So I finished my first official programming class (“Introduction to Programming with Visual Basic.NET”). I’d had some scripting classes but nothing where objects, classes and such were thrown around with such abandon. I’d actually experimented with Basic in 8th grade when I was going to make the best known video game on floppy disk, and had to stay after school because my parents didn’t own a computer that supported random number generation. (DEC VT180 if you must know).
Anyway, I would have blogged about it sooner (and it might have eased the VB community’s mind about my feelings toward the language) except that I thought it might be creepy for my fellow students to think I was reporting on them during the class. I was outed as a MSDNer my first day, already an oddball, and what with me always asking questions, I figured why prevail upon everyone’s kindness further?
The textbook was Programming in Visual Basic .NET by Julia Case Bradley and Anita Millspaugh (always cool to see women technical authors!) . I really liked it perhaps for the reasons others might lose patience with it: there were tons of screenshots, code examples, hand-holding, and homework exercises. It came with a student version of Visual Studio and a supplementary CD. It met for six weeks from Mondays and Wednesday from 6 pm-10pm with a 15 minute snack break. (Snacks, very important to good programming. 🙂 Although the instructor did not provide the snacks).
I learn best under the following methods:
1) complete killer deadline
2) utter bribery
3) teacher’s praise
This class provided all three components. I never had enough time to take the class, do the homework, or do any side projects. When the Smart Components launch wasn’t keeping me late, the class was, and when I had a weekend, I had homework to do and many long baths to take. The feeling of never-enough-time never left me. My Inner Truant feels like summer vacation is upon us now that I am outa school! Yay!
Bribery. It is sad to say that I used food, work and other mental judo to inspire me. On the weekends, I’d sit on my bed with my laptop in my lap and promise myself Chinese food if could just get through the hands-on exercise. During the week, I’d use coffee as a means to get me going. Some bribery was for other people – our content strategist for VB, Duncan Mackenzie, donated some of his leftover technical books to the class and so for two nights running I got to be the book fairy and bestow VB enterprise application tomes and OOP primers upon anyone who wanted them.
Teacher’s praise. I think mostly here I merely tried to avoid being mocked by the instructor rather than praise. He was a soft-spoken guy, very easygoing, and not sarcastic at all. But I also didn’t want to be the Microsoft, nay, MSDN employee who was found to be mentally deficient and unable to understand one of our own technologies.
I was also seduced by Visual Studio. So much of the Windows form is coded for you. You drag and drop buttons around. You make your pretty little interface with glee…. Your own checkbox and listbox garden! And then, after you get it looking like you want, you are so enchanted with it you simply MUST make those buttons and widgets DO something. If you want to test your code to a certain spot, you put a big red breakpoint right on the code. What more can you ask for? (Well, I’d like a soundtrack, sorta the theme to Hackers played when I get the code right… wouldn’t it be neat to put THAT in Whidbey 🙂 )
More on this next time….