By Scott Trudeau


February 13, 2008

Austin is a great city. The music and food are fantastic, the people friendly, and the traffic…well; umm…they’re working on it. Last week’s TCEA conference lived up to the high Austin standards I have come to expect. The event was well attended, offered many great workshops, and hosted a football-sized field of computer and technology vendors. Of course Adobe had a large presence and their booth was always jammed full of conference goers hoping to learn about the latest Adobe magic.
I had the opportunity to present three Adobe-themed workshops: Dreamweaver, Acrobat, and Photoshop. Each session was well attended by a slew of enthusiastic educators chomping at the bit to add to their bag of tricks. Yep, it was one whirl-wind of a week, and judging from the twinkle in their eyes, I would have to say that their students are in for some exciting stuff.
Now that I have had a few days to recover from my “Austin experience,” I can’t help but to think about the strange transition that is taking place regarding web design in education. The professional design community has been going through the CSS change for about 8 years now, but designing pages using Cascading Style Sheets has only recently trickled down into the high school web and multimedia classes. In fact, many teachers in the session were not familiar with the term CSS or had only just begin dabbling with learning how to use Cascading Style Sheets.
I like to “feel out” the skill level of my audience, so when I started to speak about CSS and eyes started to glaze over, I quickly switched gears and started teaching table-based layouts. Yep…I sold out. Much like a science teacher refusing to teach that Pluto is now a planetoid, I sold out.
About two years ago I decided to ditch table based layout and go strictly with CSS. Frankly, the transition was not an easy one and the time investment was huge. Learning all about the different browser quirks and hacks was enough to pull my hair out. Most of my time was spent trying to figure out why one page looked good in “browser A” but was completely blown out in “browser B.” Learning the ins-and-outs of CSS took time…lots and lots of time (and coffee, and aspirin, and more coffee).
But in hindsight, I should have stuck with my guns. A good teacher finds ways to teach hard content. A good teacher finds ways to reach both the struggling newbie and the seasoned brainiac. A good teacher doesn’t shy away from a hard topic. Next year I’ll be teaching CSS layout…and sticking with my guns! Next year teachers will be walking out with a twinkle in their eye and some new CSS tricks in their toolbox!
So, what learning materials (websites, books, etc.) have helped you learn more about desiging with CSS?


  • By Sherry Ziolkowski - 10:02 AM on March 3, 2008  

    I, too, have had my struggles with CSS… but Dreamweaver CS3 makes life with CSS much easier. I think the best website to make students excited about the potential of CSS is Css Zen Garden.