My position on Dreamweaver is no secret. Last fall I was talking with a colleague and journalism professor about the need for journalism schools to teach content management principles as part of their programs. A communications professional who knows nothing about Dreamweaver can have a bright future. A communications professional who knows only a little about content management is in big trouble.
After we were discussing the course yesterday evening I opened up Google Reader and read Ken Rickard's post about Amy Gahran's wonderful Poynter Online article about just this topic. Here are some of the high points from Gahran's article:
Apparently, this j-school (like many others) offers little or no training in true CMS-based tools. Their online courses focus on Dreamweaver.
That's a big problem, because tools embody mindsets. Focusing on Dreamweaver teaches exactly the wrong mindset for online journalism: that your Web site is mainly an island unto itself.
Amen. While Gahran's comments focus on online journalism the sentiment applies to everything online. Whether it is the Washington Post, the local social club or MySpace the magic of being online is the connected nature of information.
[...] implementing basic features (such as comments or forums, or a flexible array of RSS feeds, or a decent site search engine) is needlessly complex and difficult in Dreamweaver. Journalists should be able to accept such infrastructure as a given -- not try to hack it together as an afterthought. Because online journalism without such basic features is crippled.
Again she hits it right on the head. And of course this applies not only to Dreamweaver but to Front Page or iWeb or insert your island-making web program here. Whether one wants to communicate what is happening at the local VFW post or organize huge international efforts the connected nature of information is central to giving information meaning.
If your journalism classes are part of a larger communications program, I think clarifying which tools are right for the job is even more important. The journalism class online projects should use CMS tools like Wordpress or Drupal. Leave the teaching of Dreamweaver to the PR and advertising classes, where it's much more relevant to the kind of sites created in those disciplines.
So here Ms. Gahran and I part company a bit. While Dreamweaver may be more relevant to advertising sites if they are tiny and will live for only a few moments in web-time it doesn't come close to handling PR or advertising in a substantial way. Here again the most important theme is the value of information comes from the connections between pieces of information. It is incomprehensible that any communications professional should find a job in today's world without at least a solid understanding of content management systems. Further in my small sampling of people who work on themes and graphic design for websites few, if any, use Dreamweaver or tools like it. Photoshop and Illustrator are of course common tools in the designer's stable, but Dreamweaver and Front Page don't have much place.
The sad part of this equation is that it is generally much easier to convince a dean or department head to buy a bunch of copies of Dreamweaver than it is to convince them to spend the same money hiring a student to manage a Drupal installation on a linux server.
Requiring journalism students to use Dreamweaver is about as useful as requiring them to learn calligraphy. It makes your content looks really pretty -- and it generally won't be worth a damn on a real journo job or project.