For people that grew up with the internet, they can’t imagine life without it, and don’t give a thought to how it works. An analogy is how my generation views the radio or television. There are some seriously impressive things going on under the hood that make those work, but we just take them for granted.
After making games for several months with my students, I like to take a break from traditional programming to teach them how the internet works. Not the infrastructure and delivery mechanisms with protocols, packets, routers, and switches – but the simplified version. How does the browser take the information that arrives at your computer and know what to show? How do you create your own page or whole website? How can you make all the pages on your site have the same style? How do your teachers that aren’t programmers maintain a website?
The students get practice writing their own HTML and CSS. They also examine other sites’ HTML and CSS to see how it is done by the professionals. They even get exposed to some of the current tools of the trade like using their browser’s inspect element, Twitter Bootstrap, and jQuery.
Challenging the student to do something I haven’t taught them is one of the most important aspects in this teaching. “How do you remove the bullets from your list? What would your Google search term be?” Most kids haven’t sat down with an experienced searcher and received pointers on effective search terms and how to differentiate between the different answers.
They learn that the basics of HTML and CSS are very simple, but that it can be used to create anything they can imagine. It’s not something that needs to be memorized in its entirety, but rather a solid understanding of the fundamentals can be used to understand help docs and Google search results. Ultimately this is the goal of today’s knowledge worker. Thanks to the internet, we all have the world at our finger tips – any of the information we want. It’s a matter of knowing what we should be looking for, processing the information, and taking the right action. Think your student is learning that in school?