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Education and Web Developers Today

Ok, I’m looking for your input. I was intrigued to read a post by Jesse Rodgers about a recent posting from 37Signals. The summary is that 37Signals states that “We don’t put much value in formal education when deciding who to hire”.

Here was my comment to the article (on Jesse’s Blog):

I have mixed feelings about this. I do value higher education – and I actually work for a university. However, I feel that part of this problem was caused by the universities themselves. Many comp-sci students come from programs that are more than outdated. Employers then get students that have to be completely retaught. Also, it seems the standards have become a bit lax. At least now, if you get a “self-taught” worker – you can assume that they are interested in the technology and are self-motivated. You can no longer make this assumption about students coming out of a university.

Personally, I value the time I spent getting my degree, but it was not in web development (or computer science). My bachelor’s degree was in Recording Industry Production (audio recording). Do you think that a truly great developer should have a degree? Do most of the developers at your job have degrees? In computer science? What role does / should higher education play in creating good web developers?

Adobe’s Career Focused Curriculum

Adobe’s new “Career-Focused” curriculum is an amazing step in modernizing technical education in both high schools and universities. I have looked over the curriculum for Web Design, and I don’t believe that any other curriculum that I have reviewed covers current day software and topics as effectively as this curriculum does. Many more schools are offering classes in topics such as “Web Design” and “Rich Internet Applications”, but in the end I feel that most of the instructors are not aware of the current nature of the digital development world. Many programs are geared toward certifications that are either outdated or insignificant. My hope is that this curriculum will begin to permeate these programs and increase the quality of education, and in turn the quality of digital media in the future.

Web Design Curriculum
Design and Print Curriculum
Video Design and Production Curriculum

My initial hope is that if you know an educator that is teaching a digital media course of any type (at any level) let them know about this curriculum. As always, I look forward to hearing your comments.

Why Education Matters to Flex

Adobe recently made a major announcement regarding their strategy for Flex promotion. To quick summary is that Adobe will be offering Flex Builder for free to faculty and students at education institutions worldwide [news article]. Many of you know that I work at Georgia Tech (and previously at Middle Tennessee State University), and I believe that this announcement is huge.

Initially, some developers in the commercial field might not see the importance of this announcement. However, students eventually become developers, employers, potential clients, consultants, and decision makers. If these people can become captivated with a technology, they can begin to see its value in their work. This became even more clear to me as one of the senior Georgia Tech administrators accompanied me to Adobe Max in Chicago. He was extremely impressed with the GIS demo that utilized Flex (one of his areas of expertise is GIS). Since the conference he has included a Flex project in at least one research proposal. He saw the potential and has embraced the technology as a means of visualizing his research.

By allowing Flex Builder to be free for students and faculty, we will see not only more Flex projects, but we will see even more important Flex projects. Sure, I can code a search engine that mashes-up data from many different sources and displays the results in a three dimensional view, but what if I could develop an interactive experience where Civil Engineering students could better understand the development of complex structures? These kind of ideas are already being discussed, and Adobe’s move only accelerates them.