Learning to code: The 100-day milestone

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100 days after I started learning to code, I settled down to reflect on what I had learned till now, where were the difficulties and how was I reacting to the program and to the pedagogy I was exposed to.

Remember I’m doing this part-time, in addition to a day-job.

 

So what was in it for me at this stage ?

LOTS of things! I wouldn’t have guessed, a few months back, that I would have so many things to say and share at this stage.

Of course, as you can imagine, the relevant things I can share are NOT about coding per se, as my competences are still very low. But on the teaching approach and progress framework, I have a lot to say!

 

Learning to code: The 100-day milestone
Learning to code: The 100-day milestone  (image source: forums.wdwmagic.com)

 

1. Learning to code IS NOT EASY

I know there’s a lot of excitment around the matter, and also a strong need to encourage youngsters, women and a bunch of other people to learn code. However, it still is not easy. Past the first lessons in html and css, things start getting complicated. For me it started right with Javascript, and I’m still struggling with the basics of it !


A great article describing the various stages you go through when learning to code, and explaining why, is « Why Learning to Code is So Damn Hard ? » by Erik Trautman, founder of Viking Code School. I strongly recommend you read it, it’s extremely insightful.

 

2. Learning to code is PHYSICALLY TIRING

I would like to add something he obviously did not mention: the physical strains! I mean, spending hours in front of your screen, in addition to daily work hours, or during the week-ends, is not totally harmless! My eyes are strained, I have an elbow tendinitis, not to mention headaches and a few sleepless nights because of a too-high exposure to screens… So coding CAN BE physical after all, and you have to be in a good shape to be able to keep on, especially when your motivation is getting real low because you feel you’re hardly progressing.

 

3. NO SINGLE PROGRAM is enough: REPETITION and COMPLEMENTARY approaches to the same concept were often necessary for me to feel comfortable with the subject explained

At first, I thought the only difference between one course and the other was mainly the teaching style, as most content was similar ; so sticking with my favourite one would be enough. I was mistaken ! I quickly realised that there were a lot of nuances if the way such and such idea, concept, etc. was introduced, and so getting exposed to it from many various perspectives would ultimately make it easier to understand, as each one would shed light on a particular aspect the other didn’t insist on.

So don’t be lazy and don’t hesitate to explore the web and forums for many tutorials and explanations on the same issue, you’ll be surprised at how many different responses and approaches you can get !

 

4. Coding programs, online courses and academies seem to share one common purpose: TO GET YOU TO BECOME A CODER

(If you’re wondering whether I’m stupid or not, no I’m not, bear with me for a while🙂 ). No matter how you do it, in a disciplined or undisciplined fashion, guided or not, free or paying… the assumption most programs seem built around is this one. And therefore, they find it natural that you need to spend much more time on the courses and exercises than « officially » estimated because, as a coder, you have to learn to find your way by your own.

However, my own starting assumption was different, and is different: I DON’T WANT TO BECOME A CODER! I mean, that’s definitely not my objective. My objectives are different: I want to learn the basics to understand FROM THE INSIDE what it’s all about, understand the different elements of the environment and how they are related, understand my colleagues and fellow developers when I need to work with them, understand how I need to guide my children and what they need to learn vs what is not absolutely necessary, become less stuck with the daily management of my blog whenever there’s a problem or when I want to add functions to it, etc…

And that route is different from the aspiring coder’s. Because priorities are different, time allocation is different, what needs to be mastered vs what needs to be understood vs what needs to be merely evoked is different. Do I really need to get to understand AND practice Javascript, jQuery and Angular.js in the span of 3 or 4 weeks, when I only have a few hours (even if it’s a couple of hours a day) to dedicate to the subject?

I think not. I was really struggling to manage to do everything on schedule, and spending much more time online searching for help and tutorials than initially planned… until I finally decided that I didn’t need to follow all the instructions and do everything assigned, because it would simply not make sense. Instead of maintaining the joy of learning, I was getting depressed way too early for stupid reasons!

Am I the only one in this category ? Probably not, certainly not!

So the question I ask is the following: Can we really learn how to code part-time ? Or is it necessarily a full-time job?

And if so, how do you reasonably plan to teach the entire planet to code in the coming years ?

There have to be other ways. Teaching frameworks should be adapted to different objectives and needs, and that’s certainly a very interesting challenge in Ed Tech for the years to come.

 

To wrap up, I would never have thought I would learn SO MUCH, AND SO LITTLE, at the same time and in such a short time.

So little because programming is such a universe that you can’t really pretend to learn how to code in 6 months. Even though I’m not done yet, I find it quite arrogant, and misleading, to pretend so. What you can do in 6 months is closer, in my opinion, to an initiation path, that can help you make more informed decisions about what you really want to focus on later if you decide to pursue that route.

So much, because the experience is really invaluable, and has already enriched me with lots of insights, learnings and ideas in and around tech education, women in tech, how to teach code to youngsters and non-coders, why everybody should learn how to code, and so on. I am convinced however that it’s time for more segmented and focused-approaches, centered on the various « user » profiles rather than on the « product » (languages/apps etc). « Users » could be : children, teenagers, marketing people, data analysts, creatives, managers, parents…

Time for some marketing and customising the « customer journey » in learning how to code ! 🙂

 

 

Next article: Learning to code – Weeks 9 till the end – Ruby & Rails

(This article was first published on the blog Momslearningtocode.com, now closed).

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