Course Building 101 or How to Teach Something You Know Nothing About.

More tinkering and reading.  A couple readers suggested I look at W3Schools.com.  The dabrook.org link I posted sends you to the w3schools.com site.  Weird. Anyway I have started looking at the three tutorials. The UW course is very different from the other two.  The UW course is built for students and teachers with a teacher version and a student version.  This course is not just a coding in HTML course. It does quite a bit about how to build good web pages, discussing color, fonts, page design and so on.  (This sent me off on a bit of a Google tangent. I Googled “bad websites”. There are numerous articles about what is good and bad in website design. I want the kids to learn more than just how to code websites.  Part of this website business is knowing how to build good websites.) I am starting to like this UW course a lot.

I have been playing with two editors, Notepad++ and Visual Studio Code.  Notepad++ is very basic and is recommended by several sites as the best way to go for introducing HTML code.  It is solid as a brick, no whistles and bells. VSC on the other hand is big on whistles and bells. Auto-complete and WYSIWYG extensions.  Make a change in the HTML code and it automatically reflected in a window in the editor. It is a bit quirky but once figured out it is pretty slick.  After working in both editors through the same lesson there are arguments for both. Being lazy I like VSC. Being a teacher interested in retention I like Notepad++.  The teacher is going to win. Actually I do want to use both eventually. Start out with Notepad++ then maybe half way through the semester switch over to VSC. Of course the plan is subject to change.  (A great Marine Corps saying is “we don’t plan, we improvise”. I do that a lot.)

I also talked to my former student who is does commercial websites now.  His suggestion was to dabble a little in HTML, CSS and JavaScript then when we get serious go to WordPress.  He said the organizational requirements for websites can be massive if not using a tool like WordPress. Since I looking to get the course approved for dual-credit through the University of Montana (UM) I do not think the WordPress route is a possibility for fall semester.  Maybe if I get some students who want to go big time into website development I will offer a second semester using WordPress and get him in to help with the course.

My friend/guru from UM is coming over today and we will chat about the course.  He teaches the WDD courses at UM and is the one that has to approve my course for dual-credit.  UM is extremely flexible in regards to syllabus and teaching resources but if I do not have to reinvent the wheel for this course I will not.  The usual trouble with following the UM syllabus exactly is UM likes expensive textbooks and they also assume that the students have infinite hours outside of class to work on projects.  College students are take three to four courses. High school students are taking seven to eight and usually involved in some kind of extracurricular activity. Many high school students have extremely limited time outside class to work on projects so the lecture during class time and work on assignments out of class scheme is not always feasible.  So far I have never followed the UM syllabus for any of the dual credit courses I teach. They simply do not work for us.

This weekend I need to continue looking for resources.  The UW course looks good but something better may be out there.  I will also wander down to Barnes and Noble to look at what is on the shelves.  Since any book I buy is funded from my wallet I rarely buy anything but there have been exceptions.

One of the really fun things about teaching CS is if you ever get bored or feel in a rut you can grab something else in the field and build a course that is relevant for the students.  Learn something new and try to teach it to students with a higher IQ than yours. Oh joy.

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