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Nevin Katz
Nevin Katz

Posted on • Originally published at Medium

About Me β€”Nevin Katz

Photo by Intricate Explorer on Unsplash

Hi there, and thanks for dropping by. I am a web and app developer and private tutor living in the Boston area. While I grew up in Virginia, I have now spent more of my life in Massachusetts. Outside of work I enjoy illustration, running, writing about technology, and losing to my son at chess.

My history as a developer is a fairly roundabout journey. I started programming in BASIC on my Commodore 128 during the age of floppy disks, following tutorials from 3–2–1 Contact magazines and building pint-sized games. After middle school, my interests veered towards track, cross country, the sciences, playing in a college band, teaching, and illustrationβ€”and I ended up taking a long break from programming. I then came back to it as an adult when my interests in education, visual media, and technology started to converge.

Education, Media, andΒ Tech

In earlier days, I majored in Biology at Swarthmore College and graduated with an interest in pursuing a career with a focus on education and an emphasis on science and technology. I earned an Ed. M. in Teaching and Curriculum at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I then went on to teach science at the middle school and high school levels in Cambridge and Western Mass. While teaching, I wrote and illustrated Dr. Birdley Teaches Science, a nationally-published series of nine comics-based science resource books for grades 5 through 12.

Dr. Birdley, the title character in the book series.

After teaching for eight years and writing the Birdley series, I gravitated towards writing a science curriculum and developed a renewed interest in web development. I remember reading Lynda Weinman’s book on Designing Web Graphics (5th Edition) and realizing how the advent of the web was giving programming a new visual realm that captured my interest. I started learning programming again on my own, learning ActionScript and building an early version of the Birdley site as an initial portfolio piece.

While I was initially looking for freelance tech and design work, I was asked to come onboard as a full-time online learning specialist at Education Development Center (EDC). It was 2008, so Flash was still a thing, blogs and wikis were proliferating, and online learning was still thought of as the β€œwave of the future.” In addition to facilitating and writing online courses, I consulted on developing a Physics CD for government schools in India and developed graphics for our online courses and conferences. I also created Flash multimedia and coded up course pages using HTML, CSS, and occasionally jQuery. (Back then, building a jQuery show-hide felt like a big deal.) Around that time, I started to become interested in mobile development and felt I was hitting my ceiling as far as my coding skills. I did not feel developed enough to build what I wanted to build.

Around this time, I started working with students and adults as a private tutor, homework coach, and test prep coach. I found that the opportunity to work directly with students and impact their growth helped to balance out my work in web development, and I have always enjoyed seeing my students grow and succeed.

Coursework and Coding Coherence

While at EDC, a supervisor of mine noticed my inclination towards programming and encouraged me to seek out formal coursework. In the Spring of 2012, I enrolled at the Harvard Extension School and started out with a web development fundamentals course. It was there that I noticed that my coding journey felt more coherent with an organized learning path. My next course, CS50, was where I really became entranced by programming, and I went on to earn a Software Engineering Certificate by 2016.

Projects

Among the highlights of the certificate program were the projects. Along the way, I returned to my interest in game development, building a small dungeon crawler for the iPhone, a cross-platform marble labyrinth game, and a Battleship Game in Objective-C and Java. And as an homage to a Commodore game I built, I remember staying up until 3am finishing a multiplayer white water rafting iOS game with three other guys over Skype. I also took a brief foray into bioinformatics, developing a gene sequence alignment tool in Ocaml using the Needleman-Wunsch Algorithm.

Exams

Most of my coursework involved taking CS exams alongside undergraduates, which were quite challenging. Preparing for them helped me to sharpen my CS knowledge and taking them gave me a renewed appreciation for the challenging tests my students go through. In fact, some of the test-taking strategies I recommend to my students come from my experience with what worked when preparing for and taking my CS exams, which had strict time limits and stressed higher-level thinking.

Recent interests

Since completing my certificate, I have focused on learning vanilla JavaScript, CSS, PHP, Drupal, and Android app development with Cordova. While I handle back-end work when I need to, I still gravitate towards front-end web development. I am currently learning Vue and React and enjoy exploring the HTML5 Canvas API and SVG animation. Since I also tutor AP Computer Science, I also try to stay up on my Java skills.

My role atΒ EDC

Over time, my role at EDC has morphed into a tech lead for a group of websites in our U.S. Division and an app developer for our International Division. As a tech lead, I manage the development of Drupal sites, which entails a mix of custom web development, project management, and collaboration with other web developers. I also have had the opportunity to mentor junior developers and other staff with webmaster responsibilities.

Stepping Stone

As an app developer, I am building an internal app authoring system known as Stepping Stone, which consists of two components: an authoring site where staff can build app content in a no-code environment, and a suite of apps that can run that content offline. As part of the project, I built an API that allows the apps to either download directly or import a content package from a flash drive. Stepping Stone apps serve a range of purposes, including reading literacy evaluation, teacher training, early grades phonics and reading, and mental health provider workshops. The apps have been used in a number of EDC projects in a range of areas, including Mali, Zambia, and the Philippines.

Aside from my work with Stepping Stone, I also consult on how best to integrate eLearning solutions, such as Articulate Rise, Twine, and H5P into our eLearning products.

Tech Writing

As a relatively new writer on Medium, I enjoy writing tutorials and articles about technology, web development, and science. While All Things Science publication is the home for my science articles, I have also written coding tutorials and tech articles for Geek Culture, JavaScript in Plain English, Better Programming, Bootcamp, The First Time, About Me Stories, and CodeX.

How to ReachΒ Out

Subscribe to my email list.

Check out my tech blog at nevkatz.github.io.

Find me on Twitter, Medium, Codebase.so, Polywork, or LinkedIn.

Take a look at my side projects on Github.

Wander through my front-end experiments on CodePen.

Reach out through Nevin Katz Tutoring.

And feel free to shoot me an email at nevkatz@gmail.com.

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