A group of programmers who were supposed to learn English from me taught me something valuable in return: being a programmer, they said, was about automating repetitive processes.
Fortunately, that lesson came at the same time that I was experimenting with making bespoke vocabulary worksheets by hand. The idea was this: how to bring vocabulary that was learned in one lesson back in the next lesson? And again, in the lesson after that?
Making the worksheets, I realized it was pretty repetitive and thought “maybe I could get someone to make a program for this.” Google quickly made it clear that programmers are expensive and I put that idea to rest. Instead, I asked the programmers “how hard can your job really be?” (This is the tone I take with most of my students, and most of them smile at it.) “After all, they have coding camps for kids?”
“Try it.” They said, and gave me a few pointers and tips. I was off to the races, coming back every other lesson with another question.
A finished project!
I begin a lot of things (see the projects page again) but I managed to stick with programming in Python until I got an ugly, but workable, system that made worksheets offline.
I loved it and my students thought I was working hard. (I was, but not making worksheets. Whenever I thought “hey, I could make a memory game” I spent much longer writing code to make a memory game within the system I had made than it would take to make it by hand. But, the second memory game was made with the click of a mouse.
Eventually, I thought “I could use this as a way to play around with the idea of forming a startup” (I’m a learning-by-doing kind of guy). And, another year was invested in making it an online kind of thing.
And now, though I haven’t officially declared it finished, you can visit it (or even use it, if you teach EFL in Germany) at it’s own website: Dynamic EFL.
What comes next?
Aside from the fact that I haven’t declared it officially finished, yet (it never will be, but I’m ready to call version 1.0 done soon, so that I can learn about “front end development” and begin improving the interface) I’m starting to look at what comes next.
Right now, I’m getting ready to start trying to promote it (promoting a website is not something I know anything about — more learning by doing!) and I intend to keep it running just for the benefit it provides me, but also as a platform on which to experiment with other things.
Already, I tried my first Google AdWords campaign (I wasn’t thrilled with the results) and I’m enjoying the no-pressure, get-it-done-when-you-have-time aspect of learning about this.
Long term, I’d like to turn it into a stream of passive income (freelance English teaching is precarious!), but I’m glad it’s not something I have to do.
This is something I blog about almost as much as about anything else. If you want to follow along, I’d be flattered. Read those blog posts here.
Lastly, I completely redid this page to reflect my recent success. If you’re a historian who likes primary sources, here’s the first page I wrote about it when it was initiated as a project in my life.