An Hour of Code

I first learned HTML in high school when I took IT as an elective. I learned the basics of HTML and it was thrilling as I learned how to build a basic website. It was with this rudimentary knowledge that I knew how to fix small formatting issues in my posts when I was blogging when WordPress.com wasn’t otherwise cooperating. I desired to learn more HTML and, eventually, CSS but it wasn’t until this year that I finally did so. At the same time, back then – perhaps ironically – I either didn’t believe or see how I’d be using those skills again.

Well, here we are. Ta-da!

I had long been aware of Codecademy, discovering it when I was looking for ways to learn HTML and CSS online. (Books weren’t that helpful, or rather they didn’t suit my learning style for learning code. Learning code is very much an interactive, hands-on experience; it isn’t static, which is how it seemed when I tried learning from books.) Fast forward to February 2014, when I saw Codecademy’s free app on Apple’s App Store homepage. I downloaded it and it was a breeze to do. Within an hour, I had completed it and I entered my email address. Unwittingly, I had signed up for Codecademy, as I soon learned when I received an email from them.

I took it in stride: perceiving it as a serendipitious accident, as I signed into the Codecademy website and started the HTML/CSS course, completing it within two days. On the same day I started learning JavaScript. (It should be noted at the time of publishing this post, I’ve fallen off the bandwagon for some time now with JavaScript. Need to get on it again.)

Perhaps because I already had something of a foundation to work on, HTML was fairly straightforward. CSS was easier than I had anticipated. There was a kind of, almost, addictive quality to learning HTML and CSS; I had to force myself to take breaks. And this is when something weird happens when one is learning something and doing it with ease – there must be something wrong. As I progressed through the lessons and exercises I kept looking over my shoulder, to see if anyone would catch me but no one did.

We’ve been trained and conditioned that struggle is part of the learning process, or part of most things worthwhile – and sometimes, it is – but that doesn’t mean it must be so, for when struggle ceases understanding begins. So often, in learning, struggle occurs because one isn’t understanding what one is trying to learn or isn’t being taught to them in a way that makes them understand or resonates with some part of them. Thus, when we’re learning something new with such ease and joy, we have been conditioned to think – to believe – that there must be something wrong because it can’t be this easy.

Or maybe it was easier than I had anticipated, because I had been overthinking it until I just jumped. It was easier than I had thought. Reading about HTML and CSS gives a stunning impression of complexity to the beginner, when the opposite is just as true. Since I started, coding1 is a source of joy. It’s fun, as well as infuriating at times (JavaScript particularly) but at the end of the day, that’s what makes it a joy. It’s inspiring and, while I’m not an expert and am still learning, I look at websites with fresh eyes, possessing a better knowing of how they work (and sometimes why they don’t) underneath all the window dressing. I think of how I would customize the theme for one of my blogs. Once, I thought of an idea for a website and just by imagining it, I knew how I’d code it, which is something I expressed on Twitter. I knew the feeling of it. (I’m currently flexing my new skills with a few fun and exciting challenges, and my experience level has yet to meet that feeling place but I’m getting there.)

Code is technical, and it can also be creative and be used creatively. It’s a wonderful experience to be creating something and in a way that’s also new to me; different from creating something from my imagination with words or by drawing, or mixing ingredients together to cook a meal or bake a cake. It may be a different process but at its heart is still creating. (See this post on the Touch Press – one of my favourite app makers – blog: Yes, Apps Can Be Art!)

1 Since learning, I’ve come across posts and forums arguing that HTML/CSS is not coding as they are markdown languages. All the same, I regard both as important languages to learn and as good introductions to web development.

P.S. This is my second post to be written and published with Desk PM! :D

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