Making A New Code Trail

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My how time flies! We are still on the code path and are are hiking on to new trails.  It has been ten months since our last blog and a lot has happened.  It is Year 3 of code and we are on a new trail – we are building real projects and learning by doing.

codetrail16What’s Been Happening:

2015 ended successfully with another 500 hours. Our Mountain of Code visual board was filled up to the top. We spent the rest of the year creating mini projects and working with javascript, animations, and various jQuery plugins. We also continued our Treehouse tutorials on WordPress.

When January rolled in, we decided that Year 3 would be our “Internship Year.” We were at the point where we were ready to utilize our code skills and start building a portfolio. But before we delved into a project, we wanted to first do some research: what makes a website “good?”

We spent quite some time looking at numerous websites and developers. A few of the things we did:  investigating the code through Google Developer Tools, doing speed tests to see how fast the pages would load, checking W3C code validation, evaluating design layout, finding out what the platform was built on (WordPress, Weebly, WIX, etc.) or if it was custom, finding out if a site was responsive (surprisingly, there are many that are not), and if the design was user friendly.

After researching over 50 sites, we did discover a few things that we think are important to a good site:  responsiveness, space between elements, balanced weight between images and text, readable font-size and user experience.

houseofcodeWe made a new visual board for 2016, called “The House of Code” and have colored sections for each project and learning time.  We have been working on our first project, an art site. It is custom with a Bootstrap framework, a slider in the header section and a lightbox art gallery. So this year, the interns have been truly “learning by doing” and it has taken our code learning trail to new heights.

Progress – Not Perfection

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“Progress – Not Perfection” is a quote by Kathy Freston, a best selling author on the body/mind/spirit approach to health and wellness. This quote reminds us that even though we have a way to go before we become accomplished web developers, we don’t have to be stressed about being perfect right now.  What’s important is that we keep on our path and continue learning code –  brick-by-brick, hour-by-hour, two hours a day – until we reach our goal.

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Today, we take a breath on our code trail and and see the view of how far we’ve come along so far.  Since the launch of our code-learning journey in 2014, we have definitely made progress.  Last year at this time, we had just finished a course on HTML were then learning how to make background colors with CSS.  Now here we are, creating for-loops, objects and variables so we can duplicate the hour blocks to our “Mountain of Code Tower” with javascript.  We still have our foam board grid and colored pens, but this year we will also create a tower with code (HTML, CSS and Javascript).

We are deep in the woods of our code learning journey and are making progress daily.  I feel like Cheryl Strayed from the book Wild, I’ve gone too far to turn back and I look ahead and see the many miles we need to go.  At least I still have my boots!

We are not perfect, but that’s okay.  We are getting some traction and have moved beyond the newbie stage of last year.  With Treehouse, Code Academy, and independent practice, we have delving into: frameworks, advanced CSS, HTML forms, Javascript, jQuery, responsive design, Sass, Console, Git basics, web optimization and more.  All these topics are like different puzzle pieces that we need to learn how put together.  We are starting to understand the different shapes of the puzzle.  Now it’s time start learning how to build something beautiful.

Code Trail is Getting Steep

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We have been moving slow and steady up our code path for nine months now.  The trail is going higher and deeper into the trees. We just started a new path of Javascript and are feeling the burn in our legs as the incline increases. But we are making great progress every day.

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My http://www.codemoms.org site has been updated several times as we keep learning new skills.  Some highlights of my lessons these last couple of months are:  I  have learned that all code should be written as a mobile-first approach so handheld devices can easily navigate a site. I don’t know how many times I find a site that is not coded in mobile-first and I lose interest because I just can’t see it on my phone.

I also learned how to place a small sized background image on my website that wouldn’t slow bandwidth and would still fill the page.  I picked a mountain path, of course.  We’ve learned about command line coding and Sass.  Finally, codemoms.org passed the W3C Markup Validator, which meant my code was clear of errors.  When I first scanned it, I had 21 errors. So to clean it up and pass was very exciting.

A lot of these things we have learned at Treehouse. If we get stuck on a problem, we can find answers at online support sites like Stack Overflow, CSS Tricks, and WC3. Sharing knowledge and open source is the key to helping us learn and stay on the path.

Code Path Gets a Trail Guide

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Our code path to-date has been organic and self-driven.  However, since we are not in a ‘formal’ classroom setting, our journey can be a real adventure that takes us on various trails.  When we get lost, we need a map to find our way back to the path.

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Our path sometimes branches off to a steep trail with challenging new concepts to learn.  Then there is the desert trail, when all the code terminology gets confusing.  At times, there will be a dead end or a detour, where we can’t get our code to display properly and we have to retrace our steps.

A couple of weeks ago, we found a great book for code beginners called, “Learn to Code HTML and CSS”  by Shay Howe.  This book pairs nicely with our online Treehouse CSS class.  It covers the basics of HTML and CSS and reinforces what we have been already learning.

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We have been going through the book and taking some time to practice our own code challenges on topics like: display properties, box models, floats, typography, images, lists, layouts, etc.  By going over the terminology and taking the time to practice, we are starting to feel like the pieces are coming together.  Best of all, Shay Howe makes his book available online, so you can read it as an open source at http://learn.shayhowe.com/html-css/.

So I guess you could say, we are on a shady trail right now, as we practice and review our knowledge in conjunction with our lessons at Treehouse.  Once we finish the book, we will be ready to proceed on to the next adventurous trail on our code path.

Balancing Code With Life

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When we saw a tower of rocks as we walked on our path, we were reminded to always stay balanced so we can keep our steady pace, and know that we have the endurance to make it up our mountain.

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We can do this if we keep our balance in Body, Mind and Spirit.

Body: Exercise, nutrition and adequate sleep.  These three components affect how we learn, what our mood is, what we remember, how we can work as a team, etc.

Mind: Knowledge, creation, wisdom.  There is so much to learn in this new world of technology that provides online classes and gives us a wide variety of resources to keep learning and expanding. Code, literature, history, art, social science, etc. – the possibilities are limitless.

Spirit: Meditation, breath work, nature, silence. Sometimes it is good to take time to center and just be still and in the moment.

We need to remember to stay balanced or it could set us off track.  For instance, if we eat poorly one day and don’t get enough sleep that night, our brains can be foggy the next and we can’t retain the lesson.  We might be too tired to work and rely on caffeine to pick us up, but then we get crabby with our team because our bodies are out of whack.  Something like this can slow our progress.

Balance.  We placed a small stone at the top of the tower to remind ourselves and then continued on.

 

Endurance to Code

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Spending two hours a day on code seems like it will take forever to reach our goal, but we are staying on the path.  At this point, we are learning more and more about CSS on the Treehouse platform. Just yesterday, I uploaded some new code on our web page at http://codemoms.org and it felt great to implement what we have learned so far.

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On our trek up the mountain, I feel like we just reached our first mountain meadow, and we can enjoy the colors and calm air. Endurance is our friend. Going slow and steady works for us.  We take lessons, look back at notes and implement the new skills the best we can.

Ten hours a week is a good goal. Two hours a day.  Then there are those days that we work for four hours straight and my son says, “Can we hold off on the History class today? Coding is the most addictive and fun thing I have ever done. Let’s keep coding.”

Those are good days.  Onward we trek.

Learning by Doing

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We are taking steps each day to move up the code path.  To date, we have accumulated 70 hours of learning (our yearly goal is 500).  We are currently taking a CSS module with Treehouse.  After going through lessons on Selectors, Pseudo Selectors, Lists and Font Styles, my son and I decided to take an afternoon to practice what we learned so far.  My son worked on his web page and I updated our site at http://www.codemoms.org.  When I first launched it three weeks ago, my web page was made with only HTML code that had some in-line styling.  

Now that we had a bit of CSS under our belt, we were able to add color, style fonts and text, hover on hyper-links,  and make links active.  I had to go back through my notes to find out how to code what I wanted to do. It took longer than I expected but by “doing” it, we were learning.  I cannot stress how important it is to keep good notes and stay organized.   As I worked on CSS, it was exciting to try different codes and see them appear in the window.  We are at the beginning stages of our code path.  I know we have a long way to go on this journey with more challenging modules, but it is rewarding to actually create something with code that I can launch and see.  

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We like going up the path at our own pace, stopping to investigate, re-watching lessons as we need, taking the time to organize, and practicing what we learn.  Now we are ready for the next stretch.  Still on track.  Onward we go.