Web Education (#lwsedu) Live Blog

by jasongrant. 1 Comment

Anna Debenham @anna_debenham

19:23 We are just about to start with the presentation after being given a mock test to do by Anna.

Current education briefs about HTML are that is language ‘without any meaning only used for styling content’.

Show a picture of Bruce Lawson holding a banner saying ‘WTF?!’ – people in the audience laugh.

We need to start educating children in primary schools about what IT is.

‘HTML should be used as transfer code for text, images and links’. ‘It should be controlled using tables.’

Anna is surprised nothing has changed since 10 years ago in the curriculum.

Anna shows us an example of an assignment used in GCSE – the brief is produced using comic sans and Times New Roman, looking very amateur.

A student using Power Point to produce a 4 page web site will get a grade A for being ‘innovative’.

Anna shows an online form for membership sign up, form which does not have a ‘Submit’ button on it of any sort!

A ‘downloads’ page outlines that ‘downloading stuff from the internet is illegal’.

A-level ICT has a 33% drop in uptake at A-level stage, as soon as it stops being compulsory.

There is also 57% drop in A-level computing courses in the last year.

OFSTED has done an in-depth research study to work out what the situation with ICT at schools is.

High achievers feel stifled, while others find it boring.

‘Should IT even be taught in schools, since its not even a vocation?’

UCAS web site has over 127 courses about web design. Majority complain about how outdated the course was.

The number of girls taking IT at under 16 is at an all-time low – they are just not interested in it.

Most courses teach students how to use Microsoft applications such as Power Point, Excel, Word and so on.

Schools are actively discouraged by the Government to provide variety of software to students and have to fund such initiatives by themselves.

Anna shows her initiative called Scrunch Up which is aimed at teaching web technologies to young people. http://scrunchup.com/

Anna shows that young people cannot attend meetups because they are held in pubs where under 21s are not allowed entry even.

Most of our role models are kids in suits lead by Alan Sugar, not creative people who are always working on innovative new ideas.

Young people find it hard to find monetary backing for their concrete projects which they have initiated and built themselves.

Anna shows example of Matt Mullenweg who created WordPress before we was able to buy a drink at UK pub.

Some new courses introduce some more progressive ideas around the web development, including Creative Commons Licence and alt text on images.

Anna shows example of Skratch (http://scratch.mit.edu) which is used to teach children how to program, which worked great in her experience and which children really love.

Teachers are not the problem. They are powerless as they have to teach their children what they are told to teach them.

‘A tick in a box’ is what we work towards.

‘We just got a new IT setup, but we have no idea around what we are supposed to do with this stuff.’

‘Young people have huge appetites for devices they use outside the school, yet ICT at school seems to turn these young people off.’

The main talk finished at 19:47.


What should we do?

We need to go into schools and train the teachers. Provide teachers with free training and that way we can help 1000s of students.

Good point about should we be teaching this. What should we actually be teaching at the age of 16?

Skratch doesn’t teach you a specific language, but shows you general principles.

‘We are trying to create web standards curriculum for school education.’

The Government is looking at an initiative which is directly to do with this. This will be an approved programme to distribute ideas to school.

Chris Mills @chrisdavidmills

Other industries have standards bodies which regulate the way the industry works (industries such as Architecture and Legal).

W3C does a pretty good job at managing a bunch of documents which are recommendations towards what we should use, but noone is forced to use them as part of their work.

At the beginning of the web there was HTML3.2.

Tables for layout were needed in the early days as the CSS support was so patchy.

A lot of the courses were written in the days of IE4 and Netscape and have not changed much since then.

Courses should have HTML, CSS, JS best practices, universal design, proper production flows and work flows, web sites not looking exactly the same across all browsers.

An certain Government education site has 80% IE visitors of which 67% are IE6 users.

Government cannot easily spend small amount of money to upgrade from IE6 to a higher version of the browser due to high costs associated with upgrading all their infrastructure that would need to go alongside that upgrade.

At 20:49 we stop moaning and start talking about solutions.


We want to get rid of the excuses: create supporting resources, evangelise and mould better web developers

Chris and some friends created http://openwebeducation.org/ (Open Web Education Alliance).

Courses have been written to teach students various aspects of web related work (coding, standards, information architecture, user experience design, etc.)

Open Web Education Alliance has been going for just over a year and it’s getting difficult.

We are starting to get people to sign up and everything is on the voluntary basis, so we are trying to get some funding to get things moving forward.

We are deliberately creating resources that any web developer or designer can take to their local school to teach teachers the high level concepts which they need to know.

I would invite anybody who likes that idea to get in touch with me to see how they could help.

We are also trying to teach existing web developers about best practices.

We are also looking at non-technical people who get tasked with procuring a web site for their companies which is not of the best quality.

People don’t know the simple stuff we take for granted, so its quite important to teach them – and they seem to get it.

Previously Government didn’t have ways of engaging with us, so we formed expert groups who suggested things to Government which are best practices.

Chris finishes up at 21:06 leaving time for final

Q&A session

There was a recent thing going on on Twitter about lack of junior roles. Is there a problem with that? I got a number of juniors at my company, but I don’t know what to do with them.

Many companies have this problem of either imploying a junior who doesn’t know much, or employing a way overqualified senior who will not enjoy the work as they know too much.

What is the most appropriate level to teach web development at?

This is an interesting question. Maybe we should teach this at Masters level? There is a place for it at potentially any level. Even at age of 7 are learning HTML and CSS.

Should we be teaching people web design or overarching principles of design?

One of the aspects of being a web developer is the idea of dealing with uncertainty, being pulled in a meeting where the whole system has changed and things need to be redone to suit new situation.

It’s more about teaching people how to think, how to research which is what the University does. We need to teach people how to teach themselves.

Are we mature enough to give good generalised opinion on what should be taught and how? And who should be the accreditor for this when W3C is not good enough?

This is a good point. Potentially it might not be mature enough. 

One comment on “Web Education (#lwsedu) Live Blog

  1. prisca on said:

    Hey 🙂
    just wanted to say thanks for another brilliant event. Sad as this picture of webeducation is – it did reassure me in my quest to teach my course based on webstandards despite the outdated criteria.

    Thanks for 2 great talks, Anna and Chris 🙂

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