7 minutes reading time (1497 words)

Teaching Joomla to teens in New Jersey - Covid-19 "Joomla style"


So what do you do when the state of New Jersey is on quarantine, and 15 teens want to learn web? You teach them Joomla!

I have taught Joomla for years through Joomla Training, virtual training classes, and with Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. More recently, I taught Joomla 100% virtually to our Rutgers staff and administrators so they could continue maintaining their websites, even during the quarantine. But why teach Joomla to teens? The idea first came up at our Forum for the Future conference that I attended in Spain with about 80 other Joomla volunteers. I participated in the team for engagement, and one of our ‘takeaways’ was to work on ‘Educational Outreach’. The Educational Outreach group was officially revitalised in Spring of 2020.

Covid-19 basically put us all in a situation of the perfect storm. Teens were home with no sports, no activities. I was available to put together a curriculum and to teach it for 5 sessions with a total of 12 hours of classroom time. Cloudaccess.net donated free hosting space for the teens to work from. SD Williams assisted as a co-teacher for the class and as a support system to build our initial website and flyers.

Now that we know we want to teach, how should we get the students? I contacted the recreation department of East Brunswick, NJ, where I lived. They were very receptive, especially because I was offering it for free. They contacted the youth council where several teens were already chomping at the bit to build their own website to start their own small businesses, while they were home. We selected Zoom as the platform since the students were already comfortable with it. We created 5 sessions, each session focused on a different aspect of building the website. By the end of the class, the ultimate goal was for the students to feel comfortable to build their own websites.

I taught 3 week day sessions which were 2 hours each, and 2 Saturday sessions which were 3 hours each. The students agreed that the 3 hours sessions were too long, so if we were to teach again, we would be sure to keep all sessions to 2 hours. The first session was to focus on high-level Joomla. In session two, we dove into articles and content. In session three, we focused on menus; session 4 was modules and finally, in session five, we installed a variety of tools and templates to see how everything really worked together. I personally would have liked to have a session six, where we could have spent a little more time ‘fixing’ up the site.

Overall the students had a great time; most importantly, they were engaged. They frequently asked questions during the class, some because they ‘skipped a step’, others because they had ideas of their own that they wanted to be able to complete. I provided a pdf of the full class to the students, which the recreation department printed out for them ahead of time. This way, they could keep their monitor available to see what I was doing and make space for themselves to work at the same time. It would have been even better if the students had 2 monitors to work from. Having the printed out copies of the class made it easier for the students to follow along, as I included screenshots in the print outs, in case they didn’t watch me at the same time. Most students were using laptops, so it was a little difficult to have so much going on at the same time.

As the instructor, I felt so much pride to see the student’s websites that they created. I look forward to teaching this class again in the fall. If there are any ‘joomlers’ out there that would like to see the curriculum, please let me know I would be happy to share. Most importantly, the student’s own words show the importance of reaching out and letting others know about the power and ease of use of Joomla...

Here are some quotes directly from our students:

“I learned so many good and valuable things from these five classes. Mainly and most importantly, I learned how to create a website by using the backend from scratch. Personally, I didn’t know that a website had a backend because when I usually make a website, I use the templates that are already given to me. Before the class, I did know a bit about websites because I joined a club in school called Girls Who Code. In that club, I learned a bunch of coding, which helped me a bit when I was learning Joomla. I loved how easy Joomla was to access and make a website. Since Joomla was so easy to use during the class, I will definitely try making a website of my own using it. I thought the backend of Joomla was going to be so hard to use seeing all the options and random words. However, it was way easier and simple than I thought and now I got the hang of it.

My favorite part of the class was when we got our own time to try out the new skills we learned. I would recommend Joomla classes to my friends that are into technology and coding because I learned so much in just five classes.

“I loved how simple everything was to access and make. There are so many fun settings to make your website look amazing. "

-- A.T.

“I learned a ton about how to make a Joomla website. We didn’t have the time to learn everything possible about the website, but I feel that I could definitely make a solid Joomla website. I knew absolutely nothing about building websites before this class. Web design is certainly not a strong suit of mine.

I definitely will try to build a Joomla site. I’ve been planning on making a sports blog, and this class will help me build the website I need to accomplish that goal. It will take some dedication, but I’ll absolutely take a stab at it. It was easier than I thought by a long shot. I anticipated a lot of coding and difficult things being involved, yet the process was much more simple.

My favorite part of the class wasn’t necessarily content-based, but was cool nonetheless. You said that you created the Plainview Library website, which is a library I’ve actually been to a few times before even though it’s a few hours away from where I live. It was just a funny moment when I made that connection.

My biggest “aha moment” was when we were making articles and you said that coding could help, but it wasn’t necessary. That was a big relief for me, as I realized at that point that this would be easier than I expected. I’m terrible at coding (despite my best efforts to learn how to do it), and realizing that not a lot of it would be involved was big for me.

I would absolutely recommend this class to my friends. We’re in the Digital Age, and knowing how to build websites, the true foundation of the internet, is a huge skill to have. It was also a lot of fun.

The biggest surprise for me was how I got the feeling that anyone could do it with practice. I went into it expecting that you’d need a serious coding background to truly master Joomla; however, I learned from this class that any person could make an excellent website with some time and effort, regardless of who they are.”

-- J.O.

“I learned a lot in the Joomla class. I learned about the basis of a website, how to get it running with Modules, Articles, and Categories, and am now comfortable using the Main Menu category. I learned about Themes, and how many presets are already available. I also learned about Templates and Styles, which are useful for presenting images and videos.

Before this class, I only knew how to build websites, only through ready-made website builders like Wix, Weebly, and Google Sites. I didn't know how to have a website made without the use of these website generators.

In all honesty, I took the class out of curiosity. I definitely may build a website in the future using Joomla, yet certainly not anytime soon. Using Joomla was much easier than I thought it would be.

My favorite part of the class was when we learned about the many different modules available.

I did have an "aha" moment when I realized that I had forgotten to insert the right category for a certain article I wanted.

I would recommend this class to friends that are interested in creating content on websites. For instance, if they wanted to blog, this would be very useful. I was surprised by the great amount of versatility that Joomla offers as a Content Management System."

-- K.M.

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