Friday, November 30, 2012

Keeping Busy

My blogging activity here has been even spottier than usual, but I have actually been keeping myself productively busy, even writing stuff, just not on this blog. Back in June 2012, I enrolled in udacity.com's cs101 course. It's an introduction to Python, programming and Computer Science. I already have a Master's degree (more or less in Computer Science), but have been teaching myself Python, hanging around the Python language Facebook page answering newbie questions, and I've been writing code in Python to solve Project Euler problems. I figured that taking the course would help me with my Python knowledge and let me see if udacity cs101 is something I should be recommending to newbies to the language.

By mid-July 2012, I'd completed the course, scoring 100% on the final exam, so I earned their "Certificate of accomplishment with highest distinction". Yay!

The course is mostly taught by Professor David Evans from U. of Virginia. He's also authored an introductory computer science textbook which isn't used in udacity cs101, though in one lesson, he pulls out a copy of the book to show an example of an index, the index pages at the back of the textbook. I have since learned that the entire textbook is available in e-book form as a free download. I installed the full PDF file onto my iPod to read in my spare time. I do think the larger screen of an iPad would make a better e-reader, but so it goes. I have an iPod. I don't have (and can't afford) an iPad. If the fine print on the tiny screen wears me down, perhaps I'll shift to reading the PDF file on my laptop PC.

Since completing the cs101 course, I continued to hang around the cs101 forum to see what help I could be by answering questions posted there by other students. Part of my motive for sticking around was that I've proposed to mentor a udacity cs101 class at the local North Hempstead, NY "Yes We Can" Community Center. The community center has a classroom full of PC's with Internet access, and I'd very much like to increase interest in software development around here, and this looks like a feasible start on that. Professor Evans has given his blessing to the offering.

Alas, the center's director still hasn't approved a start date for the course, so I'm thinking it'll begin after New Years. My intent is to recruit students in December before Christmas break is here.

Meanwhile, I'll republish here on this blog in the next several days some of the Forum material that I think is of interest outside the confines of the cs101 course itself.

If you have any interest in learning to program, the CS101 course from udacity.com is a good place to start. It's free of charge, self-paced, assumes no prior knowledge, and is well constructed. Python is a wonderful language for computer programming because in relatively few lines of code you can write some seriously useful software.

If you are in North Hempstead, NY, come and join the "Yes We Can" community center in New Cassel, on Garden St. If you are age 60+, ask about the free membership deal. Membership gets you use of the indoor basketball courts and of the computers too. I'd be happy to have you participate in the CS-101 class.

We're also starting a "Computers-100" class for people who are completely new to computers and aren't looking to program them, but want to learn how to use them. Here's links to the course description and to the slides for the first session.

Drew