Quick Start Guide
There are so many different types of coding to learn and so many ways to do it. What's the best way? There probably isn't just one. But, we've spent a lot of time going through the various resources and using them to teach children (including our own). So, here are our guidelines.
If your child is third grade or older you can skip Step 1 or just do an abbreviated version of it. Course 2 and 3 from Code.org would fit the bill!
Starting in 4th or 5th grade - learn basic website development in this order:
- Basic HTML
- CSS including page layout
- HTML Forms and beginning PHP
Start with either Python or Ruby to learn a solid programming language with skills that will allow you to develop complex websites and programs.
Then, if app development is calling start with Swift - Apples new development tool and should be easier for kids to learn than Objective-C or Cocoa. Access to a Mac is required.
CodeAvengers is what my kids started on to learn HTML and CSS. The courses are interactive – for each topic the Intro class is free and then you have to pay for other levels – $39.99 a level - or $79 for all three classes in a level or $56 when there are only two classes. It has an easy to use interface for allowing students and parents to track their progress. The lessons are well done and suited for kids.
Right now they offer five paths:
- Design - typography (fonts) and color theory
CodeAcademy is well laid and free! Well not as free as it used to be. Most of the basic classes are free but you have to pay Pro for some advanced classes. They also will create "paths" for you to follow that provide support.
The site is easy to use as well. They have various “skills” that string together a series of classes including:
- Make a website: HTML & CSS including BootStrap
- Learn Rails: Learn to build web apps with Ruby on Rails4.
- And more like AngularJS, SQL, Java, Git and the command line for more advanced learners
In addition, they more in-depth offerings on specific language skills including:
- HTML & CSS
Code.org was started with a mission to bring code to everyone and has an impressive list of heavy hitters giving performances via video including, but certainly not limited to, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. It uses a drag and drop language called Blockify which is similar to Scratch but has a little more complexity including functions and variables. They have four courses right now.
- Course 1 is designed for early readers – ages 4+
- Course 2 is designed for ages 6+ and introduces basic programming concepts including conditionals, events and loops.
- Course 3 is designed for ages 8+ and introduces functions and variables
- Course 4 is still in beta and is designed for ages 10+
All courses come complete with teacher lessons as well as assignments for the students. It is extremely easy to organize classes and to track progress. I used Course 2 and Course 3 on a class of 4th graders this year and they enjoyed it tremendously. A great way to introduce kids to code. My lesson plans are all on my site for this.
Khan Academy has two things going for it – it’s free and you can set up classes to organize your students and see their progress. Plus, it is well laid out and easy to follow. They have classes in the following subjects:
- HTML/CSS: Making webpages
- Intro to SQL: Querying and Managing Databases
Plus they have classes in math ranging from Kindergarten up to Differential Equations.
Pluralsight has some courses that are free for kids and can serve as a good introduction to the basics of programming. They have courses in:
- Visual Studio/C#
- App Inventor
- Kodu Kingdom Defense
- Making games with Hopscotch
The Odin Project is a new site that is still in Beta but looks pretty useful and interesting. The best thing about it is that in addition to teaching useful skills, it also has tutorials on learning what a web developer does and advcie on how to get hired at the end.
While it covers a lot of material – it organizes outside resources so that the courses are not always consistent. Probably not a great starting point for kids. But definitely worth checking out!
It offers the following tutorials:
- Introduction to Web Development which covers what a web developer does, jobs in the industry, tools that they use, communities, and tips for becoming a great developer.
- Ruby Programmings
- Ruby on Rails
- HTML5 and CSS3
Code School is also owned by Plural Sight and while not marketed at kids is easy to use and understand. It also covers more in depth topics like iOS programming! Not free but not a bad price - $29 a month for unlimited access.
They have paths in:
If you want a list of tutorials to try for some of the above sites - check out the green boxes below.
How to Learn Website Development
If you look at the sites above - there are many great online sites to learn from. Take a look at these in particular:
How to Get Started with "Real" Coding
Again - many of the sites above not only teach website development but also delve into programming and are a great place to start. Take a look at these in particular:
- Learn Python path
- Khan Academy
- Intro to SQL - databases
- Code School