The Small Person has had a computer since she was three and a half, she is pretty good with it and very rarely needs parental technical support. Recently she has been begging me to teach her to “make a web page”. I did hunt around the web and (probably not surprisingly) found nothing that would help a 7 year old to start writing XHTML. So, I have started to write her some basic worksheets, the first of which I gave to her this evening.
The problem with teaching very small people how to create an XHTML document is not the language itself, she soon picked up the fact that things have to have a start tag and an end tag, but it is the fact that she had no point of reference as to how a document should be structured. She looked at me blankly when I explained how to create a level 2 heading, “what’s a level two heading?” Terminology that seems fairly obvious when explained to an adult has no meaning to her, which makes explaining things something of a challenge. She was most excited about the appearance in her browser of things she had typed into the document, so whether she understands or not she is having fun.
Next year the school will start to teach them how to “build a web site”. As far as I can gather this involves giving them some dreadful package that allows them to literally draw a webpage. I have a plan to encourage the Small Person to insist they validate these masterpieces – although we have a little way to go before that! If the way I have explained things to the Small Person seems to work I’ll put these worksheets somewhere in case they are of use to anyone else, however if anyone has any bright ideas for teaching this stuff to very young children I’d love to hear them.