Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Getting myself edumacated about "Web Development"

Above is a slide from my web development class. According to my professor, it is a wonderful example of good web design. That was true... a decade a go.

There's some good discussion going on at the University Web Developers Ning group. The topic? How higher ed web professionals can elevate web design at the university level. I added my 2 cents, effectively using >30 of my time, so why not re-post it here?

As a student who has been building websites from an early age (and now work at a web development firm as a User Experience Designer), I can definitely testify to the inadequacy of the "Web Development" course I'm taking this semester. My professor teaches the basic HTML stuff fine but the class is also supposed to teach "web design". Aside from the fact that attempting to pack HTML/CSS/Javascript/ServerSide/Web Design into one class implies failure, my professor hasn't worked in the field since the early 2000s (that's millenia in web years). It shows. The "Web Wizard's Guide to Web Design", which is our web design textbook, was written in 2002. The slides of "good web design" he uses do indeed provide a neat look back in time, to where web design stood in the early 2000s. There's just one problem: we've learned a lot since then. Needless to say I usually use that class period to network on Twitter and read the latest Smashing Magazine or A List Apart article. I don't fault my professor; he does a good job, its just a bit out of date. Below is another example of good web design from my professors slides.

A successful web development course should not just teach stuff (whether past or current) because what we learn now will be obsolete in a few years. In addition to teaching the up-to-date knowledge, it should also infuse the students with a passion to immerse themselves in the industry: read the blogs, check out the new technology, get on Twitter and ask questions... but most importantly, build a lot of websites. If you've got an idea for a cool web app, just try building it. Learn as you go along. Unless you have gotten your hands dirty, you won't have the passion to learn more.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Returning to that fine art

The tweetie bird is nearly leaping out of the clock to let me know its about time to wake from my long sleep. In other words, I finally have some good reasons to get back into blogging and have finally allocated some blocks in my schedule for said purpose.

Away too long, lots to talk about

Over the past 6 months or so of non-blogging, I've accumulated some really interesting projects and interests that I'm looking forward to talk about. Namely:

  • University. I wrote my last post during the last gasp of high school. I've moved on to greater academic pursuits at the UNCC—or UNC Charlotte, as the community-college-association-phobic marketing people prefer to call it. Majoring in SIS, first semester was terrific. A meeting with the dean of CCI (College of Computing and Informatics) led to some cool follow up meetings and a lot of cool ideas—namely solutions to the college's lack of community and student participation. This semester, some other students and I will be spending a good five hours a week (for credit) to experiment with traditional and custom social media (and other means) to build community among the student body—its going to be really fun and I'm going to blog about it here. Which brings me to my next topic...
  • Social Media. A lot of universities are getting into this social media things, experimenting with Facebook, MySpace, and even Twitter in order to build community and get attention among students and prospective students. My perspective in solving this problem is unique in that I not only want to solve the problem, but I myself am the target of these efforts—I'm a student. I'll be blogging a lot about our successes and failures with higher ed social media and I'm looking forward to discussing these issues with students and staff from other universities.
  • Twitter. Related to social media, I've recently discovered the power of Twitter. I intend to use it to network with other developers, designers, and social media people to learn and contribute to the community. I also expect Twitter will help me direct people to my blog in order to carry out more substantial discussions.
  • Web Development Projects. Lots of ideas for web apps (just recently, a Twitter related one) that I plan to blog about: design decisions, discoveries, observations.
  • My new job. I just recently got a part time job at a local web development company called Skookum. I've been enjoying working for them, but I'm under an NDA so I'm going to need permission from da boss before blogging. All I can say now is that we're working on some pretty cool stuff.
It's going to be a great year.