FreeCodeCamp for Me, #HourOfCOde For The Kids!

FreeCodeCamp for Me, #HourOfCOde For The Kids!

Where have you been?

Good question, let me answer that. since #GetOnlineWeek , my blog has fallen silent. I think it’s about time I explained why. Instead of just consuming the web, I wanted to learn how to create it too. You might say I took that step when I started this blog, however I can’t take credit for the look or functionality of this little corner of the internet, we have WordPress to thank for that. No, I want to dive deep into the code and do it from scratch.

This has been a fantasy of mine for some time now. In all honesty, it isn’t my first attempt either. I have taken several miss steps towards this goal in the past but this time, I’m determined. With a lot of help  and motivation from a very good friend of mine @kazziegriff , I have the best chance ever at success.

 

So Why Now?

Shortly after posting my last post, I was struck by a fit of frustration due to my lack of progress. To try and remedy this,  I turned to the internet for advice. Thankfully, the internet didn’t let me down, introducing me to FreeCodeCamp. This site takes the learning approach a little differently to other programming tutorial sites I’ve tried. As well as teaching you the skills, it also provides you with the ability to put these skills to use by contributing to non profit organisations, once your training is complete.

Due to a sequence of events, I have found myself with a lot of free time on my hands lately. Other than shepherding my children to and from school and keeping the bed warm while my wife is hard at work, my body and mind were idle, not a great place to be when you suffer from depression. So after several conversations / counseling sessions with @kazziegriff  we hit on retraining as a solution, with the long term goal to move me out of the rut I’d found myself in and back into the big wide world.

 

So Where To Next

@kazziegriff  consulted some of her web development colleagues on my behalf, asking them what would be desired by a web development firm, looking to hire a junior web developer. It turns out qualifications aren’t that important, much more important is demonstrating you have the knowledge they’re after. A great way to demonstrate this knowledge is with a portfolio.

Great I thought, I’ve had no clients, not even unpaid, how am I to build a portfolio of work (Always looking on the down side as usual). However, FreeCodeCamp came to the rescue. Not only does it differ from the other coding tutorial sites out there with it’s hands off, community focused teaching approach. The opportunity it grants it’s graduates to work on real world projects for non profit organisations would provide me the ideal opportunity to build my portfolio. Also throughout the course, you are prompted to complete challenges which involve producing different, custom, examples of functional websites, again perfect for my portfolio.

 

What’s taken you so long?

At the time of drafting this post, I am 24 days into my journey with FreeCodeCamp. I know this as my progress is tracked on my profile, providing a level of motivation to keep you coming back day after day, not wanting to break your streak, I fear however, now that I am approaching the intermediate level of challenges, my streak will break. Not because I’m not coming back day after day but because the challenges will just take me that much longer to complete.

(UPDATE: My prediction was correct. Since writing the last paragraph, my streak has come to an end, taking longer than expected to complete the next challenge to maintain it. This did introduce a little negative energy into my learning process, as I imagined it would. However, I remain determined to complete my goal and the lists of challenges set in front of me by FreeCodeCamp.)

Keeping It In The Family.

FreeCodeCamp is perfect for me and what I’m trying to achieve, however my family isn’t getting much from it in exchange for their father and husband spending hours hunched over his computer night after night. It so happens, my writing of this blog post coincides perfectly with the #HourOfCode initiative from code.org and Computer Science Week. This provides me with the perfect opportunity to introduce my wife and children to programming. Code.org have provided everyone with a fun and easy to absorb introduction to this ever more important field.

code-org_logo-svg

The gamer in me couldn’t help but notice Minecraft’s participation in this initiative., in the form of a Minecraft themed project, where the user has to manipulate on screen objects using blocks of code.  This is perfect as my son, my wife, even my little 3 year old girl love Minecraft, so I couldn’t have chosen a better themed project if I’d tried, (well maybe Pokemon but MInecraft will do just fine!)

My children are aged 3 and 6, my 3 year old daughter may be too young for this project. However I’m hoping that my son may catch the coding bug. After my son has completed this Minecraft project, passer a few of the others available on code.org, I’ll need a way  to keep the coding flame alight.

The internet once again provided the answer, in the form of a programming language called Scratch, exactly what I was looking for. It uses a similar interface to the hour of code, a simple drag and drop affair. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Code.org is using an implementation of Scratch for it’s Minecraft project, the similarities are so strong.

I look forward to seeing what my son can create with the tools that Scratch puts at his disposal, should he choose to continue. I hope wholeheartedly that he does. I don’t mind holding my hands up to the accusation that I will try to encourage it as I feel that a basic understanding of programming would be a very beneficial tool to have under his belt moving forward.

 

Moving Forward

In the coming months, I hope that my FreeCoeCamp experience will lead to me possibly obtaining paid employment in the web development sphere. Not only that, I hope to start sharing my passion for programming with my family, with the help of code.org, so that when I rush into the living room excited about a problem I’ve just solved, they don’t all collectively roll their eyes as I start talking about Functions Variables and for loops.

Either way, I’m sure this won’t be the last you’ll hear about my programming journey on my blog. If you’ve had experience with either of these websites, please share them with me, I want to hear of your experiences. Are you a web developer, more importantly, are you a visually impaired developer . I’d really be interested in hearing your story. Do you have any other programming resources you think I and others may find useful, share them with me please, I need all the help I can get.

As always feel free to leave comments below or contact me on Facebook or Twitter.  Also if you’d consider sharing this post too on your social media I would really appreciate it. Thanks for reading and I’ll catch() you next time.

Seeing With Dolphins!

Seeing With Dolphins!

Hi guys, I know it’s been a while, but I’m back now!

I thought it only right to write a blog post seeing as my blog was just kindly featured on the Dolphin Blog. Dolphin Software, Supernova to be precise, played a huge part in my life back at school and college and now they’re once again stepping up to the plate and helping Blind and Partially Sighted bloggers, if I was wearing a hat, it would definitely be going off to them right now.

I haven’t spoken about my eye condition on my blog yet, in any great detail at least. I suffer from Retinitis pigmentosa, for most sufferers, this results in what can best be described as tunnel vision, they lose most if not all of their peripheral vision and to them it is like they are looking through a tube, only being able to see what is directly in front of their field of view.

For me however it has manifested itself in a slightly different way, the cells are degenerating all over my retina, not just on the periphery, so I have lost clarity of vision throughout. This means I struggle to distinguish variations in colour, I can’t read anything but the largest of font sizes. I am also unable to recognize people in all but the closest of distances and traveling on my own can be a challenge as I am unable to see obstacles.

This is why Supernova was a life line to me in school. It couldn’t help me walk around without bumping into things, nor could it help me recognise friends and loved ones. What it could do however was help me access my school work, browse the internet and communicate online, all things I would not have been able to do otherwise.

Supernova is a screen magnification and screen reader designed to help Blind and Partially Sighted people access their computer. Without this software I would never had been able to make my way through school and receive anything like the grades I did.

Dolphin Software wasn’t the only aid I had in school however, I also had one on one support in most of my classes except for P.E. (I think you guys in the states call it Gym?). Anyway, that one on one support was so useful, helping me access content that the teacher would write on the blackboard, describing classroom experiments in the science classes and adapting classroom resources on the fly that had not been pre-submitted by the teachers.

The one on one support was more than that though, it made me feel like I wasn’t going through school alone. Don’t get me wrong, I had friends in school, but I don’t think any of them really understood my eye condition, they just saw me for who I was, for the most part, I think. Having the support teachers there who I could go to when I needed to talk to someone who understood was so useful, especially as I went to a mainstream school.

I’d like to thank Dolphin once again for prompting me to pick up the proverbial pen again and take to my blog, it’s been a long time coming and I really enjoyed recalling old memories. School is a huge part of most peoples lives and Dolphin played a massive part in my schooling, so thank you Dolphin.

If you had low vision in school I’d be interested to hear what accessibility aids you used, be it magnifiers or software, one on one tuition or classroom support. Let me know in the comments or contact me on Twitter or Facebook I’d love to hear your story. I’d especially like to know how you carried on after you left school and possibly entered the world of work. Did you continue using the same adaptations or did you change things up, let me know.