YouTube floats my boat.

YouTube is a game changer for me. Everyone has a different learning style and, typically, people learn best through a combination of styles that are specific to them. Academically, I have found that I learn best through a combination of pictures, videos and auditory lectures. While reading a lecture, canvas module or chapter in a textbook can occasionally help me hone in on some details I may overlook regarding a subject I already feel comfortable with, it rarely helps me to actually understand new concepts. At least, not without A TON of time and effort spent on my part re-reading lines multiple times, writing notes/outlines and drawing pictures/diagrams of what I’m reading about. At the age of 39, I was just diagnosed with ADHD. I’m still learning what that means and if that has anything to do with how difficult learning out of textbooks has been for me all these years.

When I first became a student again 2 years ago, I really struggled being being fully online. Enter………YouTube. Wow! YouTube has saved my life in so many of my classes. Whenever I took a class that didn’t have recorded lectures, I found that watching some well organized YouTube videos on the subjects assigned that week would allow me to begin to grasp the gist of what we were doing. Once I had that going for me, I could more easily read the textbooks or canvas modules provided and actually learn the content for that week. It’s become such a norm for me now that I’ve moved on to using it in every area of my life from getting information on what to look for when buying a new TV to how to complete home improvement projects. While I know that many people use it solely for entertainment, to me, it has become the library of my dreams!

And what have I been binging on YouTube this week? Flutter apps and Firebase. For my capstone group, this last week revolved around research in order to put together our project plan. As this is the first time I am tackling a mobile app, I searched for a lot of information on the web to try to understand more about flutter app development and , specifically, a good database to use. Firebase and SQflite were the two terms that kept popping up, but I wasn’t quite grasping everything I was reading and that’s when I started YouTubing it. With YouTube, I was able to see the differences between the two options I was looking at for databases. Also, once I started to believe that firebase might be the better option, I was able to start watching tutorials that showed me developers using it to build their apps. I definitely don’t feel like watching these videos on YouTube makes me an instant expert, but it almost always gives me a good starting point and much better insights into whatever I am trying to learn. I honestly don’t know how I ever made it through my first degree without it. It seriously floats my boat.

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UI/UX Design. I think it might be love.

I remember the first time I created a PowerPoint.  It was a class in 9th grade where we were learning how to use MS Office.  I have no clue what my final product looked like, but I do remember being in love with the process of designing those slides.  I was enthralled as I manipulated colors, fonts and the position of shapes on my slides; Fascinated, at seeing how nudging a textbox over by 0.5” could make or break the overall feel of a slide;  Curious, as I noted how too much of a good thing was actually a bad thing (no one wants to see 20 animations going off on one slide!); Delighted, as I saw that something as simple as changing the color of an object on my slide could change the focal point of the viewer.  In short, I was obsessed!  I never turned down an opportunity to make a PowerPoint after that experience. 

Fast forward to the end of high school, and I looked into graphic design programs for a while, in large part because of how satisfying it was to make those PowerPoint slides.  But it was right around the dot-com bubble bursting and everything I heard made it sound like technology jobs were a lost cause.  I ended up pursuing my neuroscience degree instead.  It seemed the sensible thing to do at the time.

And somehow, 14 years later, I stumble upon UI/UX design.  While I realize that creating PowerPoint slides is obviously not the same as UX design, there are definitely some intersections.  Combined with my interest in neuroscience/psychology, I can’t help but get excited every time I read about it.  An excitement that has proven to be justified every time I work on projects that require UX design to be explored such as the website I made in my Web Development class or the Tkinter project I worked on in Software Engineering 1. 

For our capstone project, my group plans to make a mobile app.  While working on the project plan this week, I’ve been feeling nervous about all the technical skills needed to create this app.  But then I got to the graphical examples sections and boy, did I have fun!!  I still have a lot to learn about UI/UX design, but I’m grateful for every project in this program that has allowed me to think in terms of the visual design of a product and how users will interact with it.  Thank you CS 467!

It’s not amazing, but it definitely brings joy!!

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Capstone = time to struggle……and that’s ok.

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” – Frederick Douglass. 

This quote has come to my mind often over the last two years.  Returning to college after a 14 year absence in order to pursue a second degree (in a completely different field than my first bachelor’s) has presented plenty of opportunities to struggle.  I had forgotten how hard it was to be a complete beginner at something and how many hours of study and repetition it can take to truly digest a topic and feel comfortable with it.  And through the struggle, there has been progress.   I looked at some of my old python programs from my first few CS classes recently and was amazed when I thought about how simple the assignments seemed to me now verses how difficult they were back then. 

Despite my satisfaction at how far I’ve come since CS 161, I will admit that before each new course, I always feel some anxiety and nerves.  Why?  Because I know I am going to struggle.  Not the most pleasant feeling on its own.  Which is why the quote above has been playing through my head.  It reminds me that something good will come out of the discomfort I’m sure to feel during the term. And with that thought, the excitement of knowing that I’m on my way to becoming better starts to grow.         

A capstone project is typically thought of as a way to demonstrate what you have learned thus far, but I am much more excited at the thought of using this project as a push to learn something new and develop my skillset.  And, as always, the struggle will be real……………… as will, I hope, the progress.         

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