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.