Programming for fun (sort of)

One of the things I promised myself was that I was going to try to practice programming every day.  One of the funny things about teaching is that you often don’t get to practice what you teach.  When I taught writing, I always felt weird when I was teaching something I myself didn’t have time to do much of.  This is even harder never having had a job where programming was something I did every day.  I did some here and there over the last ten years, but not every day.

I’ve been pretty good about this.  Last week I missed a day or two–okay maybe three–as I was getting back into the routine.  But this weekend, I’ve spent a good chunk of each day programming.  First, I worked on some puzzles I found online. Mr. Geeky and I were competing against each other.  For one puzzle, he came up with one way of doing it, and I did it the “right” way.  I looked up some information and used it.  He hacked it because he didn’t want to look stuff up.  This is the secret, of course, to any programming.  There’s no way to remember every possible function or method.

Next I started a new project related to one I started over the summer.  Both have to do with food.  I’m making much better progress with the second, as it’s a little less complex than the first.  I basically worked on it all day.  I’m sure something like both of them exist, but it’s important to me to do the work myself.  Another project I tackled was analyzing Obama’s speech from this week and graphing it by word frequency.  The graphing was a little challenging as I ended up drawing it programmatically rather than using one of many built-in libraries to do the graphing.  I never quite got the graph to look perfect, but it was good enough.

As I work, I also think about the students’ perspective.  How would I help them through a project like this?  What tools have I used for support?  How did I structure the problem to begin with? How did I break it down?  I do a lot of this in my head, because what I’m doing is not huge, but I will require my students to write it out, so they have a clearer vision of how things work.  It’s fun learning new things, but it’s hard figuring out how to turn around and teach them effectively (okay, that’s kind of fun, too.).