I feel their pain

I’ve been wrestling with a student project for the last couple of days.  She’s doing part of it and I’m helping.  We’re using a tool that I like, but that I don’t know that much about and for which there isn’t much documentation.  There are lots of moving parts.  There’s python, there’s a database, there’s a web framework, and then there’s just HTML.  I started in this computing schtick with databases, so I understand the structure.  I know MySQL syntax and some SQL, but I used PHP to interface with those languages.  Now I’m using a python web framework.

Basically, I’ve been writing a line of code, running the code, and reading error messages.  I was excited when I got new error messages.  I came close, very close, to giving up.  But I finally turned to a forum, found some better examples, changed the function I was using and voila! Success!

But I completely understand my students’ frustration sometimes.  I found myself saying, “What do you mean, that variable is undefined? It’s defined right there!”  Or more often, I was trying to figure out what some method returned: a list? a dictionary? an object? all of the above?  I have developed a pretty good process for reading errors and figuring out where things are going wrong.  My students sometimes get frustrated if they get more than one error message in a row.  I don’t blame them.  We discussed the image below the other day, because it always seems to be true.

one_codeThis also happens when you take out one line of code.  I like the puzzles though.  I can get past the frustration when I have a clear goal in mind, and know what I want the end product to look like.  My students seem to be that way as well.  With really complex projects, though, it’s sometimes hard to see the end goal.  It’s even hard sometimes for them to see the pieces.  This project that I’m working on I broke into pieces.  My student and I are working on different pieces.  And she’s doing a lot of the conceptualizing.  We’re hoping to have at least two or three working pieces before the end is here.  Or at least have a clearer vision of the final goal.  That’s a major accomplishment.  I just hope they can see it as one.