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10 exciting ways to learn how to code and why it’s important

As people, businesses and things get more and more computer-oriented, learning how to program at a young age is becoming a crucial skill. As important as it might be, it’s still a difficult business getting into — teaching the language of computers. The trick is getting people’s attention in the first place. Schools are generally too traditional or just don’t have the budget for it. So, people have to come up with potential solutions: giving you free or cheap means to learn the ins and outs of programming via the web and other popular interaction tools like games.

Initiatives are increasingly trying to inspire young learners (and me apparently) in getting them interested in learning how to code. Code.org is a group advocating the importance of computer programming education and points out the shortage of programmers that the world has and why it’s so significant. Apparently by 2020, there will be one-million computer jobs available in the US alone. Learning programming skills has been my new year’s resolution for the last three years now with no luck starting whatsoever. Hopefully this list can inspire you to start coding.

Learning to code by playing games

CodeSpells is a platform that at first, looks like a MMO but instead teaches you how to program Java code. This is done by using programming commands like “for/if”, loops and parameters to manipulate 3D objects in solving puzzles. Codespells is a product of a report titled On the Nature of Fires and How to Spark Them When You’re Not There, released earlier this year. The study experimented with children’s learning environments through playing games and had promising results in stimulating children’s interests in problem-solving creativity and sparking a life-long interest in computer science. For now though the beta is available for Mac OS X only.

Hakitzu is a game available on iOS created by Kuato Studios that wants to make learning fun and engaging on a commercial level. The game showcases good graphics with robot warriors battling it out in arenas while players command them using JavaScript. You are also encouraged by incentives such as earning badges and playing multiplayer. The game is available for free on iTunes. Hopefully they will expand the game’s platform compatibility.

CodeAvengers, I would say seems to be a mixture between a game and an interactive website. You also have missions that urge you to use JavaScript or HTML/CSS in solving puzzles but its engagement when it comes to younger learners seems limited though.

Games like these are initially focused on younger crowds and therefore try to get the players interested at least. Stimulate curiosity and creativity. You can’t expect to design your own website after having played a couple of Hakitzu robot matches, but you’ll still play the game nonetheless and learn something in the process. Other classic (but outdated) examples include games like Robocode.

Badges, themes and interactive websites

Treehouse is an example of using interactive methods such as quizzes, visual appeal, video tutorials and incentives to broaden its audience. The platform offers badges as incentives through your journey in learning a wide range of different designing or developing programs.

Codecademy offers a similar experience to Treehouse’s but features a different platform layout. Though Treehouse has a wider range of options, learning the basics, Codecademy is more inviting.

Code School offers a few introductory courses using well-thought-out videos, visualizations and interesting themes and mentors. Although not totally free, you can try out some introductory courses though without having to pay the full US$25 monthly fee.

Free online courses

When MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) first started off, Udacity and Khan Academy for example had a specific target market. The platforms became popular because of the need people had to learn how to code and become computer literate. These platforms offered free courses and as their popularity grew, started to incorporate more common courses to cater a more commercial audience.

Out of Coursera, edX, Udacity and Khan Academy, the one that stood out the most in terms of content and reviews was Udacity. The website offers a range of theoretical and practical video courses.

Not only is coding important to adapt to the ever-changing job tides, it is also important to teach people the basic fundamentals of logic. For one thing, problem-solving tasks are essential everyday skills.The language of programming teaches us how to communicate as well.

Be sure to point out any other fun platforms learning computer languages.

Author | Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter
Jacques grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Keen to take over the world, one word at a time, he has always been interested in both politics and development and studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University. With an interest in innovation and social change, he seeks to tell the... More