A well-designed website can demand attention, create engagement, and drive the experience that encourages customers to return. But before your students can become the Web Developers of the future, they need to learn and master their tools. That’s where Adobe Dreamweaver comes in.
Adobe Dreamweaver is the all-in-one visual development tool for creating, publishing, and managing websites and mobile content. But this tool can be daunting to teach, since it requires knowledge and understanding of code as well as design. For our second annual Adobe Certified Professional Academy, we held a special breakout with Florida educator, Jess Campbell to get advice on how she teaches Dreamweaver in her classroom.
Start with Code
Before you can dive into Dreamweaver, make sure your students have a basic understanding of the code. They need HTML and CSS knowledge. Make sure they can write the basic page structure and know the tags by heart. Dreamweaver can write a lot of the code for you, but that doesn’t help students understand how the code affects the final product.
“I always tell my students they should look at projects in split view, because if students don’t have a knowledge of HTML and CSS, they won’t be able to pass their certification. I have students start their work in a text file before we even dive into Dreamweaver. That way they’re writing the code and can see how it looks in a browser before they get the added help of the application.”
Use the Interface
Once students understand the code, they can use Dreamweaver to help them write code more quickly and more accurately. Have them add new tags using the Insert menu or DOM panel. Work on creating and updating CSS rules using the CSS Designer Panel. Use the Properties panel whenever possible.
Jess was emphatic about this. “Help students see that we use Dreamweaver as a tool to prevent typos and errors. It’s not the main author and designer. They are!”
Long Projects Are a Must
While your students may be excited about developing a website, it can get overwhelming. The only way to build a website is to build a website. There aren’t shortcuts. Help them see the bigger picture when they start dipping in motivation. According to Jess, “Projects at the end of the curriculum should be taking a minimum of two weeks each. Consider breaking bigger websites down into group components. This way students can learn to collaborate and feel like their workload is manageable, and the whole group fail if one part is incomplete.”
Get a Server
Your students have been working hard and their site is almost ready. Unfortunately, there’s no way to simulate or replicate the experience of uploading HTML files to a live server, so you’ll need a server available for your students to access and use in class. “I use Bluehost and have been very successful, because it allows me to create segmented FTP accounts. This way students have their own login and password, so they don’t accidentally ruin the work or file of another student. That way they all have their own URL that reads http://ourclass.com/myname. The students feel really proud when they see their own name in the URL.”
Connect with Industry
It’s important to help students successfully build their own projects in class. It’s equally important for them to see how these skills are applied in the real-world. Find a local design firm to partner with your classroom. This connection allows you to have a contact if you want to bring in classroom speakers, have design competition judges, or even office visits for field trips. You can also find local businesses to be a real-life design client, so your students know what it’s like to use their skills in a professional setting. Jess gave an extra tip. “Don’t be afraid to use your students’ parents for contacts. They want their students to succeed as much as you do.”
Make it Personal
Students will have many different experiences in their careers, so your classroom shouldn’t be one-size-fits-all. Personalize your projects to what your students are interested in. Projects are really just prompts, so be flexible with the way you teach to keep your students engaged. Find ways to make your tutorials silly, fun, and unique to each class period. Be silly. “Coding’s not always super exciting. It can be hard to jazz up topics like making a numbered list. Find ways to stay connected to your students, so you can establish a relationship that will keep them motivated.” Don’t take yourself too seriously and keep your students engaged.
Keep it about the Kids
Jess’s last piece of advice, and of course, the most important. “Keep it about the kids. I care about how many students I helped to find a job. That’s what really matters at the end of the day. It’s not about the grades, it’s about helping students succeed in the real world.”
Looking for more advice from Jess? Check out her full breakout session from our Adobe Certified Professional Academy webinar here.