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Decoded Training day


I had a number of reservations about a training day in coding. First and foremost being that I have never done any coding before and had no idea how it even worked, let alone how to use it. I pictured a white, sparse, conference room, with someone telling us all day about code and its uses, with barely any of it going in. I pictured myself coming out more confused than I started. However, I couldn't have been further from the truth.

I turned up at the venue, a beautiful flat in Old Street to be welcomed by the two organisers, who straight away made you feel comfortable and welcome. The flat, hired by decoded for the day, was a warehouse conversion, complete with its own cat, who made a welcome addition to the day. Coming in off the street was a room with a TV set up with the decoded presentation, as you walked through to the back of the flat there was a vast dining room with a number of Mac book airs set up ready for us to work on.
After our initial mingling, over coffee and pastries, with the other participants, mostly graphic design course leaders from across UAL, we were lead back into the front room to begin the training.
The first presentation was on the history of the internet, how this has led to the development of coding and open source. It took us through from the development of personal computers and the internet in 1979, through the development of HTML in 1989, CSS, JavaScript and PHP in 1995-6, to the development of mobile in 2013. This presentation gave us an insight into how we have got to where we are now, and why it developed as it did.
After this initial presentation, and after a well needed coffee break, we began work on the mac books. We were told that by the end of the day we would have created an app with a geolocation application enabling the user to 'check in' on the app when they were at the pre-set location. This seemed like a tough challenge, that I was sceptical could be completed by the end of the day, with no prior coding experience.

Decoded have worked on developing a platform for developing an app for the purposes of these courses. The platform breaks down the different aspects of coding, in order that it could be understood in a more logic and broken down way. There were three main aspects we would be concentrating on 'HTML text', 'design' and 'application'.

So to begin with we needed to come up with a concept for the app. It had to be somewhere that people could go to in order to check in, such as an art exhibition or conference. In relation to the previous CLL online identities project, I decided that an app where the user could check in when at the learning zone at LCC and needed help would be useful. I pictured it as an app version of the button you press on a plane when you need the air steward to come your aid. The student or staff member working in the learning zone would be able to put their name and computer number into the app when they needed help, and the technician would be able to see this and come to help them.
The first challenge was to come up with a name and a background image for the app. Something we were told was normally quite a simple task for their participants, but with a room full of artists and graphic designs, this was going to take a bit more time to settle on the right image. I chose an image of the learning zone at high Holborn and the name 'I need IT help'.
So next was to enter the text. You begin this by typing <head>, this indicates that this is the title of the app; this is what will appear in the tab when you are on the app. you then apply aspects of the app, such as font and colour. You can do this by searching for a colourpicker, or font. Open source websites will provide you with the code for your requirements. The body text, as you would imagine comes under the instruction <body>. To start and finish each section, you are required to type <section> to start and </section> at the end the forward slash tell the program that you have finished on that section.

The purpose of this app is to have a place where, when at the location you can check in. In my app in particular this was so that IT assistance can log your need for help and attend to you. So for this a box to input the required information us needed. Decoded provided a pre-made check in, that we were required to use. Entering it as a <form> this brings up a box on our page, whereby a name can be entered and logged onto another computer.

During lunch, an amazing spread of salads and refreshments, we had the opportunity to use the Oculus Rift virtual roller coaster program. Oculus rift is a ritual reality headset, in this program you the put headset over your eyes with a film of the roller coaster going, and it felt like you were on the roller coaster in real time. I had previously experienced this as new technology at the Trollhättan Innovatum in Sweden, so it was a surprise to see it being used in a more regular setting, and reflected a how new technologies are becoming more and more commonplace. We also had the opportunity to talk to the tutors regarding their practice and how that can relate to UAL. This was a great opportunity to explore and understand how this training would be fitted into our work, and how we could use in within the university communities.

After lunch we sat back down in the front space for a presentation on JavaScript and HTML language. For this part of the training I definitely needed to step up the concentration. Although helpful and careful presented to deconstruct the complicated concepts behind it development, it was still a hard subject to get my head around. This began by explaining the difference between frameworks and content management systems, and the types of databases that can be created in relation to these. There are two main databases, we were told, relational, whereby information is kept in a logic list of inputs, each with notes and additions when necessary, and document stores, where each bit of information is made as a separate input. The first has the issue of being over burdened with too much information, so the second is often used for things such as the app we would be creating. The presentation then moved onto programming, the tutors informed us, happened in a three step process. Beginning with functions, which are blocks of code that can be run on demand. The presentation explained that 'they have to be created (declared) and run (called). They come in three types: those that are native to the programming language, those that come from a library, and those that we create ourselves'. Secondly are variables, these are 'used to store data within the code. Each has a name (e.g. 'time), and the stored value (e.g. 3pm)'. Then lastly logic which is 'how we define the decisions that our program makes. It is made up of simple choices, like 'if' and 'else' (e.g. if our 'time' variable is set for '3pm', run a particular function. else, do nothing)'. (Quotes taken from the decoded handbook)

Now we were tasked with completing our app. first we needed to find out how to geolocate it, bearing in mind that we would be potentially using this app on laptops without GPS. This is done by using the IP address. So we set out to find code that would enable us to do this. because most website are open source now, even when you are not able to get code from a help website that you can do so by finding a website with a (in this case) geolocation setting, and use the 'page source' opinion to see the source code on the site.

Having input this code in the design of our app, we then needed to set the location that would allow the user to check in. this is done by using google maps to get the longitude and latitude. This is when we create the logic. Whereby the user will only be able to enter their name into the box, if they are at the right location. Code is input into the app to say 'when the user is within xkm of x lat and x long, checkin box appears; otherwise message informing them how far away from the location will appear'. The last part of the coding for this day was to create a message for after the name has been inputted. This is done by creating one last bit of code to tell the app that once a name is entered a new piece of information must be displayed until the page is refreshed.
Having all finished our app; we were able to come back into the front room and view everyone different ones. Along with my own app for IT help, there was an app to checkin when you got to your bed to sleep, one to check in when you were at an allotment, one for an exhibition, one for the launch of a new magazine and one for checking in if you had taken the bins out.

Overall this day has given the right skills, not only to create a simple coded app, but also to pass this information onto the students and staff at UAL in a confident manner. It was presented in a clear and comprehensible manner, that gave a basic understand of how to use coding, and the basics of online languages. The platform for app creation was made available to all the participant after the course, so that they could continue to develop their apps, and explore the concepts that they were taught during the day. We were also provided with a handbook with a full explanation of the presentations given during the day, along with tips and websites that we could use to further our learning. 


...And you can click here to see my finished app.


Average: 3 (4 votes)
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cfollows's picture

Great overview Joe. it would be good to create a walk through resource of what you learnt here to add/help kick off the new Online Identities site ? 

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