Exercise 9: Coding

Why is code important? Why should we know anything about it?

We work with computers every day, both using them to do our jobs, and helping our patrons use them. We might not write programs ourselves, but it can be useful to know how applications work and what lies behind web pages.

Even if you don’t have a desire to learn to code, you may encounter a patron who does, and having knowledge of these resources can help you help them.

First, a note about types of languages. Computer languages are not classified like animals, neatly into clearly defined groups. Many languages belong to more than one group and can be used in more than one way. HTML (HyperText Markup Language) is used on the web to structure the content of webpages. JavaScript is also used on the web, for interactive or animated elements. It can also be used in game development and the creation of desktop applications.

Some languages are used only for specific platforms. For example, C# is used to develop software for Microsoft and Windows, whereas Objective-C is used by Apple, running OS X and iOS, as well as mobile applications. Both of these languages are related to C, a language written in the ‘70s.

There are a number of free, online coding resources that can be useful for those interested in learning to code. Read on for descriptions of some of these resources, as well as mentions of who might find each resource most useful.

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Google’s Made With Code (marketed towards girls) and Code.org’s beginner lessons are some of the simplest available. Both use web-based block-style programming languages with step-by-step instructions to walk even the most reluctant beginner through learning the structure of computer code. Made With Code uses Blockly, whereas Code.org utilizes Scratch, but the principles are the same. Code.org also offers more advanced activities – beginner lessons in Python and Javascript, among others.

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Mozilla Webmaker is another useful online resource. It focuses more on HTML and CSS – ways to modify the appearance of a webpage. It offers beginner projects, like modifying the image or text of a meme, with instructions most often located in a sidebar or in comments within the code. After creating your modified project, you may save it as a “remix” so that you can show it off or just keep it for your archives. The Webmaker tools are not quite as easy to grasp as the previous tools, but for more advanced or older learners, they are definitely acheivable. One drawback to Mozilla’s Webmaker tools is the sheer number of projects hosted on their site. It can be difficult to find the original Mozilla-made “Meme Maker” in a sea of “remixes.”

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Finally, no introduction to web-based coding education is complete without at least a mention of Codecademy. Codecademy is a website that provides lessons for self-directed learners. It has content supporting the learning of many coding languages, including HTML & CSS, JavaScript, PHP, and more. It also has lessons on how to use the APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) of popular websites, like Twitter and YouTube, to make your own applications. The lessons found on Codecademy begin simply, with step-by-step instructions and clear explanations, and are most suitable for older learners (young adults and adults).

Challenge

 

 

 

Please name this blog entry: Lesson 9 Challenge

Complete a lesson or a challenge using one of the resources described above. Take a screenshot of your finished product to include in your blog post about the experience. Explain how you might use this resource personally or professionally.

For further reading (if you’re interested):

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-paul-ford-what-is-code/

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