Project 1up: Week One

It's been a busy week over here! When I decided to do a Project 1up last week, I wasn't sure how easy it would be. Given I am spending a good chunk of my time updating my resume, reading for career advancement, and seeking more steady employment, I felt overwhelmed as soon as I hit "publish."

But I got through it. Having some planning tools really helped. Here are a few I am currently using:

* Undated Calendar: For this project, I'm using an undated teacher's planner. It has space for six subjects plus notes, and allows me to give fairly detailed tasks for the day. Since there are five subject areas on which I am focused, each area has it's own row on the calendar. I am able to start with this first week, and there's a satisfaction in checking something off when done.

* Five-Subject Notebook: Being a note-taker, and doing much of my learning from online resources and library books, I needed a notebook that could be divided into each of my subject areas without being cumbersome. Since I had a review copy of the Levenger Circa "Inside Out" notebook (one of their first with the leather-like, vegan Lev-Tex material), I realized it is the perfect notebook for this project. Given that I am jumping around between topics and resources, the flexibility of the Circa allows me to move pages around as needed to keep my notes and topics together. (I'll be reviewing the Circa notebook, as well as other systems like it, for a late-May post over on Scoutie Girl, so stay tuned!)

* Index Cards: I also tend to create "cheat-sheets" and resources for myself when learning new things. This skill comes in handy especially when learning new programming languages, and I am also finding it useful for remembering circuitry, electrical properties, and other micro-computing components. I had a pack of these available to me, so I went with them, but any set of index cards will do. Because I had five subject areas, the fact that they are five different colors makes things even easier to track. I assigned one color to each of the five subjects, and then created consistency throughout the tools (by using corresponding pen colors).

* Colored Pens: Once I decided on using the colored index cards for this project, I played to my visual learning style and created a color consistency. This allows me to look at an index card or a subject tab in my notebook and, without much thought or intensive reading, know instinctively which subject area I'm working in. Knowing the tricks that work for you is really key to creating a learning environment for intense study. I settled on the PaperMate Flair ultra-fine-tipped pens because they don't bleed through the paper in my notebook OR index cards, and because the set of five that corresponds almost perfectly to my existing color scheme was on sale.

Having the consistency of a color scheme and listing the subject areas in the same order in both the planner and the notebook have given me huge advances in the ease of learning. I know that when I sit down to study my Raspberry Pi, I'll be using the blue pen and index cards and writing notes in the last section of my notebook. Same is true for sitting down and working through HTML5, or practicing my Ruby.

Putting this system together took less than an hour and was minimal cost. Because I already had the notebook, total cost was under $25, the bulk of it being the planner. I could have put together a 3-ring binder with calendar pages and loose-leaf notebook paper -- which was my plan until I remembered the Circa. One could probably build something comparable for as little as $10.

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I spent a lot of time this week focusing on microcomputers and electronics. Because I find great joy in building things, I wanted to create the foundational knowledge for electronics and circuitry before moving too deeply into playing with the Arduino, a microcontroller. I have a dozen or more ideas for things to build with the Raspberry Pi and Arduino systems, but I need to have a basic understanding of how electricity works, how circuits are created, and the functions of each piece of a microcomputer before I can build them. A while back, I bought myself a decent soldering iron, and have been working with building LED projects. I realized, though, that I need three or four hands to make things fun and functional. My next project is going to be getting a small vise or "helping hands" setup to hold the circuit boards while I am soldering. Since this setback has me not playing with electricity, I've shifted my focus to learning more about my Raspberry Pi, building operating system SD cards for it, and preparing to create an install guide for putting Ruby onto the Raspberry Pi. This will be my first step toward creating a curriculum for using the Raspberry Pi to teach kids programming in Ruby.

What are you working on this week?

Stay tuned for my review of Make Magazine's Getting Started with Raspberry Pi, which should be going up on Friday. If there's anything special you want me to cover, leave a comment below!