Monday, August 30, 2010

Web Design Class

Check out this great report from Jon, our Web Design class teacher!

For a short while, I wondered what I'd gotten myself into. I'm a web designer and developer. I'd done this for many years, and I was eager to teach it to other eager minds. But web design is not a small, nor easily defined, topic. The sheer volume of acronyms and buzzwords can induce uncomfortable head spinning.

On the other hand, coordinating with Seattle Free School was a breeze. Jessica was a perfect balance of professional and approachable. She gave me great insights on planning, and what to cover. What's more, she knew folks at Seattle Public Library were interested in very generously lending us some space in their computer labs. It was a perfect match.

So, I decided to put it out there. One class, an hour and a half long. We'll see who signs up, and what we can get done in that time. Both the Free School and the Public Library listed the event on their calendar, and the class seats filled up in a hurry!

I put together a loose outline of what I wanted to cover, authored a few Powerpoint slides, and decided on a good approach for teaching such a large topic. I designed a basic layout, that we could tackle in class and code ourselves.

Teaching day came. I showed up early to get the room setup. The facilities were perfect, replete with dry erase boards, nice computers, a projector screen, the whole nine yards. Library staff were super helpful, and went out of their way to help get the computers setup for the class. Folks started filing in early, taking seats and eager to learn.

The class was nearly a full house, and a lot of fun. We talked about HTML and how to structure good semantic markup. We had a good side talk about how Google works, and how to make your site easy to find. Then, we moved on to start building the design I'd laid out for them, and styling it with CSS. I'd walk through brief explanations of what different pieces of code do, then we'd all write them in our code editor (Notepad!). Along the way, I could see eyes light up across the room when small bits of code they'd written turned into something they were proud of, piece by piece. Not unlike giving someone a robot making kit, and watching their machines come alive.

We couldn't get through every piece of the design I was hoping we'd finish -- my time constraints proved to be a bit too optimistic. But, I promised that we would have more classes like these in the future, and allot more time to the subject at hand. Once time expired, they all filed out with warm smiles and a sincere thanks. It felt really awesome to teach folks a new skill, and I hope to do many more of these in the future.

I want to extend a huge thanks to Seattle Free School, all of the nice folks at Seattle Public Library, and everyone who came out to learn a little web design! I look forward to doing it again in the future. :)

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