Category Archives: Tech Tools

Why it’s Awesome to Be Hacked … in #TeachTheWeb

The second week of the Teach the Web MOOC focused on remixing. I was excited about this topic because it’s an area I’ve just begun to explore and engage with on the web. It’s interesting how infused remixing is into our daily work as children (e.g., re-making someone’s Lego creation or making  variations of a local building as a fort) or even adults (e.g., remixing a marketing approach to work for your brand) and yet how foreign it can feel when addressed head-on as the focus of an activity or lesson.

When I first thought about what type of project I would remix, I thought it would probably have to be a Popcorn video because the Thimble projects were all personal profiles/bios and they couldn’t really be changed – right?

Then, I joined the the weekly Twitter chat, which began with a focus on remixing. Kevin Hodgson (@dogtrax) asked a great question, “Can (should) we remix anything?” A number of participants discussed the nuances between remixing something with permission and remixing as a form of collaboration versus remixing as appropriation (with and without permission). When someone remixes your work that you’ve asked not to be changed using a Creative Commons license or when someone hacks in and makes changes for their own enjoyment at your loss, remix become a much less friendly word.

In contrast, @dogtrax took a direct request from me about wanting to be remixed and in true #TeachTheWeb spirit, created something awesome and inspiring. He even sent out a tweet and G+ message encouraging other MOOC participants to remix and hack my Thimble introduction. He created the page below using Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles from the Hackasaurus Toolkit.

thimble-hack-1

And then Doug Waters remixed that remix!

thimble-hack-2

So of course, now inspired, I had to hack a Thimble page of my own! I chose someone from our #MiniMaker G+ Study Group. Here’s my update to Karen Young’s Thimble Intro:

karen_thimble_hack

After being hacked myself, I had a better understanding of the process and how creative I could be in doing it using someone else’s profile. I had a chance to consider how remixing could help me get to know a person better and how it can be an entry point for using a new tool. Similar to my experience remixing a project in Scratch for the #MediaLabCourse I learned more about the X-Ray Googles and what they’re capable of as well as more about Thimble, by remixing. I’m excited to try Popcorn for my next remixing project and to continue thinking about hacking as we move into week 3 of #TeachTheWeb and discussions of the Open Web.

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!