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Incorporating Open Code and Standards in Education? 9

An Anonymous Coward asks: "I'm an instructor for a technical school that has 6 month courses designed to teach various computer skills such as graphic arts, programming, MCSE certification courses, Cisco certifications, and computer repair. I normally teach programming but have been asked by the school to create a web development course. This course should start from the assumption that the student knows absolutely nothing about computers, which is a very difficult challenge. I'm currently leaning towards teaching a course that revolves around ASP w/VBScript however I would love to be able to implement a program that uses open standards however because of the time limitations on this course I'm unsure if its possible. I'd like to ask Slashdot users what they would do if asked to develop this course"
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Incorporating Open Code and Standards in Education?

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  • by larien ( 5608 ) on Saturday November 03, 2001 @01:40PM (#2516480) Homepage Journal
    For a starter, teach them HTML. Not just any HTML, but real HTML. Teach them the value of standards and opening up their pages to as many users as possible (i.e. if you follow the standards, more people will read your pages and if you're an eCommerce site, that's vital). Also teach them that not everyone can see graphics; I'm not talking about lynx users so much as the blind. Using animated GIFs can really screw up the chances of a blind person's reader working well. Finally, teach them how to validate their pages on W3C's validator []. You might want to make some part of your marks dependant on successful validation of the pages.

    Once they can create static content, let them play with server side includes first. It's a good introduction to dynamic content and it's pretty simple. It's also standard on most web platforms (Netscape, sorry, iPlanet, Apache, IIS).

    You're not going to be able to instruct them on real dynamic content without teaching them databases as well, which is a problem. 90% of dynamic content on the web has a DB backend, whether it be Oracle, mySQL, PostreSQL or SQL server. To design that side correctly, you need to understand how to delegate responsibilities to the DB (i.e. foreign keys, referential databases etc). However, if you can get that side done, ASP has some advantages:

    1. It has a large market share and is probably more employable than PHP/perl
    2. You can get personal web server (at least under win9x) to play around on home machines
    3. as it's VB based, it's pretty simple.
    4. I'd imagine it works well with Frontpage if that's what you want to use as a tool (and let's face it, for new computer users, it's not a bad idea)
    However, there isn't really anything stopping you teaching PHP. Set up a linux box as a Samba server with Apache/PHP and get them to work in Notepad (or a better text editor) to create the files, save them to the server and test from IE/Mozilla/Opera/Whatever.

    Good luck!

    • You can get personal web server (at least under win9x) to play around on home machines ...

      Set up a linux box as a Samba server with Apache/PHP and get them to work in Notepad (or a better text editor) to create the files, save them to the server and test from IE/Mozilla/Opera/Whatever.

      This implies that you can't run Apache and PHP on Windows. However, I've developed entire sites with Apache/PHP/MySQL on Windows, which were then deployed to Linux or FreeBSD machines. It's certainly possible, and not very difficult.


      • Yes, you can run that, but I personally wouldn't recommend it! I'd assumed that the poster would have more experience with linux than Windows.

        Besides, it shows how the web shouldn't rely on one OS; you're creating web pages in windows, serving them from linux and viewing them in Windows. Any of those 3 parts could be done on another OS quite happily.

  • by mini me ( 132455 ) on Saturday November 03, 2001 @04:05PM (#2516750)
    Am I the only one that thinks the web is dying?
    (insert BSD is dying troll here)

    Wouldn't you be better off teaching them good programming skills and from that they can go on and learn any language with little effort? Maybe it's just me, but there seems to be too much emphasis on learning a language instead of learning to program. The good thing about the web is that it combines many different areas of programming.

    Web development has the added problem of needing to know design programs (like Photoshop), how to code HTML (and make it work in all browsers), how to program, how databases work, the whole she-bang. While this isn't a problem for a seasoned computer veteran, having to learn all of that in one course for a complete newbie might be a problem, at least in a short time.

    Anyway, what I would teach:
    1. Photoshop - today's web is all about design (whether you think this is good or bad isn't the point), the students should know design skills
    2. HTML - teach them the code, not WYSIWYG editors. Personally I can take anything I can draw in Photoshop and convert it into HTML and make it work in almost all browsers. This isn't for the beginner to talkle, but it should be something they should strive towards. Once they have a good understanding of HTML, if they decided to use a WYSIWYG editor then that's thier choice.
    3. PHP - the language I recommend you teach, and I'm sure most other /.ers will agree. It's code is open source and runs on a good range of systems. It has a nice syntax (a cross between C and Perl) and can easily interact with a wide range of databases.
    4. SQL - teach them the SQL language, and how to operate some SQL servers. Databases power a good portion of the websites out there, so knowing this stuff is a must.
    5. UNIX and Windows Administration (including the various webservers, Apache, IIS, etc.) - this maybe should have been at the top of the list. Web developers need to know how to use the system that the site is going to be hosted on. This includes how to configure the server, file permissions, security, etc.
    6. Multimedia (Flash, Shockwave, Java, etc.) - you might want to touch on these subjects. Java might be good because it can extend beyond the web.
  • PHP is an open web scripting language, and IMHO will replace ASP because of this. Beyond that, ASP will make it hard to work without buying all kinds of crap from MS.
    Get an Apache server with MySQL and PHP modules running, then walk through the Annotated PHP Manual [] which is all you really need to learn PHP. The annotated manual allows students to post questions or comments right on the manual to get help from PHP Experts or share their insights. There's a bit of "how to MYSQL" in there, but without some kind of database backend, you've just got static HTML pages that really don't do much. Apache also has ways to setup directories for each student to publish to.
    If you want to give students something extra, point them to a good shell scripting tutorial so they can write and run their own server side scripts, which can be called upon by PHP. another good link for HTML tutorials is webteacher [] where they can follow some basic HTML lessons. Above all, don't make them need a textbook, this is the new age, we have no need for paper as connected web developers, and don't teach them something they'll have to pay to use in any sense like ASP.
  • I don't know, I guess I feel obligated to question if this course is such a good idea to begin with.

    The fact of the matter is that we don't exist in a super-hyped economy where any goof with a course or two can get a job. The market is tight for stuff like web developers.

    What I would recommend is introducing web concepts such TCP/IP, Markup Languages, and various graphics formats. From there, another course should be taken to either specialize in web design (which of course, is graphics oriented), or a web development pathway which would require a basis in programming.

    People may recommend PHP, ASP, or whatever but the fact of the matter is that you need skills to compete in today's market and you cannot be a competive web programmer without a specialization or some kind of fundamental basis of programming.

    I understand that this is a "fast-track" course but one can go only so fast. There is a fine line between accelerated learning and a scam...

Were there fewer fools, knaves would starve. - Anonymous