There’s also a programmer named Jill Ramonsky who’s been following the series and she’s been helping me too. She writes these wonderful, long emails where she targets things she’s heard me not understanding. It’s great because a) she’s a fantastic writer, b) she’s very knowledgeable, and c) she brings a different perspective to the same topic.
But it wasn’t enough. To be honest I’ve still been struggling with the homework. I think I figured out why. It’s not that I don’t understand the logic. It’s that I haven’t had any practice. I can read the code Bart writes, and understand his explanations, but I can’t write it myself. It’s like taking a French class where you’re never given the opportunity to try to speak it yourself.
The challenges came late in the series (because we didn’t think of it), and challenges are too advanced for me. They’re complex problems. And I can’t even write a “for” loop on my own without it being riddled with typos! I don’t know when to use a round bracket versus a square bracket versus a squirrely bracket. By the way, they’re not called that, I just call them that to irritate Bart. I’ve been calling them that so long I actually don’t remember what they’re called!
CodeCademy starts really really slow and takes teeny tiny baby steps. Just like Programming By Stealth, they provide a playground where you type the code. Then you push a button, the code runs, and you can see the output. If it failed to meet the objective you get a message explaining the failure. If it succeeded, you get congratulated. This instant feedback on the smallest bits is exactly what I needed. I’m even getting the hang of all those brackets now.
Like any good training program, it’s filled with encouragements. You get little badges (I’ve got a 50 lesson badge already!), and the text pops up little happy messages to tell you you’ve succeeded. If you get stuck, there’s a hint area you can reveal to help you get over the hump. I only had to use it once so far and I was glad to see they didn’t just show me the answer, it really was just a hint.
Bart started going through the lessons too just so he could see what they were teaching and how they were teaching it. He of course flew through it during a lunch hour, but he was pleased to see that they only used one piece of terminology different from what he’s teaching. He even discovered that CodeCademy used the same example he did, a challenge called “FizzBuzz”. He says this is a challenge that’s often given in programming job interviews as a way to test to see if someone is faking the interview. He says it’s not hard but it does weed out the fakers. I hope to be able to fake a job interview after doing that challenge!
Bart is going to take a breather on Programming By Stealth because we’ve finished learning the language components, and to give me time to go through CodeCademy and get the practice in that I need. He’s also written up some smaller challenges himself over at bartbusschots.ie/… for us to take on as well.
If you haven’t been following along with Programming By Stealth, and wish you’d started at the beginning, or if you have been following along and you’re struggling like I am, then I highly recommend giving the free CodeCademy a try over at codecademy.com. If you want more quizzes and instructional materials, you can sign up for a pro account but so far I think the combination of CodeCademy and Programming By Stealth will work perfectly for me.