Saturday, November 29, 2014

Teaching My Daughter to Code and Test: Beginnings

Earlier this month, I brought my 13 year old daughter Amber home from a presentation at Google/YouTube called "Made With Code". Amber came out of the presentation energized, excited, and saying how cool it was what they showed her.

This is the first time that Amber has been "excited" about how computers work outside of a "users" perspective and thinking about computers and computing from a "makers" perspective. As we talked, I was thinking about some freelance coding that I do, and how it might be fun to have her learn a bit about web development, do some stuff and "push it to production", and pay her a bit for her efforts.

It also seems that there might be some interesting "discoveries" and reactions from two perspectives, mine and hers, that might make for a cool blog series. With that, we both decided to work towards building some practice times into our days, and see if the concepts that I have been learning over the years are easily teachable, or if I might learn more from her interactions than she does from me.

Additionally, I figured it would be more interesting to see the experiments and the realizations we come to in somewhat real time rather than wait several months to do a more formal synopsis, so that's also what we will be doing over the coming weeks and months (for those who wondered if my Tsundoku post owed in part to this initiative, the answer is "definitely yes" :) ).

So you will start to see some "shared posts" in this space. If it's my perspective, it will be in a standard layout and font color. If you see highlighted green text, that's Amber, speaking in her own words. Over time, she may choose to make full blog posts here, and those will reflect that in the title, but for now, just know when you see green highlighted text, that is her.

One of the things we decided to start with was to get her focused on something simple, where it would be easy to see and make changes. To that end, we thought it would make sense to have her practice with Codecademy to learn basic details of web formatting and style. Early on, we both decided that a little each day would be a better approach than trying to do a whole bunch at one time.

For the past three weeks I have been working on learning the basics of HTML and CSS in Codecademy. I have found that it is easier to do a little of it every day and keep the streak up than do it all at once in one big shot. I have learned the very, very basics.

One of the things that has been fun, if not a little annoying, has been to have my Dad sitting next to me and helping me with some of the assignments and examples. I say fun because I like the fact that he can help me understand what is happening. I say annoying because he's my Dad. What I mean by that is that sometimes he's a little to quick to tell me when I am doing something wrong without me learning myself. We finally made an agreement that I would work on my own computer and that I would call him over only when I felt stuck or confused. While I appreciate his input, I told him I was not going to learn anything with him always hovering over me and telling me what to do.

Other than that, I am happy to say that, since joining Codecademy on November 10th, I have done a little bit each day, and I have a 19 day streak as of now. My Dad checked up on me every day that he was away in Ireland to make sure I kept my streak alive, and I was happy to say I did.

It has been interesting to see the ways that Amber interacts with me as we work together on the Codeademy projects. Speaking of which, we have a session scheduled for a little later today (and that will extend her streak to twenty days ;) ). I am really curious to see where this journey will lead us both, and what we both learn from the experience.

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