Teaching Web Development Part 2
Where do I go from here?
So I was asked to teach a second class to some of the people who I taught the first. To recap, I had showed them the basic HTML tags they will need to know, some extremely basic CSS and it’s syntax, and how to slice up a page in Photoshop. They went and built a web page on their own, and now they wanted to know more. My problem was, I wasn’t sure what to teach them. One of them wanted to learn some Flash, and while I could have shown them some basic animation stuff, the more I had thought about it, the more and more this made less sense to do. Why would I show them something that would only complicate things, when there was still more they needed to know that was far more important. So I was kind of at a loss on what to teach.
My awesome lesson plan
Ok, there wasn’t a plan, I totally flew by the seat of my pants. Mostly because I couldn’t anticipate the questions I was going to get, and my outline the previous time went to crap within minutes of starting. How did it go, you ask? Fairly well, actually!
Several people got into it more than I thought they would. One of the people I was teaching had to come over the night before since he couldn’t make it the day I was teaching the rest. While he had just done some basic HTML for his content, he didn’t do any CSS. What did impress me though was that his design for his site was way better than I thought it would be. It was clean for one thing, and he had obviously listed or understood what would happen, when I talked about repeating images. So for him, we went through building his site using CSS and getting the structure down.
Another actually got some more CSS down than I would have thought any actually would. Now, I’m not saying that all of his CSS was awesome. There were plenty of errors, but there was enough good in there that I was impressed with how much he grasped. So for the main group, I opened up there files, went through what was bad and had to be corrected, while telling them what was right. Basically I tore their websites apart, but there were a lot of “a’HA!” and “oooooooh” moments this time around as things started clicking into place.
I feel much better now
Why? Because the first class I taught for them I felt dreadful when it was over. I couldn’t tell if they actually understood a single thing I said, or if they were humoring me. Turns out they got at least 60%, which is very damn good considering how much I covered. What does this all mean?
Simple. I overestimated them the first time by how much they could grasp. I didn’t think how hard HTML would be for someone with no experience, let alone CSS. I underestimated them this time by how much of what I taught actually stuck in their heads.
So I came away with two valuable lessons. First, what I taught the first time just needs to be pruned down a bit. From what I saw the second time, I’m not as horrible as a teacher as I thought I was. Second, your students need to actually build something for the web to fully grasp what it was you taught them.
No amount of talking is going to get them to understand fully what you are talking about. I can explain HTML tags and CSS all day, but until they do it, it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.
I look forward to the future
Will there be another class? Yes. It will be much easier for me from here on out, because now I have something in common with them. They are getting the ‘lingo’ down, and talking in my terms rather than me explaining things in a very awkward way.
When the class was winding down I realized something that kind of made me feel….I’m not sure actually. Angry? Jealous? Maybe both…I don’t know. But I do know what caused it. Why couldn’t I have had someone teach me like I am teaching them? Do you know how much faster I could have learned what I know? I’m completely self taught. I didn’t have anyone to guide me through the ins and outs and all of the beginner mistakes to avoid. This group of people have such a head start compared to me, it made me a little pissed off.
I had plenty of time though to actually think on that and why those feelings were stupid. Yes, I committed a ton of mistakes…some mind blowing in their badness.