Whether you are currently pursuing a degree in computer science, an aspiring self-taught developer, or a coding boot camp student. Mastering the craft of programming is a perpetual struggle. To assist in your learning – Based on my experience, I will share with you the seven best approach towards learning to program.
1. Learn by doing.
Always play with the code while learning. With every new topic, the sooner you start playing with the code, the faster you will learn the given concepts. Even if you blaze through an entire chapter of reading and a topic like “for loops” seems straightforward – so straightforward even a monkey could do it – you’ll still be scratching your head when tasked to apply the code for the first time. You’ll think, “wait, what was that one piece of syntax again?” As the saying goes, you need to “use it or lose it”, because despite the evolution in technology, this ole’ proverb still holds true when learning how to program.
Hint: Try Building a project as you go through the material. A personal project is always the best starting point.
2. Master the fundamentals for long-term benefits:
As elementary as they may appear at first, the fundamentals of programming always need to come first: the better you understand them, the easier it is to learn more advanced concepts.
From my experience students who rush through the beginning of programming lessons – which is focused on the fundamentals – are often the first to get stuck as the class transition into more advanced concepts. So before you even consider ditching the first class of computer programming, or skip chapter one of an online tutorial, just have in mind that you are overlooking the most important step in your learning.
3. Code by hand. It sharpens proficiency and you’ll definitely need it to get a job.
Technology is advancing, computer monitors become thinner, hard drives lighter, and programming languages becoming more powerful as the time passes by, but coding-by-hand still remains the most effective methods to approach programming. Be it on a whiteboard or notebook. Coding-by-hand requires more caution and intent behind every line of code. Because unlike on a computer, you can’t run hand-written codes to check if the work is error free. And this restriction will mold you into becoming a more fundamentally sound developer, especially in the job market.
For college exams and technical interviews – you will have to do some hand written codes, because this is not only good for learning, but it’s also universally known to be the ultimate test for a programmer’s proficiency. So it's high-time you started early and get used to this old-school practice.
4. Always ask for help. You’ll need it:
How awesome it would be to become the next Steve Jobs on your own? The reality is that people learn faster with mentors and sincere feedbacks from peers. What may seem like an uncorrectable error, or an in unlearnable topic could be quickly alleviated by a minute look from an experienced programmer or a new interpretation of the topic.
Whether online or offline, always ignore the trolls and don’t be afraid to ask for help, because every programmer was once in your shoes.
Word of Warning: @edywill suggest using the 20 minute rule. Don't always be in a hurry to ask for help, take at least 20 minutes to figure something out on your own before seeking for help. There’s a probability of the answer being in front of you, and besides that, struggling makes you a better programmer.
Hint: Stackoverflow and reddit’s learn programming subreddit are great forums for online programming assistance.
5. Seek out more online resources.
There's a wealth of contents, ￼If a particular concept doesn’t make sense, be it on codeacademy, in a textbook, or during class lecture, maintain your confidence and look for an alternative resource online to learn the same concept. Just the way everyone teaches differently, everyone also learns differently. So don't blame yourself just because one source doesn’t make sense, try another because there’s nothing wrong with you. It means that you’re not clicking with the delivery of the material.
The online resources to learn computer programming are endless, and there’s always a reddit post, youtube tutorial, or blog explanation that will make the material-at-hand crystal clear.
Hint: Don’t underestimate the incredibility of google search.
6. Don’t just read sample codes. Tinker with them!
Just reading sample codes is not enough to understand how they actually work. To get a true understanding, you actually need to run the code and play with it. With the additions of comments, sample code is packaged to be easily understandable by the reader; but in reality, it’s pretty difficult to write the code from scratch. But still always try to write the code from scratch, or at least try running it, as it will speed up the learning process much more.
7. Take breaks when debugging
Spending hours debugging a code does not guarantee that you will fix the problem. To avoid this, it’s best to step away from the bug for a few hours, and return fully charged with a fresh perspective. Not only does this guarantee the problem being solved, but you’ll also save yourself the hours of headache. So if help isn’t available. Consider taking a break to clear your mind and return later.
Conclusion: Keep Calm and Keep On Coding.
Despite these 7 great tips, the most greatest ingredient amongst all others is to remain confident. To do so, you should expect and be ready to fail repeatedly, because becoming an expert at anything requires hard work and time.
And always remember that you are not the first person to learn programming, neither will you be the last. Remember that every programmer has walked this path before – none of them is/was more destined to become a developer than you. Note that the only barrier to success is your work ethic and confidence to persevere.
Thanks for reading.
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