Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

Tag: MITx6001x

state of the code

this kid has A Plan

this kid has A Plan

(cross-posted with The Plan)

In January 2015, I made a tentative 4 month schedule for what my code learning would look like, and for the most part I executed on it. Anything optional got shelved. Almost all the MOOCs got shelved (I did stick with the MIT one about 3/4ths of the way through). I went to one meet-up group meeting, once, which is ridiculous given the wealth of resources in our community and openness to sharing, but hey, this journey is about learning and I’ve learned I’m not a meet-up person.

Not surprisingly, in-person class commitments were key to moving forward and keeping me accountable, and I’ve had overall positive results with Code Fellows so far.

If I had to plan it again, here’s my do-over itinerary:

  1. First, get you a Mac, or get ready for a world of pain.
  2. Unless you’re planning to do the full-time bootcamp (in which case do everything you can the month before), take a night class with Code Fellows ($500 for foundations I or $1,500 for foundations II if you already have some code experience and want to prep for an accelerator).
  3. If you have an opportunity to apply to Ada Academy, do it! Don’t let the required video and their unpredictable cohort schedule scare you away, unless the latter is a deal breaker. This cohort timing wouldn’t have worked for me, but that’s not why I didn’t apply — I didn’t apply because I was scared to make a stupid video. And that’s super lame. So, you know, just do it (and then turn them down if it doesn’t feel right).The act of applying will be a useful exercise for you. This year they had 265 applicants and selected 24 women, and, while I’m confident the number of applications will only grow, those odds are not terrible. You can do it!
  4. You’ll want to work all the way through the HTML/CSS web track andJavaScript tutorials on Code Academy. These are required for the Code Fellows foundations classes and a good intro/refresher for everyone else. Don’t let it be your only teaching source, but it’s not a bad piece of the bigger pie.
  5. Work through MITx 6.00.1x  Intro to Computer Science with John Guttag. I bought the textbook but never really used it, so skip that. Instead get the textbook for…
  6. Python the Hard Way: the book is offered for free entirely online, so a paper copy is optional (but nice, IMO, because you can keep going without an internet connection). If the hard way isn’t your style, try Elizabeth Wickes python for informatics instead.
  7. Get familiar with git (where you’ll keep track of your programs), unix/terminal line(where you’ll run/edit/etc your programs) and a text editor, I use Sublime 2. Like, really, learn them. This could maybe wait until month 2 or 3 but the sooner the better.
  8. Tackle a few side projects to start to grow your portfolio and have something to practice your new skills on: mine were this blog (powered via WordPress), a non-Wordpress pure html/css webpage, and twitter bots. Bot, bot, bot!
  9. Talk to programmers to learn about their jobs, and research code school options that might be a fit for you.
  10. Hopefully you made some friends in your class (or online) and have an ongoing study group in the works. Or, for Pete’s sake, go to some meet-ups. I hear they don’t bite.
  11. You should probably try a few languages/programing paths to see what’s a fit. At some point you’ll want to narrow down a programing language. Keep in mind that once you know one, it’s easy enough to pick up another, so you’ll also want to pay attention to who’s teaching what and where the opportunities are. I personally like Python and there are lots of jobs in JavaScript, but I had a great experience with an instructor who teaches the Ruby accelerator and that’s what I’m currently focusing on.
  12. Next steps for me: take another foundations II class in June (this one in Ruby), and apply for the Ruby accelerator in August. On this path, I’ll be “done” by the end of October and looking for jobs or internships before the start of 2016. We’ll have to take a good hard look at finances after the wedding and honeymoon this summer. I’ll be most comfortable if my period of unemployment lasts no longer than a year, but I’m mentally prepared for a career shift to last up to two years (same amount of time as full-time grad school for most programs). One year could be crazy wishful thinking.

And that’s it! I tried and failed to break this out month-by-month, but I hope this is helpful to someone even without that timeline. I’ll keep my first (aspirational) draft on The Plan page that has many repeat resources (and a lot more that I didn’t get to). Enjoy! –Mary

MITx review

Hey readers,

Our move is this Friday, and my next Code Fellows class starts up the following Monday. So, I am calling last week and this week “spring break” for sanity’s sake. Back with more content next week if not sooner!

Meanwhile, I’m wrapping up “Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python,” a MOOC that comes to a close on Tuesday after nine weeks. Even with some serious slacking/re-prioritization the last few weeks, I’ll complete the class with at least a 57%, which is a passing “C” grade. With a bit of effort into the final exam, I’m hoping to hit 65% for a “B.” And a great thing is that you get to keep access to the course after it ends, so I’ll be able to catch up on what I missed eventually (after all, this is about the learning and not the grade).

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question set 2: things get interest-ing

First, an update on the MIT Python course — y’all, my MOM is taking it too. How cool is that? Mom has a full career behind her in computer programming, technical writing and online learning, and she’s also Mensan-level puzzler, so naturally she is 1) kicking my ass and 2) taking issue with some of the courseware issues (and by extension, other people in the class).

I agree that the “discussion” aspects of the class are not great, something like 1,000+ 50,000+ people are enrolled so it’s best to take the comments with a grain of salt, and find some support that you trust. Quick aside, the guy who was like: “What is paying off credit card debt?? I do not understand this concept” — maybe has never known debt or has never known credit cards, or just didn’t understand how the question was worded? Anyway it made me chuckle.

So, this MOOC format probably doesn’t take advantage of best practices for online learning. But it’s free and exposing lots of people to something new, so I suppose you get what you pay for. I’d still recommend the class, just not as a stand-alone or a substitution for a full-on college degree (I have one already).

Ok, back to problem set 2 — paying off credit card debt. I am exceptionally proud that I completed all the programs in this set totally by myself, and for something more useful than “find ‘beeeegh.'” SO PROUD in fact that I failed to read the directions and wrote an entirely different program from the one they asked for. My friend Ian commiserates:

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“and the greatest of these is z”


Photo credit: DuBoix from morguefile.com

Whaddup, Python people. My first homework assignment for MIT’s Introduction to Computer Science and Programming Using Python was due today, testing our knowledge of simple algorithms (“for” and “while” loops). Spoiler: it was hard, and I cried. Also, Python has a funny way of ranking the English alphabet.

The first two homework questions were similar to problems I have encountered before:

1. Given a string of letters, count the vowels (assume all are lowercase). Here’s one answer:

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