Free Training Websites on Computer Programming for Beginners

Codecademy and Code.org are two websites which provide free tutorials on computer programming for beginners.

Codecademy has training for HTML, CSS, Javascript, PHP, Python, Ruby, and APIs.  Codecademy uses an interface where you type in program code and commands on the screen.  This approach feels like one of the “Integrated Development Environment” (IDE) tools that are commonly used today (i.e. Eclipse and others).  The lessons walk you through the steps you need to take to write programs, and gives you feedback and hints along the way.

Code.org uses a more visual approach for developing programs.  They have an “Hour of Code” challenge that has 20 exercises.  Each challenge resembles a video game maze (Bird chasing Pig, ala Angry Birds, or a Zombie going towards a Sunflower).  This approach is different from playing video games, in that you are not using a “real-time” joystick or controls to move and react as you go.  Instead, the programming approach requires that you study the maze first, and then plan out your moves ahead of time.  Before you can run your program (strategy or plan), you have to assemble and sequence the program steps (snap-together code blocks like Lego blocks) to build or “write” the program.  You can “test” your program by clicking the “Run Program” button.  If you want to start over and try again, there is a “Reset” button, which puts the characters in the maze back to their original positions.

Actually, the Hour of Code programs are written behind the scenes for you, based on your assembled code blocks, which you can drag and drop to fit them together.  So unlike Codecademy’s approach, you don’t know which underlying computer programming language is actually being run.  But on the other hand, the Code.org approach is covering the basic programming concepts that are common to many computer programming languages (sequence, if condition, if/else, do loop or for loop, and do until loop).

In between some of the 20 challenges, you will be presented with video messages from Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and others (a basketball player for Miami Heat who studied Computer Science in college).  If you complete all 20 challenges, you are presented an online “Completion Certificate”.  You can add your name to the certificate and print it out, and proudly post it on your refrigerator at home!

For those wanting to go beyond the initial Hour of Code, the website has  a link to “Learn Beyond an Hour or Code”.

Code.org is a non-profit org that has received lots of corporate support.  Codecademy is an education company.

Codecademy’s CEO, Zach Sims, was recently interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.  The Zach Sims interview is an interesting read.

I did my “Hour of Code” on my lunch hour yesterday, with a few minutest to spare!  I encourage you to give the HOC a try.  It’s fun!

Happy Coding!

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