris David Mills The WaSP Interact Curriculum group of volunteer workers are working on a book, to be published by New Riders. Among the many folks working on this book are Chris Mills, from Opera, and myself. Chris has put a few chapters up on the publishers FTP site where we all turn in our chapters. I’ve been peeking at Chris’ work.

This sounds like I’m being naughty, but actually, I need to see everyone else’s chapters. That’s because my chapter is to be a final project chapter to culminate the book, and I need to know what’s come before in order to suggest a final project.

In one of his chapters, Chris talks about semantic HTML. The phrase he used for it was “self-describing.” I think this is the most brilliant turn of phrase I’ve ever heard. Chris is my wordsmithing guru. From his penchant for British spelling to his drumsticks, he’s every bit my hero.

If you are marking up content with semantic HTML, the HTML itself describes for you what the content is. It’s a paragraph, it’s a list, it’s a blockquote, it’s a heading, it’s a citation, it’s emphasized. You can trust this to be what you are reading, because it’s marked up with the HTML to describe it as exactly what it is.

Self describing. So simple yet so complete.

The best ideas always are.

Teach Me the Web

Jeff Jeff Brown, a high school teacher in Maryland and a member of the WaSP InterAct Curriculum group has done something amazing for his students.

With Skype and various video and podcast technologies, he’s put together a series of interviews and lectures for his students on web education topics. The interviews and videos are with big name web people. You can download the podcasts at Teach Me the Web. There are links to more articles and interviews on Jeff’s blog. I am envious of his students and want to be in his class! They have their own private tech conference scheduled right into their classroom.

Jeff Brown is the Hugh Forrest of Damascus High School!

Jeff  is @mrjbrown on Twitter.

Molly talks about browsers and more

I happily spent a couple of hours watching and listening to a lecture given at The University of Georgia by Molly Holzschlag. The lecture is part of the WaSP InterAct Curriclum web education program. Molly’s talk takes two hours, divided into 4 videos of about 30 minutes. Here’s the first of the 4 videos. Go to YouTube and listen to all 4, because she really gets into the good stuff later in the lecture. Her conclusions about the web as a disruptive technology at the very end of her talk are really powerful.

If you are teaching web development yourself, I suggest you scatter these 4 videos over 4 days and show them to your students.

Here’s a link to HTML5 Doctor, which Molly mentions. HTML5 Doctor offers a gallery, tips, answers, ideas and more for those who are working with HTML5.

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?

Related posts:

Have digital tools made your dreams come true?

I found this wonderful video among PBS’s Digital Nation videos. Charlotte Ashurst McDaniel explains how digital tools have changed her life for the better.

I suspect that many of us have stories about how digital tools have changed our lives.

This blog changed my life. In the late 1990s and early in the current century, I was teaching basic HTML and web page creation with Dreamweaver in a community college. I couldn’t find a book I liked. In those years, now familiar concepts such as web standards, symantic HTML, using CSS to create the appearance of a web page, and accessibility were all under heated discussion. I became a believer early on—partly because of my frequent attendance at SXSW Interactive where I sat at the feet of people like Eric Meyer, Molly Holzschlag, and Jeffrey Zeldman while they talked about what they were doing.

Being a believer and trying to teach that way were almost incompatible in those days. The books at the time were still teaching table-based layouts, font-tag appearance controls and other not so wonderful techniques. I decided that I needed to go public with my complaints about the books that were available, and I started this blog. That was in about 2001.

The book reviews I post now are generally fairly positive. The wheel has turned. But for several years after  2001, they were very negative. I began to hear from publishers and writers. I was asked to look at tables of contents, to review chapters, to comment on proposed work. I was asked to write teacher’s editions. I did all those things and soon realized I’d made contacts within the world of computing book publishers.

I used those contacts to find out where to submit a proposal for a book of my own. I had this crazy idea that books should teach HTML and CSS at the same time. When a student learned a tag, they also learned  how to present it with CSS.  I truly did not want to make students learn a whole lot of useless HTML (like font tags) for the first half of a semester and then be told to forget all about it at the end of the semester when CSS was introduced. Learn both at once. I found a publisher–Sybex–who accepted the proposal. Sybex came up with the idea of calling it “Integrated” HTML and CSS.

I wrote the book from a teacher’s perspective. I’m not a computer science person—I’m not a programmer. I pulled together the best ideas for teaching I could and applied it to learning HTML and CSS.

So I had my own book, thanks to my blog. Publishers asked me to do more jobs: tech edit other people’s books. Write a second edition of my own book. Help other writers with their Dreamweaver books. Be the writer for a Dreamweaver book. In my own small way, I put the best web standards based material I can out into the world.

Then, a couple of years ago at SXSW, I met Aarron Walter. He talked about the notion that the Web Standards Project Education Task Force should get some volunteers together to work on a web standards based curriculum. I got involved in that. It seems to me now that this is where I was headed all the time. Because that involvement, that project, that group of people, may make a big difference in web education. The WaSP Edu Task force created a curriculum and called it InterAct. At this time, the first round of courses for the InterAct Curriculum are online. More courses are in development. The core group from InterAct have expanded to include business, education and schools in a  just-forming group at the W3C called The Open Web Education Alliance (OWEA). OWEA will bring industry and education together in pilot projects, education projects, outreach projects and in many other ways that will impact the education of web professionals in the future. One of those projects is the Web Education Rocks tours, which bring web standards professional educators to a location near you for training.

My blog changed my life. Dreams I didn’t even know I had are part of my life, part of many lives, part of the future of web education.

How has digital technology changed your life? I know you have a story. Please share it.

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Defining front end engineering

Video of Nate Koechle from Yahoo! about what front end developers actually do. The reason I’m hoping you’ll take the time to watch this video is because it so clearly states, from an industry perspective, why the WaSP InterAct curriculum project is so important and what it’s actually about.

Nate Koechle from Yahoo! talks about what front end engineers actually do. Don’t start it unless you have plenty of time to watch, it’s nearly an hour and a half long. But it’s worth it, especially if you are teaching HTML, CSS, JavaScript, web development, or any related class.

The reason I’m hoping you’ll take the time to watch this video is because it so clearly states, from an industry perspective, why the WaSP InterAct curriculum project is so important and what it’s actually about. Industry needs graduates who know what Nate is talking about when they are fresh out of school. InterAct means to help you achieve that goal in your own curriculum.

I found this at Yahoo! Video, where you can find links to other talks by Nate Koechley. Nate is an excellent lecturer, well organized, clear, with well presented material. A lesson can be learned  by educators just from watching how he moves through the long talk and keeps you with him. And, the talk is an outline of what curriculum needs to be.