Experiences of a Railsgirls newbie
Being an adult and a complete novice in programming, learning Ruby with the Railsgirls feels very much like being back on a playground. At first you feel completely disoriented but soon somebody comes, shows you around and takes care of you. Then it’s very much fun to get to know step by step the possibilities of the new environment.
After having attended two Railsgirls workshops we reacted on the mantra „Keep on coding“ with the creation of a study group. It started with a small note on the Railsgirls Berlin Google Group to find other attendees and a coach to work with. After some days we were eight attendees, two coaches, three potential ideas to work on and arranged a first meeting. There we discussed how the group could work.
– Work rhythm: how much time everybody wants to spend learning ruby? For us: one evening per week and another few hours for recapitulation either alone or in a separate homework group.
– Meeting place and time: We decided to meet every monday after work at Travis CI office (where our lovely and patient coaches Sven Fuchs and Konstantin Haase host our events and share their famous waffle iron with us. It’s not a must to have fix dates but it makes things easier if a certain frame is set without any more emails and doodles.
The Rails Girls Berlin Wall of Fame at Travis CI
– Curriculum: We decided to start with the basics of ruby. No Rails tutorials, no working on the concrete project but learning the principles. Classes, methods, arrays, hashes, test driven development, design of a beautiful code, deployment. Even if it doesn’t sound so: it is fun.
– Educational concept: we use different concepts. The classical explaining and presenting by the coach, where everybody is looking on the screen and trying everything out on her own laptop. Working in small groups also worked very well, especially when we were frustrated at not having accomplished a challenge on our own. But most fun was a small roleplay where everybody played the function of a small program that created waffles, having classes like dough, iron, waffle, topping and methods like bake, heatup etc. This showed playfully which instances belong to which class, how methods have to be initialized and how processes must be created in the right way.
Playing with code
– Communication and collaboration: our coaches decided to work on Github for group communication and the exchange of documents. Even if all those who aren’t used to Github are often a little bit confused about using it properly we improve every day.
– The Project: We are building a small application internally called „Text-to-Squares“. The idea is simple: sort of text is transformed into a picture of colored squares (inspirations by Wordle and Gerhard Richter).
It took us about 12 meetings (including one whole workshopday) to launch the beta version that you can see here online.
That is where we are right now. In the next steps we will build a rails application from it and improve the design.
It’s very enlightening to learn Ruby with the Rails Girls – as it’s always amazing to enter a completely new world, to come back to a playground. Sometimes you fall, sometimes you are really frustrated but there are always nice people around who guide and help you. Railsgirls rock! And last but not least: there will be waffles!