Crossing the Digital Platforms in WebDev

HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript undoubtedly make creating cross-platform websites, but it is still essential Web Developers/Designers thoroughly test their sites before making them “live”.

Most websites will have been designed and built on a P.C., MAC or laptop, but increasingly they are being viewed on tablets and mobiles. This is often overlooked. As a teacher of computer science, we would often ask students to login to a site, or interact with a site to do some homework etc. Increasingly, students would reply – “we couldn’t get the website to work on my mum’s tablet or my phone sir”. “Don’t you have a laptop or computer at home”? “No sir, we don’t need one”.

Granted, it tends to be the youth that prefers mobile devices, but in 2016 the amount of people accessing the web via mobiles and tablets surpassed users of laptops (hallaminternet). It is also fair to assume that not everyone wants to download and install another mobile app that they will barely use. Therefore, it is crucial that as web developers/designers, that we create responsive sites that transfer the content to any platform without the need for the user to resize the site’s content. Even if CSS3 is not your strength, there does exist plenty of responsive templates on the net. Some of these – TEMPLATED – are provided free of charge and royalty free (providing you reference them). Even as a “seasoned pro” basing code on pre-existing templates saves time and can be used to show the client quickly what to expect before you commit to the lengthy process of bespoke coding. I am certainly not suggesting we plagiarise, but if we use templates and comment on our code professionally, I see no harm. As a pro, you should be able to delve into the code and personalise and change the content anyway, it is just a useful starting point.

Anyway, I digress a little. Back to the main thread. I am hoping that – using HTML5, CSS3 and JS – we can move away from mobile specific content, and more towards a responsive page that will display the same content optimised to the device, it is viewed on. This is will help greatly with “branding” and provide a consistent experience for the user. It also means the developer just needs to design each page once and apply a CSS to it, rather than make several iterations of a page designed to display on different devices.

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I hope this article has gone some way in helping you understand the importance of UPDATES. If it has…please LIKESHARE or FEEDBACK the post. Thank you.

About the Author, – Dr Richard Haddlesey is the founder and Webmaster of English Medieval Architecture in which he gained a Ph.D. in 2010 and holds Qualified Teacher Status relating to I.C.T. and Computer Science. Richard is a professional Web Developer and Digital Archaeologist and holds several degrees relating to this. He is passionate about the dissemination of research and advancement of digital education and Continued Professional Development #CPD. Driven by a desire to better prepare students for industry, Richard left mainstream teaching to focus on a career in tutoring I.T. professionals with real industry ready skills that matter at The Training Room.

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Cloud Chaos?

As a student, I was always told – no forced – to create folders on my computer to store all documents pertaining to one course or project. All files, no matter the extension or type, go in a folder so they can all be found and all the links to files will work. The same was true for your desktop, keep it clean, keep it in folders. I am a huge fan of arranging all my work into folders and logical places on my physical drives. That often means I do have to use USB sticks to transfer work over to another device, but at least you can. So, for years now, I have been meticulously placing the right file in the right folder to enable myself to locate the said file with ease and to ensure if I copy a folder over -via memory stick – to another device, that all the “stuff” is there. Makes sense I hope?

Now, we have cloud storage, cloud backups, cloud software, cloud this and cloud that. Most major companies offer cloud storage or backup;

·        Microsoft OneDrive

·        Google Drive

·        Adobe Creative Cloud

·        GitHub

·        Kindle Cloud Reader

·        Dropbox

·        Sony Memories

·        Canon/Nikon for photos

·        Samsung

·        iCloud

The list goes on. Most of the list above create a folder on your physical drive that is “synced” to the “cloud”. So, the work you do on MS Word will be in a OneDrive folder, while the image you created will be in your Adobe Creative Cloud folder. More on this later, but I think we need to look at what the cloud is first?

The “cloud” is a physical location! It is not a cloud of data that just floats in space waiting for you to grab at it. The cloud will not rain data when it gets near a hilltop or the North of England. It is located on various servers at various server farms around the globe (depending on the size of the company that stores your cloud data). Those servers are constantly connected to the World Wide Web and the internet so that you can access your data anywhere at any time. The data is across several different farms, often floating back and forth (a cloud of data) to ensure the data is always backed up and accessible should a server fail. So then, the cloud is rather fantastic! You can work on any device, at any location, on any platform, using various software at any time – within reason and with some caveats. On top of this, you can rest assured you have a copy of a file backed up somewhere. Even if you delete a file, there is a greater chance of recovering it or at least finding an older version of it.

So, all this is great! So why the title “Cloud Chaos”? Well, if we think back to the folder scenario I have already eluded to, we now need to create a folder for each cloud provider rather than for each project. My simple logic brain now struggles to think – which cloud provider has what file in which subfolder for which project? For instance, I could be planning and designing a web page. I may write all the text in MS Word first, then save the work in my OneDrive so I can access the document on my phone too. Next, I create an image in Photoshop and save the image in my Adobe Creative Cloud folder. I may start my HTML code in Dreamweaver and save it too to the Adobe Creative Cloud, but my colleague needs to work on the code too, so I place the code on GitHub so we can share the code in real time without having to give them access to my Adobe account. So now I have different files in different cloud folders. This is amazing, that colleagues can share work and be assured they are working on the latest iteration, however, my poor dyslexic mind cannot cope easily with files in various locations rather than in just one location that I control. So, on one hand, our workflow has the potential to grow and the potential of collaboration is almost limitless (bandwidth and latency aside). This is, understandably why the cloud is so popular. Especially, as most cloud services come as an add-on to your software package. Or, in the case of Dropbox, are essentially free – unless you need larger storage through a business account. It really is quite amazing!

So, why the chaos? Well, simply because your files are now spread across various cloud providers and it is not until you bring it all together can it be stored in one location. So, if we take Dreamweaver as our example, we need to place all the associated files in a root folder so the website can link to all its assets relatively. All the image files will be in the default image folder, HTML in another, CSS and JavaScript in others. So, we need to take the original files out of the cloud folder and place them on our server so the links all work etc. For most people, this probably is not an issue, but for me – with dyslexia and short-term memory loss – it is a nightmare! Did I move the file? Where is the file? Am I working with the latest version? Have I put all the files in the right folder and deposited it all on the server? I agree, the cloud makes life more collaborative and intuitive for most, but it is a new way of working that does take time to adapt to. Clearly, I am slowly getting used to disparate folders and locations.

How do you manage all your files and folders? Do you have your files across several paths and folders? How do you collate and share your workflow?

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I hope this article has gone some way in helping you understand the importance of UPDATES. If it has…please LIKESHARE or FEEDBACK the post. Thank you.

About the Author, – Dr Richard Haddlesey is the founder and Webmaster of English Medieval Architecture in which he gained a Ph.D. in 2010 and holds Qualified Teacher Status relating to I.C.T. and Computer Science. Richard is a professional Web Developer and Digital Archaeologist and holds several degrees relating to this. He is passionate about the dissemination of research and advancement of digital education and Continued Professional Development #CPD. Driven by a desire to better prepare students for industry, Richard left mainstream teaching to focus on a career in tutoring I.T. professionals with real industry ready skills that matter at The Training Room.

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A future skills gap in the wake of the new Computer Science GCSE?

As a former Secondary School Teacher, I was part of the government’s move away from traditional Information Communications Technology (ICT) toward Computer Science as a GCSE.

The change has been profound and caught many teachers off-guard. Many older teachers of ICT could not easily make the transition to teaching computer science. Why? Well because it is now a science! A science based on computational thinking and the logical creation and analysis of algorithms and coded solutions. In simplistic terms… it’s out with Microsoft Office and in with Python IDE!

Computer Science then is a completely different course to ICT. Obviously there exists some latent crossover, but for the most part, it is a much more relevant science/industry-based qualification compared to the more business based ICT course. Much of what was ICT is now only a small part of the E-commerce side of Comp Sci. It has moved from learning how to use software – such as MS Office – to create documents and websites. It is now much more about how to build apps, programs and e-portfolios alongside maintaining computer systems, networks and cyber-security. As such, breaking down a problem and planning a sequenced plan or algorithm is now fundamental to the “art” of computational thinking.

 

My experience of teaching both ICT and Computer Science has taught me that not all students are capable of Computational Thinking and understanding algorithms. Not all can think sequentially and logically, many can only process freeform, nonlinear thoughts and can make little sense of a computer that can only do what it is told, in a specific order using a specific structured language or code.

This leads the teacher to have to focus more on trying to teach the students how to create algorithms and flowcharts and of course coding. There does exist many high-quality educational aids for learning to code –

·        https://code.org/learn

·        https://scratch.mit.edu/starter_projects/

·        http://www.alice.org/index.php

·        https://www.codecademy.com/learn

·        https://www.kodugamelab.com/

·        https://codecombat.com/

Students, in my experience, find it difficult to code effectively because of the strict syntax. Although PYTHON is very forgiving, it is exacting in its syntax – in other words, if it expects a colon or comma, then it MUST have a colon or a comma! – but why? “Well, it just does” can placate some students, but frustrate others. Trying to get the students to code effectively takes up a lot of teaching time at the expense of much of the theory. Most of the time we had to rely on students doing the theory for homework, which inevitably, was 50/50 hit and miss with many students not bothering. The ability to create a working solution to a problem almost always forms the basis of at least one of their final Controlled Assessment’s in which the student must plan, code and test a solution efficiently with no guided help from their teacher or peers. Because this is crucial to a good final grade, it is obvious that teaching and learning how to code and troubleshoot code is a classroom priority.

So, you may ask, why am I writing this blog? Well, because I believe that there will continue to be a skills gap when our present and future cohorts of GCSE Computer Science students leave school. I am convinced that they will certainly better equipped than their ICT qualified peers, however, with too much time given over to learning Python I think they will be lacking solid industry skills. Don’t get me wrong; I think their learning Python, Computational Thinking and Algorithms are a massive step forward in the right direction. However, they often lack the ability to translate the learning of Python into other “C” based languages and HTML, SQL, JavaScript etc. No matter how hard we try to drill the students on the importance of planning and writing algorithms that were not retro-engineered, they always wanted to code first and then try to make up a plan to fit the program.

Any way I digress… I am not trying to push a solution – after all, there is no single solution – I am just pointing out my observations in order to try and start a discussion on the future of the industry and whether others have noticed a skills gap in GCSE students?

I hope this article has gone some way in helping start a discussion on possible future skills gaps. If it has…please LIKE, SHARE or FEEDBACK the post. Thank you.

About the Author – Dr Richard Haddlesey is the founder and Webmaster of English Medieval Architecture in which he gained a Ph.D. in 2010 and holds Qualified Teacher Status relating to I.C.T. and Computer Science. Richard is a professional Web Developer and Digital Archaeologist and holds several degrees relating to this. He is passionate about the dissemination of research and advancement of digital education and Continued Professional Development #CPD. Driven by a desire to better prepare students for industry, Richard left mainstream teaching to focus on a career in tutoring I.T. professionals with real skills that matter. Thus, catering more to the individual learner’s needs relevant to their career pathway than the National Curriculum taught in schools is presently capable of.

#ttrIT #ttrcareerinIT #ttrLearnToCode

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