The Secret for Better Online Classes: Learn HTML & CSS

By Keith Michael Howard | Last Updated: June 12, 2021

My #1 recommendation for online teachers who want to rapidly improve their virtual classroom experience is unusual: learn HTML and CSS.   

You are thinking, “Is this guy joking? Why should I learn HTML and CSS? I am a teacher, not a hacker!”  

And that’s true.

But what if instead of focusing on the “teaching” part of the job, you invested time into becoming more comfortable and confident with the “online” aspect?

In this post, I will justify why learning HTML & CSS is the single most important skill any online teacher looking to take their game up a notch can pursue.


Table of Benefits:

  1. It will humble you and build empathy for your students.
  2. You change the algorithms in your news feed.
  3. Learn how to use advanced Google searches for finding answers.
  4. Be in the top 1% of teachers in terms of technology skills.
  5. Feeling like you are finally playing fair with machines.
  6. It is great for your resume.
  7. How to learn HTML and CSS?
  8. How long will it take to learn HTML and CSS?

1. It will humble you and build empathy for your students

When I learned HTML and CSS, it wasn’t like starting over from zero. It was like starting from -10: completely new ground with nothing under my feet.

In the beginning, I felt confused, overwhelmed by the material, and frustrated by my mistakes: much like my students. I was experiencing learning as my students do and this helped me build empathy, which a good online teacher needs mountains of.

Things go wrong all the time while teaching online, and having an understanding of how hard this can be on learners is vital.

2. It will change the algorithms in your news feed.

Everything you see on your news feed, from articles to cat videos, comes from algorithms. These are designed so that the most engaging content gets shown to you. To an algorithm, you are what you search for and click on.

My newsfeed changed substantially after I started learning HTML and CSS because I started making searches for coding answers.

From these searches, my algorithm evolved; suddenly there would be article after article popping up with topics related to education technology, AI, and website building; it opened up a whole new realm for exploration.

I can’t argue strongly enough for how important algorithms are, but you have to start making the searches for this door to open.

3. You will learn how to use advanced Google searches for finding answers.

It’s unlikely that you will run into an HTML or CSS problem that thousands of other people have already asked about on a forum, and been given advice or an answer (some good, some bad).

Coding problems are solved like this: on giant internet forums. There’s a perfect answer to whatever coding problem you are having somewhere on the internet.

The only problem is that you must be able to find them, which is why it’s important to learn how to search for answers.

Learning these advanced Google search skills allows you to find someone else who had your same problem and then solve it with considerably less time and effort.

4. You’ll be in the top 1% of teachers in terms of technology skills.

In my experience, if your coworkers discover that you are “good” with technology – the word quickly spreads. Soon, people will start approaching you with easy and challenging problems.

And with your newfound ability to find answers online and test them out in a calm manner: 99% of the problems you run into can be solved.

Investing a little time, learning the basics, and then helping those around you can transform your presentation into an integral part of the office.

Administrators and managers like good teachers, but they love teachers with computer skills who can help them with areas that they may not be strong in yet.

5. It feels like you’re finally playing fair with machines.

 

Not knowing anything about code or computers beyond the basics of using an operating system means that you have no understanding of the tools that your classroom is built on.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” -Arthur C. Clarke

How do you solve a “magical” tech issue?

The short answer is you can’t.

It feels like you’re finally playing fair with machines when you start to understand them. Building a simple website will give you a strong understanding of two things:

  1. Machines are not magical; they are stupid.
  2. Code either works or does not work.

I would really like to explain these more, but I don’t want to spoil one of the funniest parts of building your first website.

6. It’s great for your resume.

If I took your resume and compared it to 25 other teachers, what would make yours stand out? And how many of those other teachers do you think know even a little bit of code?

Administrators and managers haven’t had their heads in the sand. They realize that they need educators who can handle the technology that their classrooms are built on.

Because of this, teachers who learn some basic code will soon have a massive edge in the job market for 3 reasons:

While HTML and CSS may not guarantee you a job, they are foundational skills. Once you have a good understanding of them, you can pursue an infinite number of other projects.

To give a personal example, after learning the basics I have been able to:

I do believe these make my resume stand out, and none of them would have been possible with first learning HTML & CSS.

7. How to learn HTML and CSS?

I learned HTML and CSS for free at scrimba.com and I would recommend it as a great place to start.

It is an amazing learning platform with high-quality content and you don’t have to download or set up a single thing.

8. How long will it take to learn HTML and CSS?

It took me approximately six hours to go from knowing nothing about HTML and CSS to the beginnings of a website.

That being said, I’m a teacher  – not someone who studied computer science in school or has any experience coding at all.

If you are short on time and lack confidence with computers, I would say it will take you about a month at 15 minutes per day. I don’t recommend rushing forward either – learn the basics well first!

You will be amazed by how much more confident you feel once your first website starts coming together.

Summary: Learning to code for better online classes

Learning HTML & CSS is not just about teaching yourself to code. It’s also an opportunity for better online classes by helping you build confidence, so you have more time with your students and less anxiety in your synchronous sessions.

  1. Humble yourself and build empathy for your students.
  2. Change the algorithms in your news feed.
  3. Learn how to use advanced Google searches for finding answers.
  4. Be in the top 1% of teachers in terms of technology skills.
  5. Feel like you’re finally playing fair with machines.
  6. Great for your resume.
  7. How to learn HTML and CSS?
  8. How long will it take to learn HTML and CSS?

Conclusion

I know it’s hard to believe in yourself when you’re “just a teacher.”  But with the help of HTML & CSS, your skills can grow exponentially. You’ll be more confident, well-read, and able to analyze concepts on an entirely new level. It won’t happen overnight – coding is tough at first – but soon enough you’ll be teaching classes online confidently by knowing more about the programming languages it is built on!

Hi, I'm Keith, an education technology innovator and host of The New Curriculum Specialist. But I wasn’t either of those things 2 years ago. Then 2020 happened. To adapt, I learned a little bit of code and things have really taken off from there. Not that bad for a guy who failed Math 6 times.

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