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Learning to Code: Advice on Where to Start

It’s never too early or too late to learn the concepts behind development. It demonstrates logical thinking and problem solving which are skills any person would benefit from improving.

Tips to get the most out of learning code

Focus on learning one language first before tackling another. Some languages feel similar to each other and you don’t want to start confusing the two! Pick one, and get confident with the fundamentals before moving onto the next. I would say recommend starting with HTML and CSS first.

One way to motivate yourself to get coding is to set yourself a project to work on and learn out of necessity to complete it. Coding your own website would be a good place to start. After you have the basic visual interface you can start to add more functional pieces to it using JavaScript and jQuery.

Setting time aside to code a little bit everyday is a good way to develop the habit of remembering commands and patterns in code.

It might be worth pledging to take up the #100DaysOfCode challenge on social media where you share your progress with other developers every day for 100 days.

Places to practice and experiment

There might be situations where you don’t have a project in mind for yourself or you have a small idea you want to try out.

If you are interested in front end development, consider creating a profile on Codepen. Codepen is a great place to experiment quickly with a front end web development idea.

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If you are serious about getting good at coding, you will want to get a github account too. You can learn a lot from looking at other people’s code as well as contribute to open source projects.

The Coding Curriculum

Coding is still a relatively new addition to education in schools and teachers might feel out of their depth trying to teach it.

For those who are looking to bring more coding into their classrooms, Hour of Code offers a selection of 1 hour tutorials to work through that also include teacher notes. You can filter which tutorials to do based on age range and the tech you have access to. Of course, you don’t have to be in school to access these.

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Scratch is aimed at kids aged 8 to 16, and has become the go-to program to teach coding basics to children. It uses a ‘block-style’ language to illustrate how coding works.

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There are lots of tutorials available online for Scratch. I recommend taking Programming in Scratch by edX. You learn how to build games, animated images and songs.

Once you are confident in Scratch, the most logical step would be is to move onto Python, which is the development language that scratch is built on. Python is one of the easier development languages to learn.

FutureLearn offer a course on how to transition from block based learning. The course covers skills you have developed using scratch and how that applies to using Python. You also learn how to debug the code you have written too. The free version of the course gives you access to the content for 6 weeks, which is enough time to encourage you to complete the course.

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If Scratch is not the path you want to take, Swift Playgrounds could work as an alternative. Swift Playgrounds has curated tutorials that use the Swift programming language to teach you how to code. Swift is the language used to code iOS apps. Swift Playgrounds is a great example of how gamification is used to teach how to code. Start with the ‘Learn to code’ series first before starting the challenges, it will help you get used to how the app is structured before tackling more complex code. Some tutorials make use of the iPads sensors too. A downside would be that it only works on iOS 11, so older iPads will not be compatible with the app.

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Sometimes coding alongside other people is a better way to learn. Some schools and libraries offer code club activities, either as part of a breakfast club, or after school. Code clubs are a voluntary initiative that usually focus on Scratch programming. They are perfect if you need advice, want to share your knowledge and learn from others.

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For older children to grown adults

If you are past GCSE age, Scratch might feel too simplistic and you might prefer to work with some real world development languages straight away.

Codecademy is one of the best free resources out there for learning how to code. Courses cover web development, programming and data science with the option of a paid plan for more coverage of a particular topic. There are options to learn HTML & CSS, Python, JavaScript and more. Codecademy works by giving you theory on a lesson and a task to do. You write the code in the middle panel and see the results of that code in the window on the right.

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Free Code Camp is another free option that appreciates that everything might be new to you so breaks things down into even smaller steps. Ideally, you should work through all the tasks in order to learn the skills to become a Full Stack Developer. You also get the chance to use your skills to help non-profit organisations with their websites. If you are interested in building a portfolio but don’t know where to start, then this is ideal. FreeCodeCamp has a similar layout to Codecademy.

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EdX offers courses on specific computer science topics. You can study for free, or pay to get a certificate on completion. The courses are provided by universities across the world, including Harvard and MIT.

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This list of resources is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the help that is available to you if you want to learn how to code. On a final note, don’t feel that coding isn’t for you if you don’t understand it the first, second and third time round. Persevere through those steep learning curves!