This past Saturday I had the pleasure of watching the culmination of 8 weeks worth of work that went into the final projects of the students who took my class over at General Assembly. I saw everything from an aggregator of fitness clubs in the greater New York City area to a social trip planning web app.
I am always amazed and inspired by the things people dream up, especially people who may not have programmed a day in their life. Often, programming novices see the “web” and have no idea what goes into it, just “magic.” By having introductory courses like the one I teach at General Assembly, we begin to demystify the web so that students can gain a better understanding of the time and energy that goes into making a website or a web app.
Not all of the students I have taught or met want to become developers. Some just wanted to have a better fluency in “developer speak” so that they can go on to hire someone to finish up their prototype. One student and his wife want to start a business and he constructed a web application for potential customers to order window blinds. Many found that they were able to solve problems that they were having in their personal lives. A student in the class felt that she and other parents had difficulties keeping track of their children’s school activities. She developed an application to keep track of the school’s functions and be edited by her and other parents in the school to keep these events up to date.
When we as teachers, mentors, and role-models have a better understanding of what a novice’s goals are, we can better target how to answer their questions and frame it in the context in which they want to apply it.
8 weeks is not a lot of time to complete a full-fledged web application—especially when you’re also dealing with a full-time job and 3 hours of class time twice a week. I hope I was able to convey to them that it was really an achievement to go from no knowledge of Ruby and Rails to presenting in front of their peers their idea—even if they didn’t get everything they imagined completed. If nothing, they all learned to better hone what it meant to reach a minimum viable product and concentrate on the most important features.
It was a pleasure teaching you, and good luck in your future programming adventures!
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