Is summer really over?

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”  This quote by Carl Sagan essentially sums up how I feel about this past summer. I have learned so much and had so many incredible experiences and met so many knowledgeable and passionate people and renewed a number of friendships. For those who are curious, we also now have a third grandson – Owen Mark. That was definitely the highlight of this summer (that and spending a week with our other two grandsons). However, as we start the fall semester at school, I wanted to share a few thoughts on my experiences with technology and education this past summer and some of the activities I have had the privilege to be associated with. This has been a summer of conferences and contests. I doubt this is a complete list, but here goes…

  • Working Connections conference – Springfield, Illinois, May – I had the distinct honor of teaching a week long class on HTML5 and CSS-3 to a group of very dedicated and passionate teachers (and individuals involved in both state government and  industry).
  • WOW Web Design Contest – Kansas City, Missouri, June – I was able to help run these contests for both secondary and post-secondary students. I believe this is the 8th year we have done a national contest with a focus on web standards and professionalism. This was my first year to actually award the medals. It is an incredible experience to be on stage with over 18,000 people in the audience.
  • MPICT conference – San Francisco, California, June – I also had the pleasure of speaking on HTML5 and CSS-3 for another week with an emphasis on aligning and modernizing web curriculum. I met many colleagues from across the western states (including Hawaii) and have made a number of new friends.
  • D2W conference – Kansas City, Missouri, July – Not only was I able to participate in this conference at the last moment (many thanks to Dee Sadler), but I was also able to travel to the Designer to Developer Workflow conference with two colleagues from central Illinois. It was a great experience and a chance to learn even more about mobile development issues.
  • Adobe Education Leader Summer Institute, San Jose, California, July – I have been privileged to attend this event for the past 3 years. This year, I gave a five minute presentation on how we are teaching Business Catalyst as part of our web business class. I also got to participate in a panel discussion with collegaues entitled “Tell Adobe.”
  • initiative – I have been asked to co-chair this initiative focusing on interdisciplinary education. Although this is a daunting task, we simply must succeed. Our fragmented efforts at various education initiatives need to coalesce and I am honored to be a part.

Ok, those are some of the highlights. I have left out many others as I want to focus on what this means for students in our web classes and why I think it is important for everyone to become more involved.

So what? I know that is likely the main question readers are asking. Ok, Mark had a fun summer and did a lot of traveling. What this means is that I made a concerted effort to keep my knowledge and skills up to date. This is something every person in this field should be doing. If you are a student in a rapidly changing field (like web systems) ask your teacher what they are doing to keep up with current trends and enhancements. As you may well understand, the pace of change in the field of web systems is rapid and accelerating. We now think in terms of mobile and multi-screen development first and web pages later. We need to think of the web as an immersive experience, not just information. I also made a concerted effort to network with as many people as possible. This is one of the main reasons I attend conferences in person. Twitter, webinars and the like only go so far. One needs to actually communicate with people physically. Additionally, I believe I have made a difference. Whether discussing aligning web curricula with current best practices, teaching HTML5, or discussing what we are doing in central Illinois, I understand that I have had the chance to influence a number of programs throughout the United States. By my count, this represents between 40 and 50 school programs (mostly community college and high school). In addition to specific classes, our national web design contest is a grass-roots effort to improve curricula throughout the US. Students who participate realize the only way they can achieve excellence and get on the medal stand is to fully understand and employ web standards and professionalism. They are taking this message back to their teachers and asking that these topics be covered in depth. If one includes all the colleges and high schools touched by our web design contests, we are well over 100 institutions that I have been able to directly influence this summer. To me, that is making a difference and raising the bar for web standards and professionalism in education.

Now for those who have read this far – why am I mentioning this at the beginning of the fall semester? This is a new semester and academic year. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching is that every year and every semester is a new beginning. We can constantly improve over past semesters. Those who have had classes before may have become complacent. Those who are just getting started may feel overwhelmed.  Don’t (in either case). Use this semester as an opportunity to network (learn from others). Everyone has unique knowledge and skills they bring to our classes. Use this semester to take advantage of challenges and activities outside of class. For example, we have a meeting of our local Web Professionals chapter and Adobe User Group meeting every month. Participate. Yes, I know you are busy. So am I. However, unless you make an effort to grow and stretch, you will remain exactly where you are. Don’t just consider or think about participating in the web design contest – do it. Commit now and make an effort to test you knowledge, skills, and abilities against others in April. If you do well at state, you will go on to compete nationally. If you don’t do well, that is ok. Learn from your mistakes and try again next time.

You have some great opportunities available to you as you take classes in our web curriculum. Use this as an opportunity to grow and expand. Don’t just limit yourself to class work. If you only do the minimum, how will you differentiate your accomplishments to potential employers? “Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Venture outside of your comfort zone and find the incredible.

4 thoughts on “Is summer really over?”

  1. Web Professionals and Adobe User Group meetings are the second Tuesday of each month, I’d encourage web system students to attend. It is a great group that we have, and you will learn something new at every meeting, some from your peers, and some from seasoned web professionals.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial