As careful readers will recall from a past entry, I made a decision a while ago with my English 444 class to actually “geek it up” a notch and include Eric Meyer’s book, Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide. We’re reading that book right now, which is one of the reasons why I haven’t been posting here lately. Basically, I decided that we’d spend the first month or so of the class getting down “the tools” and then we’d get on to everything else. So we’ve spent some time talking about basic HTML of course, and also server software tools, HTML editing software (Dreamweaver in particular), and a little bit of PhotoShop. We’re spending two weeks on talking about CSS things, mostly as they relate to the Meyer book.
I need to take a bit of a break from reading it right now; and yet I can’t leave it completely behind. So a chance to blog a few thoughts:
- I’m about halfway through the book (many of my students are further), and I can now say without question that I know about 1000 times more about CSS than I did before I started. Which is not to say that I really “know” what I’m doing here.
- In some interesting and surprising ways, my 444 students are being real troopers about all this. Not even a little bit of whining or complaining, and several students have said they’re very glad we’re reading it. I have to say, if I were a student in this class right now, I’m not so sure I’d have as rosy of an attitude, so I really have to hand it to them.
- Meyer is an extremely good writer. In fact, if nothing else, I think it is fair to say that this is a book that is an excellent example of the oh-so-common genre “manual.”
- Having said that, I find myself putting stuff he says into four basic categories:
- Explanations of CSS things I knew about before but which I understand much better now;
- Explanations of CSS (and other ‘net) things I didn’t know about before but which I feel much better for knowing now;
- Explanations of things that I am sure are in some sense important but which make absolutely no sense to me; and
- Explanations of things that I may or may not understand but which are completely irrelevant. For example, at one point, Meyer explains the CSS code for stretching text. The only problem is that since no browser actually supports this feature, it is merely something CSS can do in theory.
- It’s going to be a while (maybe forever) before I’m able to do the sort of fancy CSS stuff that makes blogs or other CMS systems look really cool.
- If I were to do this again, I think I’d pick something that is more of a “CSS light” kind of text. I’m torn about this, though. On the one hand, I am glad we’re really getting into the nitty-gritty of the code with this book, and I think my students are thankful for the experience, too. On the other hand, spending 2 weeks on this stuff is perhaps over-kill.
Oh well. Back to the CSS mines.