You have decided you want to learn to code but it can be a bit daunting regardless of what age you are! There are so many questions before you even get started:
- What kind of development? Do you want to make a website, create a game, develop a mobile app or even make different devices talk to each other?
So you get my point, there are a million choices and a lot to learn! Just to put it out there- you will never know it all, no matter how experienced you are and there will always be new framework you hear about and feel like a dummy for not having heard of. Don’t worry, we are all in the same boat! As programmers the most important skill we can have is the ability to learn about the new technologies and when to best apply them.
Anyway, where to start as a developer…
Obviously there are limitations to how much a really young kid can code, the main ones being spelling and typing! But there are still activities that introduce programming concepts and visual programming tools like Blockly and Scratch that can make the coding part free of typing, just drag and drop. In my experience, it is scary how tech savvy young children are these days. They can pick up on how to use the interface and understand the concepts surprisingly quickly!
Have a look at code.org at some of the activities for younger coders(https://studio.code.org/s/course1), there are both onine and offline activities.
I find it amazing that there is such an emphasis on getting the younger generating coding, it is going to be such an important skill with an increasingly connected world! Aswell as the school curriculum changing in various countries around the world, there are code clubs popping up everywhere for kids who want to delve further into the programming world outside of school. I am a mentor at one of these organisations: Coder Dojo, who have clubs all over the world (there is a club in Melbourne held at the same venue as our first Code Like a Girl event). It is aimed at age groups between 7-17 and we work on all kinds of programming. Have a look for a club in your local area and if there isn’t one, start one! Even if you don’t know anything about coding yourself, you will be surprised the amount of computing professionals and students that are willing to give up their time to mentor.
Again, code.org has activities increasing in complexity for older age groups and as the coders get more experienced.
Of course there are college/university courses, but not everyone has the time or financial situation to support that. What’s great about programming is that you can find thousands of resources online in the form of tutorials, books, videos, forums, etc.
In my opinion, the best way to learn is to get to know other developers and learn from their experiences too. Find a meetup in your city, even if you have no experience just go along and listen to the talks. Developers can be intimidatingly clever and opinionated, but we are a nice bunch really who would love to share our knowledge and give advice :)
Once you have picked up some skills, I would say the best way to learn is to have a project to work on. This will give you a practical use for all your new knowledge. You have a cool idea of what you want to build? Have a go at it and remember: Google is your friend! Have a look around and see what other people saying in blogs and social media then get coding. If it doesn’t work then scrap it and try again, it’s all about trial and error. I find it amazing when mentoring kids they are willing to just try something and see what happens, as adults we tend to over analyse and think what we may break. Just break stuff… it’s the best way to learn!
You may decide that it coding is a fun hobby and take it no further. You may realise “This is the career I should be doing”. If this is the case then your should look into ways to get experience: volunteer work, small freelance projects or an internship. If you have built up a good project portfolio and have enthusiasm then you may find a company willing to train you up.
Yes, as programmers we need to keep learning and as mentioned before we should have the desire and skills to learn new technologies. But which are worth the effort and are being used in industry? This is where tech meetups can be useful. You can hear talks on your industry and also socialise with other developers. The chatting with other devs can be more educational than the talks as you can hear what others are working on and their personal experiences and learnings.
Basically, what I am trying to say is you are never too young or old to learn to code and you will never know all there is to know about programming so you need to keep learning.
So, are you still thinking of coding?...Just give it a go! You may absolutely hate it or you may realise you have a talent you never knew you had.
Written by Carole Rennie Logan