Is Learning to Code Purely an Individual Endeavour?

As I’ve explored different platforms for learning to code, it has been a rather solitary experience.  Aside from following the odd Twitter chat about coding or reading through comments and questions of coding forums, most of the exploration has been on my own.  Websites like Code Academy, Code Avengers, or Kahn Academy have geared their lessons towards individual learners although they do have comment sections to facilitate questions, it is hard to make real connections with others. This week I used Code Avengers to learn how to make simple games.   Here is a 2 player game that I finished this week using Javascript.

So, is learning to code purely an individual activity?  After all, there is usually only 1 person behind a computer.  True, it is sometimes in your best interests to challenge yourself to be able to finish the tasks on your own and to see how you’ve grown as a coder but, the puzzle type nature of coding makes it a lot of fun to work on with a partner or a small group as well.  Check out how these students from Phoenix, Arizona responded to questions about coding in groups.

Clearly even young coders enjoy the opportunity to code together or to use collective reasoning to solve more complex problems.  Experimentation has been a useful tool in my own learning as I have several students who also enjoy coding.  We have started a type of coding club at lunch a few times a week in which we experiment with different code languages and share what we’ve learned.  We are all at different levels.  I find myself at the lower end of the spectrum when it comes to coding skills.  The other students have been teaching me a lot about HTML especially.  It is great to be face to face and able to share problems and success stories with each other but there are many tools online that allow collaborative coding a well.  For example, Code Share is a site that allows you to video conference with a friend or co-worker as you both have access to the same code page.  Changes can be made in real time by either person, similar to google docs.  For younger students, there are introductory coding activities like Ozobot that allow students to learn coding strategies through drawing code for a robot to scan and follow.  How cool is that!

One of my students in particular has been extremely helpful throughout this journey and it was actually his idea for me to try to learn coding.  When I taught him last year, he would often finish his work and start working on coding projects.  He seems to have an incredible knack for the various coding languages and love solving problems.  Here he is sharing about how he got started with coding and why he enjoys it.

Aside from coding with some of my students, I also wanted to be able to connect with some other online coding communities.  I think the learning is going much better with additional supports just as in any learning endeavour.  It’s been great to be able to connect with other coders and ask questions when I get stuck.  I used the list below to find some different sources that looked interesting.  Ultimately, I settled on the  Google+ community as well as on Reddit.  Both of these communities are platforms I am familiar with and so I decided to start here.  I wanted a space where I can ask questions without feeling  Below I’ve included a list of other online communities that cater to coders both professional and beginner.


Once I started connecting with coders online, I quickly realized there was a vernacular that I did not know and therefore I was less able to grow my network.  Luckily, I came across a great post on the CodeCondo website that gave a list of common coding phrases for beginners.  I started to understand that learning to code has so much to do with languages.  Not only the different coding languages (Python, HTML, Java, Ruby, CSS, etc) but also the phrases used to describe the code itself.


Photo Credit:

Coders seem to have a very dry sense of humour as I quickly discovered.  However, coding communities do have one thing in common, they are extremely open and will often collaborate on code together.  Pieces of code are reworked and shared back and forth constantly.  Code that is broken or needing an overhaul is quickly adopted by others as a personal project.  Bugs are worked out through suggestions on online forums.  As the Open Education movement becomes increasingly popular, the world of coders has many insights to share.  These are perfect examples of people from all over the world devoted to helping one another learn and meet challenges together.  Isn’t that exactly what we want for our students?

Featured Image Photo Credit: Wikimedia via CC


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