Make Trouble For Yourself

At the close of the first week several of the students asked me how they should prepare for the next week. Should they run through Ruby in 100 Minutes, Encryptor, Event Manager, MicroBlogger again? Should they start reading some serious Ruby language books? Should they start trying Ruby Koans, Learn Ruby the Hard Way or our warm up exercises?

This is what I told them:

As adult learners we are eager to move on to bigger and better challenges. We often tire with resting on our laurels. We want new challenges.

The best advice I felt I could give them was to complete our tutorials a second time then take their current working application and break it.

A few things I suggested:

  • Purposefully misspell a variable or method name when you create it or invoke it
  • Add or remove spaces throughout the line
  • Move the method definitions all around the file
  • Remove the @ sigil from your instance variables
  • Add the @ sigil to every variable
  • Name the iterator in the each block the same name as the array itself

After making some change I encouraged them to ask the following questions:

  • Does the code still work?
  • Why does it still work?
  • Did the change break my code?
  • What is the error message?
  • Why is it broken?

We want them to make mistakes, to see error messages, and to get comfortable with those errors. This is incredibly awesome to do when you know you can easily undo your mistakes and make it work again.

Also mastery comes from understanding your boundaries. As a student if you aren’t trying to find those boundaries you aren’t learning at your best.

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