Dreamweaver: it may be installed, but please don’t teach it

Dave Lee, at UKPG website, has been asking – Who’s using Dreamweaver? The debate kicked off (again), after Khoi Vinh, design director of explained how he went about creating NY Times.

A dream candidate:

He came up ‘wishlist’ when interviewing candidates [See also coverage on Mindy’s blog].

Ideally, recruits would have:

a commercially viable comfort level
with database and application programming;
and “last but not least sound
news values”.

Vinh wanted to know who was teaching this kind of stuff? I can’t talk about the entire world (!), but in the UK I only know of  –  City University’s MA Electronic Publishing. This highly-rated MA is delivered jointly by City’s Department of Information Science and the Department of Journalism and may well come close.

Most journalism undergrad are not covering programming or how to code because they come out of arts faculties. If this is what Vinh requires then he better get used to teaching computer science grads ‘sound news values’.

Ban Dreamweaver. Teach open source [sorry Adobe]

But Dave Lee makes an important point: nobody is talking about Dreamweaver these days!   

It is clear that some students think: online journalism = creating websites = Dreamweaver. Also, some educators believe that just because Dreamweaver is installed on all the machines (part of CS)  = we should teach it. Whilst learning Dreamweaver is surely useful in life, so is learning how to bake lasagna. And you can do both at the nearest adult education college (presumably not in the same class).

One of the few rational reasons for teaching Dreamweaver is…well, there’s something to teach! People get worried in HE when they feel a sector is changing too rapidly. The argument is that content management systems are a) expensive b) complicated and c) change all the time. Universities seek industry standard software – like InDesign in magazine production and FCP or Avid in broadcast.

But this is missing the point. You can teach a lot of important transferable skills in online journalism via a class website and blog, created in something open source –  like WordPress or Joomla! It doesn’t have to cost the earth [bad luck Adobe].

Why am I so angry? It’s because contact time is SO limited. If you spend two hours a week for 13 weeks messing around with Dreamweaver, students will end up with a pretty-looking static website. But what about:

how journalists should handle user-generated material?
SEO?, Tags, RSS?, analytics?
AdWords? / online marketing?
Web 2.0?
social media and community?
…………..and, on, and on…

Student journalists should also be engaging with the local community online. Sure, this type of thing presents challenges to teaching methods and assessment. But teaching Dreamweaver is simply a cop-out, unless, of course, it’s a web design unit you teach.

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