Finding your inspiration: from planning to programming

By Kat Kiernan

I love planning a project.

There is nothing I like more than grabbing a cup of tea and scribbling all my ideas down. Lists, mind-maps and post-its lie strewn across my desk containing doodles of things I want to do and things that probably will be forgotten and lost to the realms of eternity.

Finding your original idea

However, as a programmer when it comes to thinking of original ideas most of us can get a little stumped. This may be because in our ever-growing, very digital world it does seem hard to come up with what might be deemed an “original” idea.

The world is teeming with apps that help to make every aspect of life a little bit easier, a little bit more entertaining and a little bit more informed. It can be hard and daunting, therefore, when trying to create something new and exciting.

Yet, an idea can sometimes be original purely because someone has brought their own personal style, interpretation or passion to it. It can be hard to find that spark of interest that makes you enjoy obsessing over the little details. Both as an Assistant Instructor and former student, at CodeClan that inspiration is not as far away as you may think. For me, and many others, it struck the moment I started my first project.

CodeClan Projects

But first, a little backstory: sprinkled throughout the course are four projects. These are completed at the end of every work unit and currently cover Ruby, Javascript, Android and web frameworks, including Ruby Rails and React.

For each of these, students are given a choice of a few general briefs that they can pick from, that are designed to help guide students as they dip their toes into the world of programming.

Beyond the brief, students are allowed to expand or interpret the parameters of the project as they see fit. The final project gives students free reign to use whatever aspect of the course they want for whatever purpose.

From Games to Gig Scheduling

Like the backgrounds of the students, the projects have been wide and varied. In the past projects have involved full working games, including recreations of the board games Bang! and Blockus in Javascript, financial and shares apps, including one with it’s own branding called Money Pig, an Android magic 8 ball app, a drum machine, a community project crowdfunding website, a gig scheduling app and many many more. All well designed, all inventively produced.

I am always astounded at the range of creativity and passion that comes roaring to the fore when students, after weeks of stressing that they are “not good enough” or “don’t get it”, are given free range to play with the technologies that they have been learning.

This might be due to the fact that these projects are designed to be the lightbulb moments on the course. The moments when students have time to sit, explore the code and develop a relationship with it. They get to introduce a part of their style, their interest, their spirit and it never disappoints.

Front end vs back end

It was during one of these projects that I realised that I enjoyed front-end development, something I never would have considered until that little lightbulb flickered on. I have continued this interest, developing my skills further by matching up my back end programming skills with the development of my front end developer skills.

Imposter syndrome

It is tricky, I still get imposter syndrome and I still have self doubt. But when I see a project that a student has produced in one week, after only four weeks of programming experience, and hear them talk enthusiastically about what they have learnt and what they are going to do the next time, well. It makes me want to grab my notebook and start scribbling.

Kat Kiernan is an Lead of Learning Support and Accreditation at CodeClan. 


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