WYSIWYG vs. XHTML/CSS

There’s a discussion on the techrhet listserv right now about teaching students to code (as opposed to using WYSIWYG applications like Dreamweaver). Folks who are interested in this might look at a 1999 special issue of Computers and Composition devoted to code (16.3). Also check out these online resources:
  • Susan Delagrange, “When Revision is Redesign” (the section on “Code“), in Kairos — “I want to argue for writing code, working under the hood of what-you-see-is-what-you-get software to more directly effect an interface that not only provides an optimal user experience, but also more precisely fits the design to the rhetorical argument.”
  • Karl Stolley, “Lo-Fi Manifesto” in Kairos — “[A]s teachers, we should actively work to provide students with sustainable, extensible production literacies through open, rhetorically grounded digital practices that emphasize the source in “free and open source.”
  • Charlie Lowe, “The Future of the Book: Time to Learn Some HTML/CSS” on Kairosnews — “HTML will need to be the base format for manuscripts going into a design workflow that results in digital and print versions of a book.”
  • Nancy Kaplan, “Knowing Practice: A More Complex View of New Media Literacy” — “[A]pplications and interfaces must remain visible and accessible to knowledge workers if they are to develop newmedia literacies.”
  • Lynda R. Stephenson, “Road Trip,” in Kairos — “This webtext has pedagogical and theoretical intentions that allow readers to reflect on why we should learn to code.”
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3 comments on “WYSIWYG vs. XHTML/CSS

  1. Hi Kory,
    I am wondering if this proposal could be linked through course requirements: Say, for example, Scenario 1: a student is planning to transfer to a four-year school from community college or complete a 2-year or 4-year degree. Would you propose linking computer science courses as a pre-requisite for a composition course? Scenario 2: an interdisciplinary course in which a student learns html in one part of the course and applies that in the composition part of the course. I am trying to get a picture in my mind of how the application you are proposing might be applied. Thanks, Cheryl

  2. Good questions. Much of this occurs in technical writing courses focused on web design. I’m not aware of FYC courses teaching XHTML/CSS like this, but there probably are some out there. You might look at this for an example of a special topic course: Writing in Electronic Environments.

    For the record, I’m a bit agnostic on this issue right now, but I am starting to consider ways of integrating code into my sophomore writing course.

  3. Learning Sciences went through this exact same discussion about why kids should learn programming two decades ago. Funny it takes humanities people so long to catch up. (If you recall, I even did my dissertation somewhat along these lines.) There were four basic reasons put forward back then:

    (1) Because programming is a necessary late-20th century skill. In the future (i.e., NOW), *everyone* will be programming, and those who can’t will be left behind!

    (2) Because learning to program will de-mystify computing and create career interest and agency by shifting kids from users to producers.

    (3) Because kids will be able to create their own games and programs that reflect their interests and preferences far better than designers who just continually guess (often wrongly) at what kids want.

    (4) Because the habits of mind fostered by programming (logic, taxonomy, organizational thinking, form/function, part/whole, input/output, etc) are helpful and useful for particular sorts of “we need more scientists and engineers/send your kid to MIT” educational goals.

    Interestingly, much of the argument being put forward in this C&C issue seems to hinge on #1, which is the ONLY one of the four ultimately abandoned by the discussion twenty years ago. Everyone doesn’t need to program in order to be fluent with technology, just like everyone doesn’t need to be a mechanic in order to drive a car. It will never happen. Certainly you can argue that there are great benefits for those that do, like #2-4. Although I don’t really see the majority of humanists really getting on-board with #4, do you?

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