It’s never too late…

January 7 2014

Data flow diagrams could be the most boring thing ever invented. Robert Stephenson manages to make it as painless as possible.   The students in this group are pretty disorganised, but he manages it all with good humour. Taught me how to use excel spreadsheets in about 10 minutes. The module is called information systems. So far, it has been dire. There is a promise of learning how to compile databases, which would be very useful.




January 6 2014

Back to London Met. Losts of students mssing. Harry Benetatos’ lecture on computer hardware was sparsely attended, which was a pity because he is brilliant. I don’t know what he is talking about most of the time, but I now have a vague grasp of how computers work.  I didn’t know before today that wifi only works around 100 metres or something from the router. It is also illegal to tap into your neighbours’ wifi.  What is annoying is a  small group of lads who talk throughout the lecture so you have to strain to hear.

In the workshop we set up networks of computers. I have never changed the settings on my computer, so to be able to link up computers with a few mouse clicks was a revelation. I am no longer regarded by the other students as a weirdo. A few students have taken pity on me and I get lots of help. It must be something to do with practical work that requires you to talk to other students. Mainly I think it is down to Harry who quietly makes sure that you are manging to keep up and makes it all fun. The workshop ended with playing video games with the other networked computers.

December 31 2014

This a blog about my first term at London Metropolitan University. I have began a degree in computing. The problem with doing a computing degree at 65 is that there is no-one there that looks like you. The other students on my  course are mainly young black or eastern Europe men aged between 18 and 24. This only matters because it means I have no-one to talk to and it is difficult to ask them for help from other students when I can’t understand the work, which is most of the time.

I’ve been there for a term and it still feels as though I have accidentally wandered into the  place.  The building in Holloway Road is hellish to navigate. It is really difficult to find the lecture rooms. I have yet to decide whether to stay the course. The purpose in signing up was to learn to write code and just acquire some  computer skills. I originally applied to the foundation course because I can’t do much more than turn on a computer, but a senior lecturer rang me at home and suggested I join the BSc in IT for business degree course.

The worst experience has been visual programming.  To write a program you have to download something called Visual Studio, the most baffling piece of software that I have ever seen.  You have to get a visual interface on screen and the use these other screens called tools and properties to design your application. Then comes the coding. Monday morning we file into the lecture room and the lecturer explains the theory for an hour. We then depart for the computer lab and spend tw0 hours on visual studio. I am just baffled. The workshop tutor tries to help, but without much success.

Not to be defeated, I determine to go home and download visual studio and work it out. I can’t download it. I email the workshop tutor and the IT helpdesk. I did eventually download, but not before my confidence had taken a beating.  The exercisesto be done in the 2-hour workshop are contained in zip files. I can’t open the zip files. I am beginning to feel the simplest tasks will defeat me before I ever get to writing code.

The workshops began to be hot, sticky hours when it seemed to me I was just clicking on bits of visual stdio and getting nowhere. I began to dread asking the tutor for help. I finally found a free website and it began to dawn on me how the bits fitted together. Then in one of the workshop  sessions near the end of term the tutor implied that maybe I wasn’t capable of doing it. I emailed the senior tutor.

Finally, in the last week of term, the senior tutor spent about 45 minutes going through what I should have been able to do. But my real rescuer was Charity, a second year student,  a volunter mentor.  She spent two hours in a computer lab taking me through the complexities of coding.

I don’t think the experience needed to be so awful. It was clear from the beginning that it was all very unfamiliar to me. If some-one could have just helped me download visual studion and explain zip files, I wouldn’t have lost confidence so quickly. It is not as though they didn’t know I had no previous experience .

I can’t be the only one to have had problems.

It is not all bad. I do a module on computer hardware. I get to dismantle computers and that sort of thing. For some reason, it is easier in these workshops to be completely useless.



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