@Codecademy: The #codeyear Challenge

I’m fascinated by approaches that allow anyone to learn the basics of programming and take it as far as they want.   I’ve also noticed that JavaScript has increasing credibility as a starter language for becoming fluent with information technology and programming.

Just the same, my radar did not detect Jason Kennedy’s 2011-08-26 PCWorld article “Learn to Program with Codecademy.”

The wake-up for me was a Tim O’Reilly announcement of Code Year on Twitter.  Participants in Code Year 2012 are about to receive the week 6 assignments for learning to code this year.  It is not too late to join the thousands who are already participating in this on-line adventure.  In the US the White House has noticed and there will be a Code Summer+ for the basics as part of the Summer Jobs + initiative.

If you are interested in finding out more, there’s no reason to wait.  The sixth week is just starting and it will be easy to catch up by doubling up on easier modules from the initial weeks.  Also, Codecademy instructors watch the progress of the various weekly modules, the student Q&A forums, and feedback on problems.  This leads to the introduction of remedial material where the coverage from past weeks needs clarification and review.  The courses are evolving along with us students.  The start-up materials are being improved as well.

Code Year can be all of unruly, boisterous, challenging, boring, frustrating and exciting, depending on where you are and the next roadblock to overcome in order to move ahead.   The pace is leisurely enough that recovery can be quick, especially using the Q&A forums to find where others found problems and how they extricated themselves.  

A feature of the Q&A Forums for each module is also the opportunity for supplementary questions to be discussed among the students themselves.  As the exercises become more interesting, some of the challenges inspire further exploration and cooperative development of approaches, and it gives inquisitive students an opportunity to share analysis and engage in collaborative solution refinement:

A Blackjack-inspired exploration of card shuffling (that I am still not completely satisfied with)

Perhaps the greatest contribution is an on-line interface that allows programming exercises to be carried out and then checked by the on-line service.  This reduces the prerequisites to merely having a suitably-current Internet browser.

That the on-ramp is so simple and so inviting is an essential factor.  It starts with the “exercise #zero” home-page invitation.  This will introduce operation with the Codecademy “console” and, eventually, the program editor.   The program editor is pre-loaded with exercise material and it is also possible to use it to explore alternatives either before or after the exercise has been assessed as complete.  

Exercise (left), Code editor (top right), and output window (bottom right) where I explore an alternative solution to the one asked for in the exercise.

A scratchpad program editor is also available for any other experimentation.  (The scratchpad will catch JavaScript errors, but it won’t assess correctness with regard to any particular exercise.)

There is extensive feedback for indication of progress.  As groups of lessons and projects are completed, completion is indicated.  Achievement badges are awarded at various progress points.  Exercises are checked-off and there is some sort of progressive score that goes to big numbers that I can’t explain.  After completing everything offered at any point since January 2, through the end of week 5, here is what my course record looks like at this point:

Orcmid's Status at the end of Week 5


As folks make progress and have other comments, there is also communication on Twitter with @codecademy and Twitter hashtag #codeyear.  To my delight, I see that there are now 319 world-wide Communities on Meetup.  The ways of communicating and learning simply explode!

This entry was posted in Computers and Internet, Geekiness, nfoWare, Orcmid's Lair, Professor von Clueless, Toolcraft and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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