Archives for : March2013

Introducing a New Learning Experience

Today, we’re introducing an updated interface that makes learning to build something easier than ever.

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Here’s what you can expect:

An immersive experience

We’ve simplified the interface to let you focus on what matters: the lesson, your code, and what you’re building.

A better feedback loop

It’s easier to learn when you can see you’re doing. For most screen resolutions, you can now always see a visual preview of any webpage you are coding, or a terminal output of your code.

A responsive layout

Our new layout fills your screen, making it easier to code on both a small laptop and a large monitor.

We’re rolling out our updated interface to everyone over the next week. When it becomes available to you, you’ll see a “Switch now” link at the top of any Codecademy course.

We can’t wait to hear what you think. Enjoy!

A new career at 55

1. Why did you want to learn to code?

Thirty years ago I was making $15 an hour as an analog draftsman and technical illustrator. Before I was laid off this past November, I was fighting to get $15 an hour for administrative jobs. So instead of letting the world push me into a tiny $15 box, I’m changing the game by reinventing myself.

2. How did you get started?

Earlier this year I started taking SQL Server courses to complement my SharePoint work. Through those classes, I found out that I’m actually pretty good at coding and find it really fun. But I don’t have the $3000 it will take to finish the course; that’s one aspect of what makes Codecademy so great – it’s free!

3. Did knowing how to code help you in the job search?

So I’m 55, and I don’t have a college degree. That means I need to work out ways to foil the resume algorithms that would automatically discard my resume. Key web coding skills such as JavaScript, jQuery, Ruby, HTML, CSS, and Python (PHP & MySQL too) helped shoot me to the head of the queue. My daily hard work on Codecademy also gave me a feeling of competence, which helped me to be confident and knowledgeable in my interviews.

4. What advice do you have for job seekers?

Stay motivated

I also get a lot of self-esteem and motivation through streaks, badges, and points. It helps me stay resilient during the days when I’m facing disappointments, and keeps me focused on positive activities that have the added bonus of being highly marketable.

‘Live’ time, don’t kill it

A key part of the job search is staying motivated and positive during what is a pretty soul-destroying process. I once described Codecademy as “M&Ms for the mind” — it sure beats playing Mahjong, Farmville or other ways of procrastinating. I like to think of myself ‘living’ time instead of ‘killing’ time by learning to code.

Find what works for you

I was diagnosed with ADD a couple of years ago; that accounts for my current lack of a college degree. The cool thing about finally knowing about the ADD is that I can now tailor my approach to learning. Codecademy’s small lessons really help a person like me who has trouble focusing on long lessons or technical tomes.

5. Any parting words of advice?

Sell yourself ‘long’, don’t sell yourself short. After the latest layoff, a dear friend of mine who is a senior HR manager counseled me to go after receptionist jobs, because I’m competing against so many younger people for the available ‘better’ paying administrative jobs in this tough economy.

The advice was meant well, but I didn’t want to go backwards in my career. I didn’t want to sell myself short, so I started looking for ways to make myself more marketable. I wanted to complement my SharePoint skills, so I found Codecademy to work on HTML and other web tools. Because of what I learned at Codecademy, I’m now a full time SharePoint Content Editor instead of selling myself short.

Want to build your skills? let us know.

Solve problems, learn to code

How did you get started with programming?

A part of me has always wanted to learn to code—and, in fact, I did code a little when I was much younger; I made some awesome HyperCard games with friends for fun. I’m a total nerd at heart, but I ended up following the business path through school and my career.

In December 2011, I left my job to start my own company. I knew I wanted to do something that mattered. It took me a while to figure out what, exactly, but I knew that learning to code would be an important skill to help me get there. It isn’t that I set out to become a programmer—rather, I wanted to learn to code to get better at what I do: build great products.

You’ve just launched SimpleTax, an app that makes doing your taxes enjoyable. Congrats! How did you make the jump from Codecademy to actually building your own application?

Codecademy was a great way to learn the syntactical building blocks, but I found that building an actual web app is a whole other world unto itself—the biggest challenge being stringing everything I learned together. It’s great that I learned HTML and JavaScript, but how do they mix together to build an app? And how the heck do I get that working with a database?

My tip? Seek mentorship from experienced developers. One of my co-founders, Justin, has been a developer for over two decades. Using the JavaScript and Python I learned from Codecademy, I was able to build our website, most frontend components for our app, and some server automation tools. When I got stuck or wanted a different opinion about how to solve a particular problem, Justin and I could talk it out. In the end, Justin was quite surprised at just how much I had learned.

What kept you going?

Having a larger, longer term project. Understanding how what I was learning would help me realize that project.

What are your tips for someone just getting started with Codecademy?

Get comfortable not knowing everything. Get good at asking, and finding answers to your questions.
Don’t blindly copy and paste code examples. One thing I loved about Codecademy was how interactive it was. Later on, when you’re working on your own thing and run in to a problem, don’t simply paste in the first answer you find on the internet. Try to understand the code and the thinking behind it—even if it means typing it in line by line.
Have a project outside Codecademy. It can be a personal website, or building a small tool that solves an annoying problem for you. It’s scary when you first start to mix together everything you’ve learned… but that’s when the real magic happens.

Short on ideas for projects? Check out our projects track.

Code composer

1. How did you get started with coding?

In college I took a few C++ courses for my major and enjoyed them, but as I got more involved with songwriting and the YouTube ukulele community, I decided to go into the music industry and didn’t think to pursue computer science.

In April of last year, I was doing some light web work for my employer, and I noticed that my work hours began passing more quickly than before…

Writing code again, I realized that web development may actually be my dream job. I recently finished nine months of work at an interactive agency where I used my HTML, CSS and jQuery skills from Codecademy every day. Now I’m moving to Boulder, CO to work at a SaaS startup.

2. How is learning to play an instrument similar to learning to code?

When I learned to play ukulele, I was teaching myself how to play songs I liked and connected to, and this led to me writing my own music. Same with coding. Find a project you like and connect to.

A lot of people think coding is daunting, but I find it really fun and enjoyable. Not only that, there’s a great sense of accomplishment when you finish a project. It’s the same feeling I get, when I complete an original song.

3. What advice do you have for someone just beginning their coding career?

It was a scary jump for me. I moved from a full-time position in music to working as an intern and studying in the evenings. But this really accelerated my learning. During the day, I continued to improve my HTML and CSS skills while I worked on the Codecademy JavaScript and jQuery coursework in the evenings. Even after I became a full-time staff developer, I continued to teach myself Python and Ruby outside of work using Codecademy, which helped me land my new job in Boulder. The variety of courses offered on Codecademy has allowed me to get involved in different types of projects.

My advice would be to just get an internship when you’ve completed a few Codecademy courses. Internships were such a huge part of the learning process for me. They were frustrating at the beginning, still feeling like you don’t completely understand everything, but putting what you’ve learned into real life projects is a core part of the learning process.

5. So… what’s next?Gaining experience in Ruby! I just finished the Codecademy Ruby course, and my job gives me the opportunity to use that Ruby knowledge on the back end while still making use of my front-end skills. The goal is to be a full stack developer.

Want to follow Jenni’s path? Start learning Ruby.

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Since the beginning of Codecademy, we’ve worked with the programming community to help them share knowledge. People posting tutorials to their own blogs started to move over to Codecademy, benefiting from the millions of people taking their courses and the status that came with being a teacher with one of the largest audiences in the world. You, as users and contributors, are empowered to choose what to learn and who to learn it from. We’ve heard endless requests for PHP—one of the world’s most popular programming languages—and we spent the past few weeks thinking of an experiment to help you both learn and teach PHP.

Today, we’re kicking off the launch of PHP on Codecademy with a lesson we created. We’re opening up the entire track for contributions from the community—help pick up where we started and let’s build the web’s best PHP course together. If you’re more interested in taking PHP than helping to teach it, you can help, too. Share PHP with your friends and ask them to help out by tweeting or emailing them.

The content and collaboration that make Codecademy a great place to learn are all thanks to you, and as we work to achieve the best possible learning experience for all users, we’re calling on you to help shape the future of the community and its course offerings. You’ll notice that only the first course in the PHP track has been completed; we’re looking to you, the millions of users who work to make this site awesome, to help direct and build tomorrow’s content.

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Go ahead and start learning PHP, and if you’re ready to take charge of your curriculum, tell us what you want to teach!