Jul 30 2012

Free Courses Online

Tag:Cyn @ 20:06

I’ve been look­ing into online edu­ca­tion lately, beyond my exper­i­ment with learn­ing pro­gram­ming (which is still ongo­ing). These are some of the resources I’ve iden­ti­fied. They’re all free, although you don’t get col­lege credit for the courses.

  • Cours­era — courses taught by instruc­tors var­i­ous top universities.
  • Khan Acad­emy — video courses on every topic under the sun, at many levels
  • Udac­ity — courses involve problem-solving and add the option to take tests at test­ing centers.

There are long lists at these two arti­cles. I don’t see a rea­son to repro­duce them here.

Jul 14 2012

Learning to Code, Part 5

Tag:Tag , Cyn @ 23:40

I just can’t stay away from CodeA­cad­emy. I went back and fin­ished the Web Fun­da­men­tals course. I had been wait­ing because there’s JavaScript involved in the last few assign­ments, but it turns out I was able to do those with­out fin­ish­ing the JavaScript courses. I feel all warm and fuzzy now.

It’s good that I have that feel­ing about some­thing, because I cer­tainly don’t feel that way about the library book I checked out. JavaScript in Easy Steps by Mike McGrath is use­less. Yes, the steps are easy, if you just want to type. There’s almost no expla­na­tion of any­thing, so either I already know the mate­r­ial, or I can’t learn from it. Being told, “Type this in. This is what the result will be,” with­out any source code to view (the free down­loads web site is only avail­able to peo­ple in the U.K.) and no trou­bleshoot­ing tips is silly. Just a screen­shot of what the fin­ished code should look like would be a good idea, because the author’s instruc­tions aren’t always so clear, or even sequen­tial. I’m glad I didn’t spend money for this book.

So I’ll be wait­ing for my friend’s expla­na­tion, and wish­ing all the lessons at CodeA­cad­emy were as well-written as the early JavaScript ones.

Jul 13 2012

Learning to Code, Part 4

Tag:Tag , Cyn @ 23:38

After look­ing around at the Q&A forums at CodeA­cad­emy and find­ing that most of the other begin­ners are as lost as I am, I’ve decided that maybe I’m stuck on the cur­rent les­son because the author just isn’t very good, rather than because I can’t under­stand the con­tent. A friend has offered to write up a tuto­r­ial for me going over the same mate­r­ial, and I’ve requested a book from the library, too. Between those too, I should be able to get past this hump.

In the mean­time, I’ve dis­cov­ered that I can link to my pro­file there as a lit­tle brag, show­ing all the courses I’ve com­pleted! It’s a small thing, but I like it.

I decided to splurge and give Lynda.com, which is NOT free, a try, as it was also rec­om­mended by Life­hacker. A monthly fee gives you unlim­ited access to all of their tuto­ri­als, and there are scads of them. They had all the sub­jects in which I am cur­rently inter­ested, and the fee is less than the price of one tech­ni­cal book.

Unfor­tu­nately, watch­ing a video, even while fol­low­ing along with the exer­cise files, just isn’t as effec­tive for me as doing exer­cises hands-on a la CodeA­cad­emy. I have got­ten a bet­ter intro­duc­tion to the Fun­da­men­tals of Pro­gram­ming from Lynda.com, I think, but then I watched a video course ded­i­cated solely to that topic. Of course, if you learn bet­ter from videos, you might find it the bees knees. I am lik­ing the fact that I can watch the videos on my iPad, and appar­ently I could also access them from my phone if I wished to watch on a tiny screen.

I’ll keep using the site for the rest of the month, since I’ve paid for it, but I don’t think I’ll be renew­ing after the one month.

Jul 12 2012

Learning to Code, Part 3

Tag:Tag Cyn @ 17:52

I got a response from CodeA­cad­emy acknowl­edg­ing that the prob­lem I expe­ri­enced was on their end. They gave me some code that would let me get past that les­son, but it con­tained a vari­able that wasn’t men­tioned in the les­son. That’s frus­trat­ing, and I don’t know that they’ve fixed it for every­one else yet. At least the response was fairly fast and friendly, with an expla­na­tion that they’ve been doing a lot of edits on the site lately. And what can I say—these exer­cises are free.

While wait­ing I went fur­ther in the HTML/CSS lessons and really learned quite a bit. CSS is pow­er­ful! I’m back to the JavaScript now, and I did fine until I hit the Object-oriented part of the course. That has thrown me for a bit of a loop.

I should men­tion that each les­son at CodeA­cad­emy is writ­ten by a dif­fer­ent per­son, so they can be a lit­tle uneven. The over­all qual­ity is quite good, though. Still, that leaves me won­der­ing if my trou­ble with the OO issues has any­thing to do with the author of the exer­cises, or if I’m just get­ting in over my head now. Either way, I’m press­ing on and intend to get through all of the lessons offered.

Jul 09 2012

Learning to Code, Part 2

Tag:Tag , , Cyn @ 19:14

I’m still explor­ing CodeA­cad­emy, which has proven to be a very inter­est­ing site.

I made it through their JavaScript Fun­da­men­tals and found that I wanted to know more, so I started on their Code Year project, which picks up right after that with JavaScript Con­di­tion­als. Unfor­tu­nately, I seem to have hit a buggy les­son on the third sec­tion of that area and am wait­ing for a response from their peo­ple as to why my code is work­ing and return­ing a cor­rect answer but their auto­mated sys­tem still says, “Oops! Try again.” From their Q&A forum, it seems that quite a few peo­ple have had trou­ble with that lesson.

So I decided to regroup and see what else they offer. I men­tioned in the ear­lier post that I needed to update my HTML skills, so I moved on to that part of the site. I cer­tainly learned to cre­ate web pages before CSS days, so I needed to learn a lot more about that, too, and I am. I’ve got­ten through the HTML por­tion and the first CSS sec­tion, and I don’t see any of that as wasted time.

At this point I would hap­pily rec­om­mend CodeA­cad­emy to any­one who wants to learn the basics of cre­at­ing a web site. I feel that I’m learn­ing the basics of pro­gram­ming, but I’m not far enough along to opine about that bit yet. We’ll see whether or not that issue is resolved in a timely man­ner, first.

There are cer­tainly other alter­na­tives, but that’s what I’ve learned in the last 24 hours.

Jul 08 2012

Learning to Code, part 1

Tag:Cyn @ 10:22

I’ve decided that I want to learn basic pro­gram­ming, and I’ve decided to doc­u­ment my jour­ney here.

I already know basic HTML and some CSS. I don’t (yet) know HTML 5, but that’s going to be part of my even­tual cur­ricu­lum. I want to learn pro­gram­ming, though, not just freshen my web cre­ation skills. I know enough about javascript, php and SQL to get in trou­ble right now and use scripts oth­ers have cre­ated, but I can’t cre­ate my own scripts or make a use­ful data­base from scratch.

I started with Lifehacker’s Night School arti­cle Learn to Code: The Full Beginner’s Guide, which uses JavaScript and has links to addi­tional resources. There are four lessons and an adden­dum, and it serves as a pretty good intro­duc­tion to some basic pro­gram­ming con­cepts. I felt the need for some­thing a lit­tle more in-depth, though.

I was sur­prised by the admon­ish­ment NOT to use W3Schools in the Life­Hacker arti­cle. In fact, there was a link to W3Fools, “an inter­ven­tion.” I had planned to stop by there, so I’m glad to find that warn­ing. It’s unfor­tu­nate to learn that such a big site isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be, though.

So, next stop: CodeA­cad­emy, which also starts with JavaScript. My only com­plaint here is that you don’t get mul­ti­ple exam­ples for each con­cept, which would help me (that’s just how I hap­pen to learn bet­ter). You learn at your own pace and the site awards lit­tle badges and such as you progress. It’s inte­grated with social net­works like Face­book if you want to give it access to your accounts on those sites.

Those will keep me busy today, and I’ll let you know how it goes using them in the next few days.

Jul 04 2012

Lifelong Learning

Tag:Cyn @ 16:24

Now that Katie is in col­lege, I plan to use this site to con­tinue talk­ing about home learn­ing, but to change its focus to learn­ing at any age. I’m open to posts from guest blog­gers with some­thing to say about home­school­ing or life­long learn­ing, as well. If you’re inter­ested, please con­tact me through the con­tact form linked at the side of the site.