Like hundreds of thousands of folks, I signed up for Code Year in January, 2012. This was the year I was going to learn how to code.
Except I didn’t.
I’m not the first to confess that I’ve failed to follow through on this particular New Year’s resolution. New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose just published a “Public Apology to Codecademy”:
“So, I’m sorry, Codecademy. I’m sorry for the broken promises. I’m sorry for the wasted e-mails, the futile bytes spent chasing after a man who was never really going to love you back. I’m sorry you had to resort to thinly veiled passive-aggression there at the end, and I’m sorry that despite all your entreaties — 72 in all — I never got up the nerve to take the first step that might have landed me on the road to code.”
Like Roose, I never clicked on any of the emails I received from Codecademy. We can debate, I realize, whether or not I ever had any intentions of doing so, considering my vocal criticism of the startup’s pedagogy.
But my doubts about one Web-based learn-to-code curriculum certainly didn’t stop me from experimenting with numerous others. During Code Year, I signed up for Udacity’s CS101. I signed up for Coursera’s CS101. I signed up for the edX introductory CS class. I signed up for the Mechanical MOOC. I test drove lots of learn-to-code startups’ sites.
None of it stuck.
Unlike Roose, I think I really do want to learn more code. And unlike Roose, I'm not inclined to apologize that I'm a Codecademy-Udacity-dropout, even though I tend to agree with him when he tells these startups that “it’s not you, it’s me.”
I mean, it must be...
And really, this is what I want to do. I want to be able to support my sites — everything from the DNS to the database. I want to control my digital identity. I want access to my data. I want to be able to ask questions that data and against any open data in my profession (for me, that’s education). I want to be able to solve my own digital problems — and not just, “please cycle the modem” sorts of bullshit. I want to be able to hack my world.
Don’t get me wrong: I want to do much more. I want to learn much more. I’m pretty reliant on my boyfriend’s engineering skills and his willingness to answer my basic questions. And I don’t like it that my eyeballs still spin back in my head when someone mentions regular expressions. And kids, I do so badly want to be able to make a Twitter-bot that responds to link-baity ed-tech posts with some sort of @horse_ebooks witticism. And such.
I don’t think I can get this in a weekly email newsletter. I don’t think I can get this when the final project is building a card game. I don’t think I can get it when the final project is building a search engine. (Although the latter is way more interesting than the former, I would say.)
I need to chose the final project. Likely, that project is something that I’m already working on. I need to define my own goals. And likely, I need to figure something out now. I need just-in-time guidance; not something that we’ll get to Week 7 of the syllabus.
“Welcome to how everyone learns to code, Audrey.”
And okay, yeah. Sure. I get that. But that sorta indifferent shrug and a weekly email newsletter make for a pretty discouraging Code Year for a lot of folks.
Image credits: Kevin Roose's email inbox via New York Magazine