Tag Archives: community

What Most Schools Don’t Teach … And I’m Determined to Learn

At the beginning of both 2012 and 2013, I named learning to code as one of my goals for the year. Recently, I have been exploring new ways to accomplish that goal and I wanted to share them in case others would find them useful too!

In the past, I have explored parts of Codeacademy and TryRuby. Unfortunately, my participation on both of those sites was too sporadic to really teach me very much, so I have been looking into other ways to learn coding.

This spring, I spent more time engaging with Scratch because I hope to introduce it to my students next year. As I mentioned in January, I have been using the Super Scratch Programming Adventure book to guide my learning. Participating in the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC has also helped me to try new projects and actually publish one of my own on the Scratch website. I think having a resource like the Scratch book that I can carry around and explore at my own pace, one that’s engaging and asks me to create something with a purpose (e.g., a functioning game) has helped me to learn more of the program. Having the MOOC community has also made a difference because I have been exposed to a group of people engaged in similar work and willing to post their own work and share ideas. Finally, the hope of using this with my students has been a big motivator in helping me persevere with Scratch.

But what if you’re not looking to learn Scratch? Luckily, I’ve also found some other great resources recently to learn coding that have similar supports. One of them is joining local Meetup groups that supports tech learning and offer coding classes. There are actually a couple of groups in my area and they seem to collaborate together or at least announce events for one another so that I have an opportunity to learn almost any coding language I’d like by attending one of their classes. Unfortunately, some of them are pricey (at least for coding newbies on a tight budget) and they are also often on weekends, which can be a challenge sometimes.

Still, I recently attended a Python class and really loved it! I had no previous experience with Python and after a day long session on a Saturday plus a few hours Friday night, I really felt like I had a foundation for working with the language. I still need to work on learning all of the syntax rules but the logic makes much more sense and I was exposed to some great, free resources, like CodingBat and OpenHatch Wiki. Being in a room full of other learners and facilitators (who were very willing to help and problem-solve!) and having such a large block of time dedicated to learning Python, really made it manageable to dive into the language. Now, I need to get back to Codeacademy to practice and start trying to apply my knowledge!

After winning a contest on Twitter for a free class on Codagogy.com, I also took a two week course with them on the basics of HTML. As they define them it, Codagogy offers “Online collaborative web development courses.” where you can “Learn to code in a small group of like-minded women.

codagogy html image

I have picked up bits and pieces of HTML over the years working on my own websites and projects but I was pleasantly surprised to find that I still learned a lot from the basics course. There were answers to little questions that I had always wondered about and wonderfully clear yet concise screencasts about the how-to’s and why’s about things like getting your own domain, finding a server, and adding alt tags to images.

Codagogy in 60 seconds from Susan Buck on Vimeo.

My favorite part of Codagogy courses is how they are structured. You join a two week course but assignments/exercises are only distributed on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, so the work is not overwhelming and is gently introduced. There are also deadlines and points you can gain from completing exercises to help keep you motivated and on-track. This is something I found I struggle with on more free-form sites like Codeacademy. Plus, there are little quizzes at the end of each exercise where you’re asked to check your understanding and also apply your knowledge, so you can walk away feeling confident about what you’ve learned and your ability to use your new skills.

Finally, you are in the course with a limited number of other participants and you have access to a course forum where you can meet/greet those other women, ask questions, and share ideas or resources. This community aspect really brings it all together and makes Codagogy a great  but flexible space to learn new coding skills. Best of all, their courses are very affordable and if you refer friends, both you and they, get $17 off!

codagogy css basics logo

I’m excited to start my next Codagogy course, CSS Basics! In an effort to get more women coding, Codagogy has kindly offered two codes to give away for a free Codagogy class. Even if you’re not looking to code right now, you can sign up for their class on SEO or get notified when Photoshop for the Web is ready.

Enter to win a free class!

Warning: Under Construction … for the next several years

What is #ETMOOC

Time has flown by once again and #etmooc is coming to an end. When I first started to read the posts and tweets about the course ending, I thought, “Wait, already!? No, not yet!” I couldn’t believe we had reached the last week, which meant it was time for closing thoughts and reflections.

As I began to think back on all of my experiences in #etmooc, an image came to mind of two open palms, held together to provide a foundation and support for this new community. That’s how I imagine #etmooc as the “official” course ends. We are all sitting or standing, talking or creating inside this safe space we have built together for one another. A supportive, affirmative space that’s also open and accepting of so much. It’s a community that’s accepts that people are extraordinarily busy and as much as they might like to learn, they also have busy lives to lead. So there’s no need for apologies when you have to step away for awhile.

It’s also a community that has been built around a few core ideas or topics and deepened by questions and provocations. We have not been afraid to push one another to think differently or more deeply about current issues around forming a digital identity, supporting open source projects and platforms, and numerous other challenging topics. And once these provocations have been raised, there have been numerous questions, wonderings, and curiosities posed to the group to discuss and examine together.


We have encouraged one another to grow by pursuing new goals and trying new tools. I know I have jumped into GIFs and explored a number of new sites and projects thanks to this course. We have opened each others’ eyes to new resources and provided support to test them out without worrying that we are making mistakes, being silly or sharing things that don’t matter.

And maybe most important, we brought all of these things together by actively and consciously working to build new connections. We strived, as a community, to connect in new places like Google+ or Twitter and we visited each other’s neighborhoods and left comments on other participants’ blogs so that they would know we were listening and waiting for their next contribution. Even though most of us have never met in person and might never be in the same place at the same time, we have established ties that can continue to connect us after this “course” ends. Because the reality is that #etmooc is much more than a course or even a space for dialogue, it is an entire community built upon this foundation we have forged together.

Through our creations, discussions, questions, relationships, tools, technologies, and open sharing we have joined all of our palms together to serve as the foundation for our future constructions. It’s a construction site that is waiting for us to build upon it, to build future collaborations, to engage in shared writings and explorations, and to start new projects to support future good.

Although people are saying their “goodbyes” and we are collecting artifacts in this shared space, these are simply the next layer in our community. I don’t see them as the end but rather the beginning of the next level in this shared space, on this foundation we have built and I don’t think there’s anything stopping us from continuing to build more, if we’re willing.

Of course without the live sessions and blog prompts, it will be more challenging to stay as engaged and other events or projects might occupy more of our time but I think that simply means the ways in which we continue constructing our community might shift. We might build more piecemeal or more slowly or maybe in smaller groups but we’ll still be united by our foundation. I am so happy I had the chance to contribute to the foundation and I can’t wait to put on my digital hard hat and continue building this amazing community with everyone.

Under Construction

Image: “A Hard Hat” by Dwight Burdette is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported