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Greg McVerry

Why an HTML/CSS First Approach Works for #OER and why #OER Must Work for an HTML First Approach

4 min read

A few years ago I worked with a committed group of volunteers in Erode, India. For awhile I provided a bit of webspace as they learned the simple mechanics of running websites.

using chalk to lay out websites

We focused on HTMl first. Why? Mainly because we believed it to be the most equitable pathway to .

In the picture above you can see people learning to build websites by using chalk for their tags. The club then collected bricks from abandonded houses and learned to stack webpages this way.

Basically you can learn the structure of a website and get it online in a day. You can not do that with React or what ever framework of the day folks use. Worse, new learners who hit source code get treated with just a few lines of gobbily gook while the human readable data gets hidden away.

fighting for net neutrality

When you provide a foundation of basics and give people a chance to have their own space online they become immediate activists for themselves.

How do we Curate and grow Community?

With HTML.


The answer has always been HTML/CSS...and some scripting for storage, but that's it. We do not need to invent the new network we already have the web.

In HTML we can carry data by adding a tiny bit of data to your HTML. Every HTML element (the tags) can carry the class attribute. You do this in the same way you add a CSS Selector but we add some metadata properties

So for example just add class="u-bookmark-of" to curate  a resource. This tiny bit of data can empower interoperability in the community at levels we only dream about.

When we decide to carry our metadata in the very files we want to share with the Commons you also get to utlize so many more standards already approved by th W3c such as webmentions which means I can send a reply post from my site to your website and you can display it as a comment.

Doesn't that sound perfect for an network built on our own Domains?

Domains and Websites Take Priviledge and Power

Yes knowing how to build a website does reflect our institutional and global imbalances. Literacy always has. The powerful hold it back from the disenfranchised and the down trodden must use it to take back control. The web is not different.

But could you imagine saying, "Not everyone can afford books so we shouldn't teach people to read and write"?

Why do we say this now with the web. We took the wrong lesson from the Web 2.0 meme. It was never , "Now nobody needs to know HTML." It should have been, "Now everyone needs to know a bit of HTML."

How to Begin

Model. Can you answer the question, "My url is.."

Learn out loud. Capture your journey as you start to esnure the longevity of you content by making a committment to an HTML/CSS first world.

Remix. Check out our Getting Started page. We have built a ton of resources to Glitch (this is my Mozilla Thimble) replacement. Tools focused on learning  and generic tools  from beginner to advanced.

Get Involved. Somewhere near you like minded indiviudals meet up. Create the local network. We run events, free of cost, that anyone around the world can organize. For example every other Wednedsay across the globe small local clubs meet up and hack on wenbsites. We also run larger weekend events and have a free online conference coming up, one in New Haven, and events scheduled around the world. 

Contribute to the Commons. When you build resources and tools using HTML as your base you are ensuring our past can be read in the future. 


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