Learning to Code, or Coding to Learn?

Over the past couple weeks I’ve turned my attention toward coding an interactive summary of some of the big concepts we’ve covered over the course of this term in ECI 831.  I have found that Javascript has been a lot of fun to use and has also allowed me to focus on one programming language in greater detail.  It has been interesting to read some of the other learning projects over the past few weeks as well.  In many ways, learning to play music or learning a new language has many similarities with learning to code.  The only difference is the type of language.  While Sarah Wandy and Logan Petlak are learning to read and speak using notes and bars, Amy Singh and Ashley Murray are learning a whole new set of vocabulary.  The language of computers is an interesting one because it is the means to communicate with an inanimate object.  I sometimes catch myself muttering to the computer incessantly as I try to get the coding errors to resolve themselves.

The reality is that unlike when I was learning French, there is no one there to tell you if you are giving the computer the correct commands.  The program either works or it doesn’t.  The lack of direction or interaction when learning online has been a challenge but I have appreciated the opportunity to slowly increase my understanding of coding with Javascript as it applies to animations and drawing.  As with anything that’s worth doing, it takes an incredible amount of time.  As a dad with young kids, it’s difficult sometimes to work on coding projects during the week.  So, I’ve learned to set reasonable goals for myself.  This helps me to stay positive and not to get frustrated when the program isn’t running the way that I want it to.  It’s been great getting inspiration from other developers online and chat rooms and communities of coders are a huge advantage when it comes to resolving issues.  In the end, learning anything new is going to be risky.  But, as Einstein once said…

einstein

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It gives me great encouragement watching young students get excited about programming because it is a skill that is so much more than simply learning to give commands to a computer.  As Jonathan Buchanan describes here, the skills used in programming are skills that can be applied to a variety of situations.  If a 10 year old can create their own app on the app store, surely I can learn to make a simple program of some kid right?

I was never a student who excelled in Math or Science so this has been especially challenging at times.  I have had to push myself to dive into the functions and how they work in order to understand the order in which to do things.  It is at times intimidating and I can not begin to tell you how much I have appreciated having the internet as a resource to look things up or to post a question about my progress.  I’m not really sure if I’m making good headway or not but I feel like every time I sit down at the computer to work on coding, I’m coming away with a a new tidbit so that feels good.  This short video sums up in some ways how I feel about coding but I know in the end it will be worth it.

I definitely don’t believe I could have gotten as far as this in one day without some help but on the other hand, it is always useful to remember that the networks of fellow coders are constantly posting and updating endless streams of code.  In this way, as is shared in the video, we can build on the work of others without having to start from scratch.  I’m constantly reminded that learning is a connected activity.  This is really comforting and makes me realize that in the end, it’s not me against the machine.  It’s me and a network of humans interacting with machines to help make the world a better place.

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6 thoughts on “Learning to Code, or Coding to Learn?

  1. It’s funny that despite setting goals to avoid getting frustrated it can still happen with thus learning.
    I also like how you point out the comfort in and appreciation for the variety of supports. Beyond digitally, I feel that there is so much more information at our disposal through connections than I would actively consider.

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  2. I like your connection between learning a new language or learning music and learning the language of computers. I agree with you about setting small attainable goals. It is amazing how much time this project is taking and I think the key is chipping away at it slowly week by week rather than saving it all for one day/weekend (although this often happens with final projects). I think blogging each week has kept me on track. Keep up the good work!

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  3. Learning something new is very hard! Especially when you are trying to do it online while also trying to work, be a parent and just live life. It takes a lot of time and focus to learn something. The computer language is definitely something different and not easy to learn. My brother just posted on Facebook the other day that he will be attempting to learn how to code on his own using online resources. Check out his blog https://medium.com/@RyanDejaegher/i-don-t-know-how-to-code-obstacles-and-objections-4b42ea3fe9a6#.e67n5dm0t Maybe you guys can connect to chat somehow.

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