Over the last few weeks we've been talking with people who are helping open source make inroads at universities.
We've spoken with teachers of open source at Harvard, Emory, Penn State and other colleges.
This is the sixth interview in the series. This week we're speaking with Tim Chesonis who teaches Joomla at Miami-Dade College in Florida.
Remember, if you're a teacher, you can get a free 1 year account at OSTraining. Click here to find out more.
Hi Tim. Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Tim Chesonis and I have served as a Joomla instructor at Miami Dade College for over a year now. Additionally, I have developed Joomla sites for clients for over 5 years and continue to do so.
How did you end up teaching Joomla at Miami Dade College?
Actually, I knew someone who was teaching at the College in a completely unrelated field, and knowing that he had no formal education in that field (or teaching degree), I thought that I would approach the college and offer to teach Joomla classes. I too, had no formal education in content management systems, however, I had been developing Joomla websites for over 5 years at that point.
I came prepared with a syllabus for both a Beginner’s Joomla Class, and an Advanced Joomla Class. After interviewing me, to my surprise, they asked if I would be willing to teach other web-related classes, including “Dreamweaver - Level 1”, “Dreamweaver - Level 2”, “Running a Business as a Web Developer”, “E-commerce and Shopping Carts”, and “Principles of Web Design”.
What’s your approach to the class?
I have found that nearly all of the students that I have taught have had very limited exposure to content management systems, let alone Joomla. Many of them are familiar with Dreamweaver and don’t quite know what Joomla can actually do for them. However, when I demonstrate the power behind Joomla, namely, the ability to develop robust websites complete with easy to install applications, their eyes light up.
When I show them what can be done in one hour with Joomla, compared to what can be done in that same hour with Dreamweaver, accounting for development time, cost savings, and the countless web-applications that they themselves can install on their website, they become convinced all the more never to look back to yesterday’s way of building websites.
At first glance, Joomla can be very intimidating, but after a lot of hand-holding, explanation and practice, they eventually get the hang of it. It’s great to see the student “get it” when they finally understand the relationship between articles, categories, menu items, modules, etc.
So is the class all hands-on? Do you build projects during the class?
During the first class, I show them what one can do with Joomla and explain the relationship between articles, categories and menu items, and together as a class, we may create a few pages and link them to menu items.
Every class thereafter, it’s all hands on. I install a Joomla site for each student, and together, we will work through a given task. I’ll then give them homework, to do on their site, and of course, I can always see the progress of each student. When we get back together as a class, I may have them show the class their work by pulling their site up using the overhead projector. Incidentally, this gives the students incentive to do their homework ;-)
Do you test the students? If so, how?
Because each level of understanding relies on the prior concept taught, I’m constantly asking the students questions, ensuring that we are all together. This is probably the biggest challenge I have in teaching. Some people do struggle. Others, however, “get it” and surprise me with their level of understanding.
What kind of people attend your classes as students?
My students range in age from 18 to 65. The younger generation is obviously more comfortable with navigating their way around a computer and pick up on the concept of content management systems quickly. Then I may have a student in any given class who really does not belong in the class, and should be taking “An Introduction to Computers” class. When this happens, I work with them individually, and move the rest of the class forward at the pace that I feel they can work. Each class, however, is completely different, as they all come from varying backgrounds.
What are students interested in these days? Are they looking to become coders, start-up founders or something else?
I have found that most of the students that take Joomla classes are looking to learn a new hobby, or just want to learn something new. When teaching, it is important to me that they not only learn how to use Joomla, but how to market the website that they are building, so I spend a lot of time talking about what they can do with Joomla, and not just how to build sites using Joomla. People need inspiration, and I give my students vision by letting them know not only what they can do with Joomla, but how to market their site.