I add a short but an interesting conversation on twitter (my starting point) with Doug Belshaw about HTML and CSS as part of how Mozilla is looking at Web Literacies. Mozilla is proposing demoting HTML and CSS to a skill rather than distinct competencies. I wasn’t so sure about this as I think HTML and CSS are essentially two of many vital building blocks for the Web.
This is where perhaps I should put down my own distinction between ‘understanding’ and ‘skills’. The example I often quote to other teachers and pupils is that I certainly do ‘understand’ and can recall the competencies required to present on stage like Steve Jobs but I certainly don’t have the skill to do so. Reducing something to a skill without seeing it as a competency first and foremost I think reduces its place but also limits a logical way to teach it. Pupils need to understand it before putting it into practice and developing that skill.
I am aware that other people view skills in different ways in that you teach a ‘skill’. I see it as teaching the knowledge required to make understanding of something, the ‘skill’ bit comes in later through repeated usage.
So about teaching CSS in class. I don’t make the mistake of viewing CSS as a programming language and therefore it certainly takes a very distinct place from let’s say Python in class. However as I have said before CSS is a building block for the web and therefore pupils need to be taught about it.
I therefore have recently started using Bootstrap by twitter as a framework for teaching CSS in class. I have only really done the absolute basics to begin with (nothing much more than H1 and img etc) and next year will build on that using some tougher examples. However it is a useful way I think to get pupils using CSS rapidly as more proficient pupils can start building up a website rapidly whilst pupils who are struggling can at least see basic CSS in action.
Although I have focussed on CSS in this post both CSS and HTML are vital to a Computing Class (it’s in the GCSE computing spec!) and I think in the rush toward Python I think these two technologies shouldn’t be neglected at all.