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Thread: Teaching Web Design to 11/12 yr olds

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2003

    Teaching Web Design to 11/12 yr olds

    I'm a 17 yr old student. I am looking to set up a small, after-school club, designed to teach children of 11, 12 and 13 how to create web pages. I believe i have the raw knowledge to execute this effectively, but i am not sure what framework i should follow. Has anyone had any experience in this before?

    My thoughts at the moment are something along the lines of teaching a planned lesson every week, which focusses on any one topic. A standard starting point would be something like HTML. I would also run through some basic creation of graphics and usability issues. Does anyone have any ideas fundementally, as to what else needs to be taught.

    I'm looking to produce a set of 10 (maybe more) novice web designers, the course culminating in a individual project perhaps created outside of the lesson and demonstrated to the group.

    I plan to run the course over a 6 week period.

    Any input welcome.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    I can't give you any tips on teaching, but I can tell you that I am 13 years old. I learned very basic HTML when I was eleven. I have a friend who is thirteen and also knows HTML, but not as much as me. I also have another friend who is 13 who programs, which I do to. So it is possible to teach kids...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Any input welcome.
    I would make sure to brush up on my standards knowledge a bit so I teach the kids how to code webpages that pass through the W3C validator using at a minimum HTML 4.01 STRICT, but preferably XHTML 1.0 STRICT.
    Giving them a good introduction into CSS would a good too.

    The reason is, by the time they grow up and possibly start using their skills possibily professionally, all browsers will be much more standards compliant then the average browser is today.

    Not much point in teaching them how to code for buggy v4.x browsers and abusing <table> for page layout, except as a for historical reflection.
    // Stefan Huszics

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    I think that standards would be a hard thing to keep a kid doing. All I wanted to do when I started was make pages that looked good in my browser (which has always been IE), and which worked. I didn't care if they weren't standard. I didn't actually even try to be standards compliant till this year when I started using the forums.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Baltimore, Maryland
    I'm with Stefan. Since they're young you have a woderful chance to get them on the right path from the start. And as minds become less flexible with age, there is a real opportunity here.

    For the web to work as it is intended authors need to get away from presentation mark-up and embrace content/logical mark-up. Presentation then becomes a second layer, separate but dependant upon the meaning of the mark-up. Now for people over a certain age this makes no sense at all. They've lost the ability to think in plural. But the young can still "see" the page in their head two ways at the same time.

    I would suggest that you make sure that you understand what it is that I'm going on about and work on imparting that to your charges. And I would be very careful to "do no harm". Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest then 4.01 Spec.
    “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”
    —Tim Berners-Lee, W3C Director and inventor of the World Wide Web

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Now that I think about it I think you guys are right... I knew about standards, but the book I read never really explained why a page should be in standards so I never learned in standards. I guess I am wrong.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Originally posted by Zach Elfers
    I knew about standards, but the book I read never really explained why a page should be in standards so I never learned in standards.
    Yes, that's precisly the point

    It's not really harder to learn how to do things correctly from the start, as long as someone is teaching you the correct way as well as where to find correct info.

    Kids in general have no problems with visualizing what they want to do, it's just about providing them with the correct tools and they will learn the correct way of doing things.

    Eg links to

    as well proving them with a good basic template for a webpage (including an explanation of what the different parts mean) will get them on the right track from the start with minimal effort

    Eg this would be a good starting template IMO

    <!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd">
    <html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" xml:lang="en" lang="en">
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Script-Type" content="text/javascript" />
    <meta http-equiv="Content-Style-Type" content="text/css" />
    <link href="main.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" title="Default" media="screen" />

    <a href="http://validator.w3.org/check/referer"><img style="border:0;width:88px;height:31px" src="http://www.w3.org/Icons/valid-xhtml10" alt="Valid XHTML 1.0!" /></a></p>
    Last edited by Stefan; 01-11-2003 at 08:39 PM.
    // Stefan Huszics

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    And if you're standards complient and make good use of CSS you can create pages with ease that would otherwise take a lot of effort with JavaScript. I've had a lot of people asking question about using JavaScript for things that really don't need it like background images, roll-overs, labels for forms, etc.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2002

    Don't get carried away!!!

    I think everyone needs to remember that this guy is teaching children here. To children the web is fun and exciting and no one should forget that, he has an obligation to enhance that sense of fun and excitement, not kill it off by bashing on about standards. These kids want to get theirs hands dirty, they probably just want to show their parents what they did, and then they'll move onto the next fad that takes their fancy.

    By all means teach to the standard but don't bash on about standards to them as they'll lose interest so fast it will make your head spin. You should also remember that children have a short attention span. Make it fun and keep it simple!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    As long as you can bring the code down to their level, I don't see any problems with teaching kids valid code. Plus, we have too many people already making non-valid sites, we don't need more. I agree about the adding of CSS. If you can code something with CSS, do it. Also try to make sure they find ways to make their code readable. Readable in the sense they indent their code, and whatnot.

    And most HTML books are really bad in terms of teaching valid code. I was thinking about taking some samples from books and converting them over to valid code and posting them on my site. I'm still not 100% sure if I want to really get into the whole web programming side of things on my site. If I did it, it would be because it was more for fun vs. thinking people would actually use it. There seems to be too many teaching web sites out there already.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    XYZZY - UK
    It would be pointless exercise of a tutor not trying to follow the Technical Recommendations, although the average child of 11 might find it rather baffling.

    I'd suggest presenting them all will a printed HTML quick reference of the most common (x)HTML elements and their associated attributes.

    That way they should be able to understand what attributes are allowed where; and could quickly find out things like the <img> requires an alt or it can have a height or width dimension.

    As it has already been stated it's probably best to focus on mark-up between <body>…</body> rather focus on defining the default script language via the <meta />.

    CSS might be a little confusing for a youngster, as would the philosophy behind separating style from structure via extensive use of CSS-P and XHTML.

    If you do decide to teach CSS-P (which is unlikely for the age range) use a browser like Mozilla.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    It's an interesting thread, and I want to comment but i'm afriad to in case I get my head bitten off by a CSS / validator type person. But I've decided to go ahead anyway!

    The balance i guess has to be, as has been stated, between adhering to the rules, and keeping things exciting. Personally I think if you tell an 11 year old that if he wants to make a website then he needs to put in all that code that, as far as they're concerned, doesn't make a difference, they're going to be put off. I'm afraid I don't subscribe 100% to the apparent view that if you do it wrong then it's not worth doing at all - "Plus, we have too many people already making non-valid sites, we don't need more" - I just dont agree. certainly we should aim to be compliant with the standards, but i think we should be wary of scaring people off at a young age by cramming rules and regulations down their front - kids hate rules and regulations!

    I guess i feel that there's an element of snobbishness that had developed as a result I guess of so many "DIY" packages and people who have a go - what some people see as a true triumph, that people can just have a go, make a crappy little site with animated gifs and background wavs and the like is great: people soon realise that it's bad, and then fix it, go away, learn a bit of CSS, find out about validators etc and try to adhere to the rule book. But you cant start out that way!!! That'd be like trying to teach a bunch of kids soccer, and spend all day pulling them up for being offside, dangerous tackles, back passes - noone does that. Kids learn to play soccer through having a kick around in the garden. Similarly with maths, loads of kids will do exercises at some point that look a bit like:

    3 + __ = 7 + 4 = __ - 2 = __

    where they have to fill in the gaps thus:

    3 + 4 = 7 + 4 = 11 - 2 = 9

    but that statement, mathematically, is wrong! it's not correct - and yet we use it because kids enjoy it and as such stay with the topic. Eventually you get them round and explain it and how it's actually a form of algebra, but people adapt - only the very lazy don't, and i think that's one of the misconceptions that seems to be running though this thread.

    In short, just stating my humble opinion, but i came to the wonderful world of web programming by messing around with front page, finding out that it couldnt do stuff so working in notepad a bit, then moving to notepad completely, then finding out about java scripts, then about asp's, then CSS's, then PHP. i can turn out some good stuff (even if i do say so myself!), and i can make a little money from it, but i'm always trying to improve what i do by learning more and correcting my mistakes. I think it's wrong to think that kids wont be able to do the same, and to think that the only way to teach people things is to sit down with the rule book .

    They're kids - let them have a kick-a-bout.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    I don't see where Stefan's template would be all that difficult to teach kids. If you aren't going to use JavaScript, and I assume you won't for a while, if at all, then keep that line out. Do you really have to break down the Doctype to a boring level? No. Just tell the kids that this line of code tells the browser what rules we will follow, and if we didn't use it, the browser would in a sense have to guess what rules we are using. That's it. Simple, straightforward, and the truth.

    This goes for anything else. If you want to show them CSS, just give them the code at let them see what happens when they change the attributes around, ie changing the background color. You can still show them proper code while focusing on the results of the code. I never meant to say give them some long winded speech about standards. I know they won't stick out for that. Just cover it enough so they'll go, "oh, ok," and call it good.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Originally posted by jpmoriarty
    But you cant start out that way!!! That'd be like trying to teach a bunch of kids soccer, and spend all day pulling them up for being offside, dangerous tackles, back passes -
    I disagree.
    By providing a ready and fully correct template, you are NOT blowing the whistle for offside, but providing them with a football field and 1 goal at each end.

    By NOT providing them with a good template to start from you are letting them learn how to play football with rocks marking the goalposts in somebodies backyard.

    In both cases the kids will start learing how to play football, but on a real court they will learn faster and likely enjoy it as least as much as well. When I was I kid I sure got on my bike and went down to the field to play there with my friends even if we could have stayed right at home.

    Eventually you get them round and explain it and how it's actually a form of algebra, but people adapt
    I'm not suggesting they should learn how to read the DTD or even know exactly what every single section of the template down to the last detail actually means.

    But even when you learn algebra from scratch, it helps if you have a pen and a paper to write on.

    A template where they can start filling in their code is that pen & paper to scribble on.
    // Stefan Huszics

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