Learning to Code

So I’m 30-something, I recently completed a teaching qualification and in September I embark on a Master’s degree in Computer Science. Since I don’t currently have any teaching work, I’m spending my summer creating lesson plans, writing teaching articles and, before-all-else: coding! Truth is, I know nothing about Computer Science! I totally cheated on the Computer Science entrance test – shhh! But, it’s ok cause I have two solid months to learn this stuff before the course starts.

I wanna let you guys know if you want to learn coding, if you want to be a computer programmer, if you want to be a tech nerd, then you damn well can be! :bangs fists on table: Hell, if I can do this, anyone can! This is like quantum physics to me but I have an offer letter from a pretty decent university in the bag. I know, I know, the “cheating” thing… Do we really have to keep bringing that up?

Anyway, people try all kinds of fancy methods to learn stuff but any kind of learning boils down to this sacred rule: get the damn shit in your head! The best way to do that is through rote learning. In the West, we notoriously hate rote learning, instead preferring holistic methods involving “feelings” and “journeys”. Meanwhile, over in China where rote learning is common, they slay the rest of us in pretty much all of their subject pass rates. Coincidence? I don’t think so!

My main method of learning to code is: code, code, code. I see code (on a website, in a video, in a book, on the back of a toilet door…); I write code (in NetBeans, txt files, or in my bad-ass coding notebook). I don’t know what the hell these codes are or what the hell they do, I just write them. Sometimes I’ll open a text document and just copy out a simple programme over and over and over and over. You have to engage with new knowledge around 70 times before it enters long-term memory.

Don’t let that depress you! Go eat some chocolate… Feel better? Good!

Look, rote learning doesn’t have to be boring: it can be like a challenge: how many times can you type out the code in 5 minutes? How fast can you write the code 20 times? Can you think of different ways to write it?

Immerse yourself in the code; learn to love it.

As you keep writing codes, things will gradually start to make sense. Almost like learning a new language (well, it kinda is a language!), you’ll notice certain “words” keep popping up, and you’ll start to learn the grammar and syntax rules (yes, computer languages have those!). Don’t be afraid to experiment with codes and make lots of mistakes, that’s an essential part of the learning process. Also, don’t worry that you have no clue yet. Sometimes we get put off learning because we think we need to know all of everything right now.

When I stopped worrying about the “why” and “what”, I started writing much better codes. There’s this guy over at Simple Programmer who says “trust the process”. That would be my advice to anyone about anything at all in life, ever. Any learning is hard initially. Don’t sweat it, just keep coding and one day you’ll look at the screen and think, “Woah, did I just write that?!”

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