Friday, June 14, 2013

Weekly Loves: June 14

Hello all! Have you all had a good week and do you have something fabulous planned for your weekend? We did and have some fun weekend plans ahead of us. On Saturday we're attending a wedding for and with some of our college friends and then on Saturday evening my sister is coming to stay with us for a few weeks! I can't wait! I have a million things planned for the two of us and we probably won't do most of them. Oh well, a girl can dream right? It'll be fun spending time with her either way. I hope you all have a beautiful weekend full of summer fun and wonderful people!

This week we:

Took Justin's little brothers (10 and 7) hiking and canoeing on Friday and it was a lot of fun. Justin and I held our own against the two of them and wore them out! The best part was getting to take two very tired boys back to their parents' house and having the evening to ourselves. Ah, bliss! ;-)

Were pleased to discover that all our eating well, taking our vitamin D, and lying out is paying off. We were outside from 10am to 3:30pm on a bright sunny day at the park and neither of us got sunburned. This is a big change from my past sun history.

Celebrated Father's Day and June birthdays with Justin's family. Justin took the picture of the two of us in his parents' backyard and it's my new favourite of the two of us. It turned out sooo well.

Enjoyed the fact that I am now the weird lady in the neighborhood who goes out and sweeps her front porch at 7:30am. Super early in the morning is the perfect time of day to do outdoor chores.

Braced ourselves for a huge storm that didn't hit us. That was good news after the flooding we had two weeks ago even if it was a little disappointing. We love a good summer storm and haven't had one in a while.

Listened to me babble on about the code I'm learning and the blog that I want to build. Well, Justin listened and I babbled. But I'm really excited and he's really patient.

Spent a lot of time just enjoying the weather. It's been beautiful all week and the ten day forecast is looking like it'll be heaven! I'm planning on getting out every day to soak in some sun :-)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Learning to Code: Codecademy

One of the things that spurred me to start learning HTML was a Lifehacker article titled "How and Why to Teach Your Kids to Code". The title caught my eye because I thought it was something that Justin would be interested in and so I read through the article and saved it to show him later. As I thought about the article, I kept thinking about what a good idea it was and how we could incorporate coding into our (hypothetical future) children's education.

And I was struck by the idea that if I'm planning on having children learn how to code then I should learn too. I mean, it can't possibly be that hard if children can learn it And besides, coding languages are always referred to it as a 'language', presumably because of some sort of resemblance. Heaven knows I love foreign languages, I took three in college (four if you count formal logic) and other linguistic classes on how to decode languages. Besides, learning to code could actually be a lot more useful in my everyday life than some of the other languages I know (Sorry, Latin! You know I love you).

So I found myself going back to the Lifehacker article and reading it more carefully to see what looked like a likely candidate for me to work with. The author suggests both Codecademy and Khan Academy as good, free options for older kids and adults so I thought I might as well start there. I opened up both websites and got started looking around.

I know that I judged a book by it's cover but I knew instantly that Codecademy was the place for me. It's homepage is clean and simple and invites you to start playing instantly. I played, I stayed, and I'm happy I did.

For me, Codecademy is simple and easy to use. While Codecademy has many stand alone lessons and projects that you can work on, the easiest way to get started is by doing one of the 'tracks' they have put together. These tracks are a collection of lessons and projects grouped around a specific language or theme. They have tracks for lots of different coding languages but I decided that the Web Fundamentals was the best place for me to start.

Web Fundamentals has six courses; three on HTML and three on CSS and teaches the skills needed to build a simple website (think Geocities). Each course has either three or five lessons and each lesson is broken down into exercises. After each course is a final project that is designed to help synthesize what you learned in the course. Overall, I've really enjoyed working on the Web Fundamentals track which I finished on Tuesday.

In particular, I like the way each exercise is laid out. In many ways it reminds me of my favourite method for learning math. A description of what you're going to be taught, an explanation of the method, a brief example, and problem with a set of directions on what steps to take. The directions are purposely somewhat vague so that there are some elements to figure out on your own but there is a help section at the bottom that will provide further suggestions.

Each exercise builds on what you've learned in previous exercises and actually has you repeat things that you've learned in previous exercises and lessons in order to learn new things. For example, I have no idea how many times I've posted photos and linked pages in my quest to learn how to make fonts italic or funny colors but I know I've done it many, many times. 

As the lessons go on I found that the directions began to get less explicit. I actually thought this was a good thing for me. Like any true language, HTML and CSS each have their own grammar structure and punctuation marks. Having less explicit directions forced me to make sure that I really understood the structure of the language and made sure that I wasn't just mimicking what I saw in the directions.

On of my favourite features of the exercises was the automatic checking feature. When you submitted an exercise and it found a mistake it would pop up a little box saying "Oops, did you forget to do xyz?" which is a pretty blatant hint. Also, once you're working on CSS there is a hint feature built in that put a red x at the beginning of a line of code if it found an error. It doesn't tell you what the error is but it enabled me to backtrack and fix it before I got too far ahead.

In summary, I'm very happy with Codecademy. I feel like I've made good progress and that I learned a lot. I went from knowing nothing to knowing how to make beautiful Geocities websites! I also just really liked how Codecademy is designed. It makes it fun and I'm already pondering what code language I want to start next. If you're looking for a simple, structured way to learn some coding skills then I would definitely suggest Codecademy.

How about you all? Have you ever used a website to learn to code? And if yes, which one and what did you think of it?

Disclaimer: Codecademy has no idea who I am and definitely did not pay me or give me anything in exchange for writing this post. I just really loved their website and wanted to share it with you guys.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Learning to Code

This is it you guys. I've started the slip sliding path into the nerdy side of life and to be honest, it's kind of... fun. And, well, I'm not really sure how I feel about that.

I've always thought that there were two kinds of coders. Nerds who code because they eat, sleep, breath, and dream in code. And the artsy people who suffer through coding because it's the only good way of showcasing their art to the world.

But now I'm not so sure that that's true. I originally decided it was high time for me to start learning some HTML simply so that I would know what was going on (and how to put the darn spaces between pictures on Blogger when it was just. being. so. stupid!). But then I discovered that it was kind of fun. Not in a spend-all-day-staring-at-the-computer way but in a huh-this-is-challenging-but-not-as-hard-as-I-thought-it-would-be kind of way. So I just kind of kept plugging at it. And now? Now Justin and I have started talking about self hosting my website and getting me off of Blogger.

People, I just started learning HTML six days ago

Seriously though. I think I'm going to do it. I want to do it. But mostly I really want to see if I can actually do it. And I think I'll document it all right here as I go along. I want to do the majority of the work myself. No relying on Justin to set things up for me like I usually do. I'm sure there will be times where Justin has to get me out of the mess I made but I'll try and let you know what parts he does and why. And I'm hoping to keep those to a minimum. (Sorry, hon! No fun for you!)

I really have almost no idea what I'm doing. I know that WordPress is pretty popular among bloggers so I would guess that I'll end up using that but I'm not 100% committed to the idea. And I know that Justin will have lots of suggestions and opinions on who I should host my site through. But that's about the extent of my knowledge. I'll start researching and let you know what I think my next step needs to be. It'll be fun!

Sign up for email notifications if you want to follow along on the fun and share any tips in the comments. I'm pretty sure I'm going to need all the help I can get.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Weekly Loves: June 7

Happy Friday, all! Another quiet week for us this week. Last weekend we went to my parents' house and I took almost no photos. I'll have to remedy that next time we're all together again :-)

Photos from the week:
1. There's still nothing like swinging at the elementary school. I love the swings :-)
2. Cuddling on the hammock with my baby. The best part of my parents' beautiful yard.
3. Getting to spend the afternoon with my nephews! I miss them a lot.
4. Clam chowder. In June. You never need an excuse to make New England Clam Chowder.
5. Early morning photos, wet hair. My raccoon eyes are progressing nicely.

In other news.
1. I'm reading this book and LOVING it. It is the most fascinating things I've read in a long time. I'm actually considering buying it.
2. I'm pretty sure I'm in love with Trader Joe's. They always have such fantastic prices on things that we don't even need. We restrained ourselves and only bought one thing that wasn't on our list. Go us!
3. We've been loving GeoGuessr. Please tell me we're not the only ones. Fantastic game to play together as a team.

Justin and I are headed out today with his two little brothers for a birthday hiking/canoeing day. And then we have Father's Day with his family on Sunday. Here's to hoping we can have a productive quiet Saturday! Hope you all have a great weekend!