This year the talk that really caught my attention was that of Jeff Brown’s, a teacher at Damascus High School in Montgomery County Maryland and a member of the Web Standards Project Education Task Force. Jeff’s talk focused on “Webucation”, and the still very wide gap between what is being taught in college Web Design classes and what is being practiced online and in the industry.
While have been teaching part-time at CDIA-BU, Jeff’s topic caught my attention because of an experience I had about 6 months ago speaking with a group of graduating seniors in a Design program (that includes web design courses) at a local well respected university. While talking to about 30 students I asked them questions like “Do you know what user experience, interaction design, or information architecture is?” with shocking results. Not only were they unfamiliar with the terminology, few seemed to care about possible opportunities in web design. HTML, and CSS? forget it. While I am very aware that I did not learn that stuff when I was in school, a lot of time has passed since then and I really expected more of a progression towards web standards, industry technology, and well… basic interaction design.
After having that experience it became very apparent to me that the majority of higher educational institutions are very behind. It has since been on my mind and it is one of the reasons I so excitedly jumped on board when I heard about teaching part time at CDIA-BU (because they are on top of their stuff). Throughout Jeff’s talk he shared his personal experiences of interviewing with a college and his take-aways from the interview only confirmed many of the predictions I had about other institutions and how they are handling teaching web design. After proposing possible classes he could teach the interviewer came back and explained that word processing and “flash animation (for gaming)” were possible opportunities.
So, what was Jeff’s advice on how to solve these predicaments? Find a non-confrontational approach and become a “Webucator”. Make it a priority to be a guest speaker for a class, visit a college campus, or just step up to be an example for students to follow. Jeff’s talk was definitely one of the most unique and inspirational talks I have sat in at Barcamp DC and I really felt like his message is worthy of passing along.
In addition to sharing his message I want to point out an easy way for any of you guys to step up and help Jeff’s mission as a “webucator”: donate to the Web Program at Damascus High School. Jeff teaches a fantastic group of High School students the wonders of Web standards, and is even taking them to the Future of Web Design Conference on Nov 4th. A High School field trip to see Paul Boag, Dan Mall, Hillman Curtis, & Khoi Vinh talk about the awesomeness of all things web? How rad is that! Even if it is just a few dollars it would be an awesome, and very easy way to contribute to the webucation of the people who will be determining the future of web design.
Photo by Jason Garber