Friday, 3 January 2014

Opinions on Codeacademy and the Wrong way of learning

A few months ago I would've wholeheartedly recommended CodeAcademy to any aspiring developer, no matter what language or intention they had.

However nowadays that's all changed for me. I will outline my reasoning later but I really think that CodeAcademy may be good for crash-coursing on syntax, but perhaps no so much on grounding programming concepts into one's mind.

You see, despite how people like Ellen DeGeneres say that they learnt coding overnight through a service like codeacademy. What I don't think that people get is that coding isn't just about learning the theory, it's about applying it. As much as if you can recite an entire Latin dictionary, you aren't necessarily going to be able to translate the Aeneid. Yes it might  will help, but without actually putting your skills into practice it doesn't mean anything.

I've been programming in Python for 3 years now, Web for 3 and Java for just this year and I still haven't mastered any of the languages. Learning a programming language is the same as learning a conversational language- it's not going to be learnt overnight.

Likewise how languages are evolving (for those German speakers out there, the inclusion of many English words - think shoppen), programming languages are too. For example, despite not being formally adopted yet, Python 3 is not backward compatible with 2. This means that if you've rote learned the syntax for 2 you're going to have a bad time when moving onto three. If your learning, however, evolves with the language itself, you're going to be able to adapt to it (and other languages better in the long run.

So to conclude today's rant, Codecademy may be good for syntax and basic programming concepts, but programming isn't all that. It's a blend of that and problem solving- how to do this and that efficiently. Code Golfing is extremely hard for this reason and focuses intensively on problem solving.

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