Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Coding weekend at the Guardian

Pic at the start of the course - Masterclass folder, paper and pen at the ready

Last weekend, the Guardian ran a 2-day masterclass entitled: Build a website: Introduction to HTML5 and CSS3.* Carlo Rossi, our teacher, was brilliant. He assumed no previous knowledge. I had previously found website coding a difficult and frustrating skill to acquire. Carlo succeeded in taking the whole class from zero to a fully functional website by the end of the second day.

Carlo Rossi (half Italian/half British) comes from a traditional print background. He now works on ads at The Guardian. He taught himself website design from books. Endless experimenting. A lot of frustration. A lot of tears. An awful lot of tears apparently - but now he can teach coding to the previously "unteachable". People who have struggled to learn something themselves often make the best teachers. If only the British Education System could appreciate that.

Carlo described how nervous he had been teaching his first class of 16 eager students. Now after 15 such masterclasses, he can relax and be himself. He has perfected the timing and lesson plan. There was even time for questions - and a few bad jokes along the way.

Our class was a friendly group of 4 women to 3 men - so appropriate for women to be coding on International Women's Day.  It seemed like no time at all before we were able to tweet our first effort. Hello World!

Pic of screen with words Hello world!

Before long, I had understood elements, declarations, selectors, pseudo-elements, attributes and parent-child relationships. Having learnt the hard way himself, Carlo assumed nothing. He explained clearly and kept repeating it all. He encouraged neat coding habits. If one of our class got into difficulties, he knew instantly that we had spelt "color" the English way, or used : instead of ; etc.

The garish colours of our first efforts would not win any design prizes. There were no underachievers  in Carlo's class.

Day 1: following projected instructions

The class was conducted on modern Mac equipment. We were able to follow Carlo's instructions easily from his screen projected onto two whiteboards at the front. He fostered a friendly class environment that meant that we helped each other along too. At the end of the second day, we all felt the huge satisfaction of a job well done.

Pic of the final, fully functional website on my Mac screen at the end
Fully functional website on my screen at the end

Lunch and coffee breaks were in the Guardian's canteen. I enjoyed the tasty vegetarian option on Saturday and roast chicken on Sunday. I loved the Guardian's location overlooking the canal. It can be reached easily from Kings Cross and St Pancras International stations. I liked the light and airy, modern glass building with its brightly coloured seating areas. The perfect place to inspire a writer.

At one point, Carlo showed us how to ensure that our own website tab remains open, despite linking to an external website.* I asked how I could ensure that my visitors were forced back to my website. Carlo frowned. He said that was "censorship". As we all know, the Guardian does not approve of censorship.

The introductory website course has my approval. It doesn't end there. There is also a more advanced web-responsive course. Carlo doesn't abandon his students, as he offers to remain in touch via email. Not all attendees go on to build their own websites. Even busy marketing managers can benefit from understanding their web designers' code.

You don't need to take my word for how good this course is. Word has already got out. One of our number flew in from Singapore - and apparently that it is not unusual for this excellent class at all.

Karen Andrews runs
Anglicity Ltd. She is an
entrepreneurial French
to English translator,
content writer and 
marketing consultant.
For further information,
email karen@anglicity.com

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