Can New Coders Be SASSy?

Over the past trimester, I've taken the web students through 2 of the 3 main concepts of web development, HTML and CSS. Even though they are fresh to web development, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show them how a CSS framework like SASS-Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets-can help them write better CSS. I also thought it would provide makes an easier intro to key programming concepts like variables, conditionals, and functions.

As part of their assessment, I included a task where they had to construct a responsive layout .

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I kept the instructions as light as possible-I was more interested in their approach and what concepts they retained rather than the solution.

The submissions varied which I thought was a good sign. Clearly some were still shaky with concepts, and created a style sheet that worked, but wouldn't scale. Others took advantage of nesting, functions, maps, and using a component-as-a-file strategy.

I worried this was too much too soon. While the course doesn't require programming experience, students learned to install and use node to compile SASS files and and work with data maps.

As an educator, I calculated it was worth the risk. SASS in widely used in industry, and will be for some time to come-understanding what it does and being able to recognize should be useful for employment purposes.

I also think it's important to focus not just on a language, but on concepts as well. If you can recognise a conditional or function in CSS, in Javascript and in Python, it will speed up your ability to acquire and master whatever new programming language appears.

As an educator, is there a 'right' time to bring in industry level tools or practices? How do you prepare students for a career in web development? Have you introduced a technology like SASS too early, or wish you had done so sooner? I'd love to hear your experiences!