At three years old, I would get impromptu invitations from the pastor of my church to sing. “Dan, do you have a song for us this week?” he would ask from the pulpit. I’d gladly oblige, walk to the front toting along my 37-key Casio, and sing and play a one-fingered version of the song I learned that week.
More than two decades later, I sing and play almost weekly as one-seventh of a contemporary Christian band. And in the virtual world, running a fairly well-traveled site and being a part of the world’s best web design consultancy (yes, I am biased) means enduring a large amount of scrutiny, both good and bad.
For all of my young life, I’ve been a performer. Not much has changed.
A local college—The University of the Arts—has made the mistake of hiring me to teach a web design class. For the last few weeks, I’ve been teaching “Web Design II” as a Continuing Education class. My students are learning the “proper way“ to write XHTML and CSS. (Aside: even as the teacher, I’m probably the youngest in the class, so I use the terms “teacher” and “students” loosely.)
While the course description initially boasted that students would learn how to create dynamic websites using client-side and server-side technologies, I soon realized that learning—and teaching—structure, presentation, behavior, and content management in 10 weeks is extremely daunting. After week 1, I quickly revised my curriculum and shifted the focus to creating web designers that are extremely competent at CSS. That task alone is still proving challenging, especially with my initial expectations of a “Web Design II” class. That’s not a dish at my students; it’s a disappointed reaction to the poor state of web design education. For students to first hear and learn about the concept of “web standards” at an intermediate level is eye-opening.
I deliberated about releasing my syllabus. After all, it took a significant portion of my time to create (and continually revise) it, so putting it out there for people to see (and steal) is certainly worrisome for me. However, for the sake of capitalism—no, for the love of the sake of capitalism—the value that feedback could bring outweighs the danger of theft.
So, here’s the class website for Web Design II.
For any web design teachers out there (or anyone else interested), I’d love any feedback you can give on the way my class is structured. You’re welcome to use this as a jumping off point for your own classes; all I ask is that you let me know that you’ll be using it as well as what you’ve done with it.
For any program coordinators, I’m more than willing to collaborate and help create more well-informed web design programs. Drop me a line and we can chat.
Part of the reason I wanted to teach is to stay in touch with the basics. If I’m continually living on the fringe (oh yes, be on the lookout for upcoming new work), I may either forget what I’ve learned or not be able to communicate and sell a basic service to a client. Teaching students are the new to the concept strengthens my ability to communicate it.
However, for the sake of moderation, I also have to be able to communicate those fringe concepts. Refresh DC has given me the opportunity speak to them about a certain approach to progressive enhancement I’ve been working called “The Experience Layer.” I may write more about that in the near future, but until then, the only place you can hear about it is at the next Refresh DC. If you’re in DC this Thursday, do drop by and say hello. If not, feel free to tell your local conference organizer—be it An Event Apart, Future of Web Design, dConstruct, or SXSW—that you’d like me to speak at the event nearest you.