Building Skills Saturday – Code School

Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a programmer. No, seriously! I was fascinated by computers from the age 6 onward, and once I understood that people could write things themselves that would make the computer do things, I was hooked.

Then, I discovered how difficult it is.

After taking courses all through High School, and even a year of college, I realized that programming is not my calling. However, every so often, I get the urge to try again. After all, it’s a useful skill, especially in my line of work. The usual pattern is as follows:

  • Pick a language
  • Start reading up on said language
  • Write a “Hello World”, and a few exercises
  • Start getting bored/fruststrated when I get stuck
  • Quit

And thus it has gone for a while now. Then, late last year, I decided that my abilities as a software tester would be enhanced by finally getting at least one language under my belt. I wanted a method that wouldn’t end up getting me in to my usual process.

After trying out a few different tools, I settled on Code School. It’s a great site, with well-produced videos. More importantly, the exercises are fully interactive; it’s kind of like having someone there to help you work through bugs in your code.

I’ve been using the tool for a few months now, and have completed all the Javascript courses. I’m focusing on the Javascript-related frameworks now, as well as brushing up on my HTML and CSS. Fun fact: Back in dinosaur days, I used to write all my own HTML…in Wordperfect 5.1. So yeah…that doesn’t date me at all.

Anyway, it’s proving to be a pretty decent learning tool so far. There are a couple other tools I tried that, while they weren’t the best for me necessarily, are still worth considering: Similarly interactive exercises, but they run locally on your machine, and with an obvious focus on Node.JS. Good practice for installing Node, and understanding the power of its package manager. The Javascripting course is good, but the jump from that to the “learnyounode” course felt a bit too much.

CodeAcademy: Similar to Code School. The exercises just didn’t do it for me, but as with so many learning tools out there, your mileage may vary.

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