Even if you think the buzz around “learning how to code” is overkill, you have to admit it’s here to stay.
Just like it’s easier to learn a foreign language if you start in grade school, getting an early grasp on mark-up and programming languages such as HTML, CSS and Java ensures you’ll have an idea of what makes our digital lives and devices tick, even if you don’t plan on becoming a software developer.
Zach Sims, co-founder and CEO of Codecademy, says that learning how to code is reasonably easy for beginners, especially people under 18.
This year, Codecademy set up initiatives in England, Estonia and Argentina to bring coding education to young students — England and Estonia both added coding to their national curricula. As a result, Sims and the team found that “people in high schools can start with actual programming, and more advanced students in middle school can do the same,” he says.
The key, though, is making the learning process interactive. A favorite catchphrase of those who advocate coding education is “learn by doing,” and Sims repeats the sentiment. In the past few years, this has led to a surge in educational tools that favor project-driven learning over lectures. The good news is, there aren’t any prerequisites.
Start off easy with these five online resources, for kids and adults alike, to help on your way to becoming well-versed in code.
“It’s never too early to start with something like a Scratch,” Sims says.
Scratch is an MIT project that builds a graphical processing language (“Scratch”) out of which you can make animated characters on a screen move. While Scratch isn’t something you could use to build a website, it does teach algorithmic thinking as well as the the concepts of a computer language, and it can smooth the transition to using HTML and CSS.
Code.org’s mission is to expand the number of students, especially women and people of color, with access to the learning tools for coding languages. The exercises available on its website are formatted like games with drag-and-drop tiles, but users can view the code they’re building during the challenge and when it’s completed.
Sims says that Codecademy helps students by allowing them to “write a line of code, and you see what happens immediately,” instead of passively watching an instructor. Students also benefit from being asked to build recognizable websites, such as Etsy, with Ruby on Rails.
While it’s not as hands-on as Codecademy, people looking for a more traditional computer science education should check it out.
While Team Treehouse isn’t free — it costs $25 for a basic plan and $49 for a pro plan (which gives you access to exclusive workshops and interviews) — it’s arguably the most in-depth learning tool for coding and covers a wide variety of topics.
Treehouse also has special tracks, such as web design and iOS development, for users who have specific endpoints in mind for their coding education.