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Re: Teaching XHTML/CSS (was Re: Promotion of XHTML)

From: John Colby <John.colby@btinternet.com>
Date: Wed, 01 Jan 2003 12:01:19 +0000
Message-Id: <>
To: public-evangelist@w3.org

At 20:58 01/01/2003 +1100, Steph wrote:

>I had a conversation with a university lecturer who was teaching
>a web-related course in Information Management about why she was
>still teaching HTML and not XHTML.  Her answer was that most
>students can barely cope with effectively using computers,
>let alone trying to grasp XML/XHTML.
>I don't believe that this is a sufficient 'excuse'. To some
>extent, learning technical things (mathematics, programming, languages)
>tend to begin with some degree of acceptance about "this is the way things
>are" on the part of the student; this is part of the learning curve.
> >From my own experiences, after some time, the student might truly
>understand the why, but in the beginning, they can start with understanding
>the how - explaining whys in the beginning don't always make sense until
>they have seen a few examples and have worked through a few themselves.

I don't think this is valid, either, which is why I'm tying Standards to 
Accessibility, because that can have the force of the law behind it.

>This is why I think it would be better to teach XHTML right in the beginning
>- we say, "this is the way things are now". I have found that teaching valid
>HTML 4, explaining laying out web pages in tables, /and then/ explaining
>XHTML/CSS to be much more confusing for students - they expressed a
>preference towards the first concept they learned, and they don't understand
>the transition or the reasoning behind the difference.
Teach it right from the outset and then you don't have to get them to 
unlearn, but also teach the retrofit of sites that are non-compliant. Not 
that it's impossible to make sites accessible with non-standard code - its 
just a whole load more difficult. If they want to switch off and not do it 
the correct way, then they will have to remember who's marking the exams.

>The method I ended up using in teaching basic XHTML/CSS, was bringing
>a series of different sized cardboard boxes into class: a big box to
>signify the <html> container, a box to signify the <header> container,
>a box to signify the <body> containter, headings, paragraphs ..
>and so forth.
>This way, students were able to conceptualise the structure of a Web
>document without even beginning to understand what XHTML is. I used
>yellow stickies to label the XHTML:  these are the names we are calling
>these boxes. Eg, a div and a span are special kinds of boxes, we can call
>them what we want.
>The advantage to this method of conceptualising meant that it became
>quite easy to explain CSS. Students were able to see what cascading
>meant - it made a kind of sense that a property belonging to a
>smaller box should override a property inherited by a containing box.
>And I think was not difficult to see why structure is separated
>from the presentation: the content goes in the boxes, the presentation
>is described "on top" of the boxes.

And the even lazier way is to make another all enveloping CSS bag whihc can 
contain multiple XHTML content documents - but the CSS can apply to more 
than one XHTML content document, so look and feel is easier if you want to 
change it.

>I didn't have the chance to experiment with this method more than
>a couple of times. If someone else is willing to give it a try, I'd
>like to know if this method is truly workable and effective. :)


I will try this. The Russian Doll concept of XHTML - hmmmmm!


Received on Wednesday, 1 January 2003 07:01:26 UTC

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