Herding cats

Teaching a course in XHTML and CSS to a group of 12 people is something like herding cats.

The particpants knew each other peripherally, so there was a bit of socialization involved. And the knowledge level between them varied widely. Despite the course descript specifically stating “this is not a ‘how to use your computer’ class”, several participants didn’t know the first thing about how to manage files, or create folders. At the other end of the spectrum, were a LAN administrator and an Oracle DBA.

Keeping a group like that all on the same page was more work than the course material itself.

However, I have to admit the course materials I prepared were incomplete, inadequate and untested.

Still, at the end of four hours, it was satisfying as participants uploaded their first pages, and their positive reactions spread around the room. I’m still not sure how understandable I had made everything, but, enough things were understood well enough that people left with the beginnings of a web site.

Due to my poor preparation and spending a lot of time herding cats, we got only about halfway through what I was hoping to accomplish. So we’ve added a second session next month. Meanwhile, folks will be working with their web sits and the book I suggested they all buy, and they’re free to call me for a little extra help.

On the whole, I feel good about the day. Things that went well, went very well. Things that didn’t go well weren’t disasters and we got through them nonetheless. I suppose, that’s the best that could have been expected, given the circumstances. In fact, it’s a lot better than I feared. Nothing was thrown, which is always a plus.

3 Responses to “Herding cats”

  1. amd Says:

    Hey bruce, what are your notes like? If they’re publishable, make a new section on here and make them publically available.

    I’ve been meaning to sit down and learn css and xhtml properly, I’ll get there someday.

  2. amd Says:

    Forgot to ask – what was the book?

  3. brucew Says:

    We’re using Creating a Web Page with HTML by Elizabeth Castro. The course is based on it, modified a bit for the audience. For example, templates I made use SHTML includes for the page header, footer and menubar. I also recycled a CSS file from that client’s web site for familiarity.

    For a reference guide, I’m recommending HTML, XHTML & CSS, also by Elizabeth Castro. Her books are what I would have written had I the focus to stick with it.

    We’re using NoteTab for the editor, FileZilla for FTP and the Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox to validate and test pages at varying screen sizes.

    If I’m happy enough with the materials I’ve prepared, I’ll link to the site I’m creating along with the students.