Mary Dickson Diaz

Code, Life, Learning

the importance of project-based learning

Good morning, scholars!

Today I want to reflect on the last two weeks of self-teachiness: some wins, challenges and lessons learned.

The first big win I mean *huge* was actually leaving my job to pursue this. I’m incredibly grateful for my most recent experience at UW and everything that came before, and to some extent I’ve been working on crafting my “story” based on past exposure/experiences that have pushed me gently towards the idea of technology as a tool for social change. But, I could also go work for an org that has nothing to do with any of that, and that would be allowed. I’m feeling validated this morning by a quote from Andrew Sullivan, blogger pioneer:

I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight… That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

Let my narrative be one of “she picks up on things fast, she seeks out additional resources, she works well in teams, she’s service-oriented, and she works super hard and achieves results.” That I’ve already proven these things in non-profit settings is of no consequence to someone who wants to hire me to write JavaScript (though it matters to me). I am not, as I introduced myself earlier this week, “a fundraiser,” but a teacher and fast learner with a passionate desire to build stuff.

A second big win was building a Twitter bot! It’s not yet fully-automated like I had intended: because heroku re-sets daily, I have to update and re-upload my text file once a day, deleting the names that have already been tweeted. There is probably a code solution for this, I just don’t know what it is. This is a great project for any one of the “come have drinks, bring your projects!” meet-up nights on my calendar now. Plus, going through the motions of re-committing the project daily has upped my comfort level with git and heroku, both of which will come in handy later.

Which brings me to a key lesson learned: project based learning as key to staying interested, engaged, and moving forward. When I was building the bot, I couldn’t *stop* building it until I just about fell over from exhaustion. In comparison, the last two days have been just focused on working through the code academy tutorials, and I’m feeling exhausted from boredom. (37% done… ok, now how much…. 39% done ARGH….) As a side note, the MIT intro to programing MOOC seems to have a nice combination of guided learning and autonomy. Recommended!

Next week I start my first Foundations class with Code Fellows here in Seattle, and am excited to meet my classmates and start building that community. Despite feeling some online tutorial fatigue, I am super impressed with all the pre-work they’ve provided to help us maximize our in-class time.

Looking for project ideas to stay engaged? Check out these resources:

1. Dash by General Assembly – build a website, a tumblr theme, a css robot, and more

2. Martyr2’s Mega Projects Idea List – tackle these in your programing language of choice!

3. Joel on how to make an eBooks bot – this is a great first twitter bot, and *bonus* should not require daily updating since the text pulls are randomized (uses ruby)

And finally, this month Josh and I went to a local performance of Hands Up: six personal and powerful monologues by contemporary black male playwrights. The original CUNY performance is available online and it’s a must-watch. A few days after the show, I read about NY Times journalist Charles Blow’s son being stopped *at gunpoint* outside the Yale Library because he “fit the description”–three words more chilling to me now than ever before. Set aside a few hours and give this one a watch/listen.

1 Comment

  1. The part about project based learning is so true. Now you’re thinking like a programmer! 🙂

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