Teaching Dreamweaver the Web Standards Way

By: Sheri German

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I have been teaching people how to use Dreamweaver in various training venues since version 2, or just about forever. Each new upgrade adds more features and makes my job more complex. How does a teacher help beginners make sense of an increasingly overwhelming interface that includes seemingly endless choices?

My syllabus has changed a lot over the years, and this is what I have learned: pare the syllabus to the absolute essentials. Subtract, do not add. Aim for elegant simplicity. Focus on Web Standards.

I teach Dreamweaver in eight classes (12:30 - 4) at Trinity University, in two-day seminars (from 8:30 - 3) at the Government Printing Office, and in two day tutorials (9:30 - 12:30) at the Washington Apple Pi, a Washington, D.C. area Mac User Group. I will use my 8 week class as the target lesson plan, but with a few tweaks here and there you can adjust this syllabus to almost any training situation.

Class One

So what can my students expect when they walk into class on day one? For starters, they won't learn a thing about Dreamweaver! After I go over my expectations and review the syllabus, I launch right in with a little html. It saves a lot of time in the long run, and is the straightest path to understanding CSS.

At the GPO, knowing html is a suggested prerequisite for the Dreamweaver class - not that everyone who walks in the door pays attention to that, but the odds are good that most of the students have had at least a basic html class, which we also teach. At the Washington Apple Pi, the class is too short to teach html, but I try to call attention to elements in the Tag Selector.

Just the Basics

Because of Web Standards, teaching the basics of html is much easier than it was in the past. Students used to have to learn many presentation elements and attributes that are now deprecated. Here is what I teach:

  • Using a proper doctype
  • The four essential elements: html, head, title, and body
  • Paragraphs and breaks
  • The six levels of headings
  • Hyperlinks and email links
  • Ordered and unordered lists
  • Images (with alt text and width and height attributes) in the page
  • Basic, unadorned tables

I spend about two hours on html that first day; it lays the foundation for the entire course. I have the students use Dreamweaver's code view, but I make them disable the code hints option in the preferences.


Image 1: Turn off the Enable code hints option in the Code Hints category of Preferences

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Keywords
Teaching Dreamweaver, developing a Dreamweaver curriculum, CSS, Web Standards, HTML, hybrid CSS Table layout