In each CoreDogs Experience article, my goal is twofold: (1) to look in-depth at a single feature of the site or its content (this will likely be analysis or commentary a CoreDogs feature that is present in multiple places as opposed to a single section) and (2) to take a look at what went on in a given section of the course.
CoreDogs Feature: Writing Style
The first thing that jumped out at me was the style and methods of writing that are employed on CoreDogs. The writing style is clean, factual, and minimal. Never wordy, every sentence is very clear in the point that it wants to make. Take for example the two opening paragraphs of the ServerCore book:
ServerCore helps you write programs that run on Web servers. As explained in Foundations, that’s where much of the business value of the Web is. It’s not surprising that companies want to hire people with server-side skills. Even humans, as well as us dogs.
ServerCore covers the programming language PHP. Other languages are used on the server-side, like PERL, Ruby, Java, and C#. The first chapter explains why PHP was chosen. The second chapter is short, talking about how PHP works, and (free!) tools for writing PHP.
Paragraphs often begin with a simple statement like:
ServerCore helps you write programs that run on Web servers.
There is a constant sense of purpose present in the content. It is always aware of what is coming next and is always getting the student ready for it. The writing is always very quick to explain what will be discussed in the upcoming book/section/lesson. This is very helpful because the student is never lost in the material. He/she is constantly reminded of what has been taught, what is being taught, and what will be taught. Without having to worry about how a particular section fits in with the big picture, the student can focus on the material at hand.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the way that CoreDogs’ content is written reminds me of the way that Google’s documentation is sometimes written. They are both always easy to understand and extremely concise in the way that they communicate. I’m a big fan of this.
Course Content So Far
The first section in the ServerCore book is called “Why learn PHP with CoreDogs?” It begins by explaining how PHP is a core web technology and gives extended examples of why learning PHP can be beneficial to someone. After the case is made, it is further explained how CoreDogs aims to teach PHP in the ServerCore book and how CoreDogs’ core beliefs differentiate it from other textbooks or online courses.
After establishing the case for learning PHP, the next section “The PHP Ecosystem” gives a quick overview of how PHP pages operate on the web. I was impressed with how brief and comparatively non-technical this overview was. In no way does this content make the reader a master at understanding PHP architecture (and that is by no means the point here) but it lays a great foundation for understanding what the heck the purpose of PHP code in the big picture. I can imagine that in a normal PHP textbook the first chapter might explain how to write something like an “if statement”, but as CoreDogs employs its learning science best practices, we get to see the big picture first.
During the “Tools for writing PHP programs lesson” I was able to install an Apache development server on my Windows 7 PC in minutes. It felt great to get something like that installed and working right away. I did notice that there were no Mac-specific instructions for the install or links to a Mac version of the development server package. From my limited experience, it seems like the majority of student tend to purchase MacBooks before going off to school, so it may be advantageous to at least provide a link to XAMPP for Mac. I did appreciate the recommendations for both paid and free options for code editors on Mac and Windows.
These first two sections although succinct, served as a great introduction to PHP as a core web technology and actually got me excited to continue through the course. In conclusion, a summary of what I liked and what I thought could use some re-tooling.
What I Liked