Aisha Blake

Learning to Code With Treehouse

September 9, 2016

Learn to code with Treehouse

What first enticed you into learning to code? For me, it was Neopets. I was absolutely in love with the way I could create nearly anything I wanted on the screen simply by typing. Unfortunately, coding the layouts for virtual shops and guilds doesn’t translate all that well to coding for the real world. It wasn’t until much later that I started gaining the practical skills I’d need to survive as a full-fledged web developer.

My Brain Doesn’t Work That Way

If you’re a creative and thinking something like “Oh, well, this stuff is great for some people, but not me,” then you’re not alone. We love to pigeonhole ourselves into the roles we believe we’re meant to play! Having the potential to be a great developer and a great artist are in no way mutually exclusive. In fact, some of my most successful students have been musicians and designers. This is just one (very common) doubt I find that people harbor at the outset of their learning process. I did the same thing! I truly believed that I would never understand any kind of code.

That’s why it’s so incredibly important to find an accessible platform that gels with your learning style. Years ago, I was lucky enough to find that in Treehouse.

Treehouse logo

Take It Slow

I’m the last person to reach for my wallet and pay for something I’m not sure I’ll love. In a effort to convince you they’re worth it, Treehouse offers a free 7-day trial to get you started. I jumped on this chance when I first heard about the platform. At the time, I was a full-time volunteer without a clue what I was going to do with my life once my year of service was over. I poured my soul into working through as many videos as I could that first week.

A trial period like this is the perfect way to test whether you’ll benefit from the material based on your specific goals and learning style. Online videos and hands-on exercises work well for me but there are other options:

  • in-person workshops
  • intensive bootcamps
  • books
  • games
  • internships
  • apprenticeships
  • tutorials
  • documentation

There’s no right or wrong here, only what works for you and what doesn’t!

Build Things

There’s absolutely no substitute for getting your hands dirty and actually coding projects as you’re learning! It’s 100% okay if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing. I’ll let you in on a secret: none of us really knows what we’re doing!

Think of it this way: you’re only just learning. No one is entrusting you with anyone’s banking data, passwords, health records, event details. You’re all you have to worry about. If you make a mistake or break something, no real harm is done and it’s an opportunity to learn something you didn’t know before. That’s pretty magical as far as I’m concerned!

To help you build, Treehouse provides Workspaces, a text editor that lives in your browser and allows you to code along with most of the lessons in a standard environment. There’s no need to download anything or set up complicated virtual machines. You simply open up a new workspace and go! I love this feature because it simplifies the process of trying lots of different languages at once. If you want to jump into something (like a new JavaScript library), you can create a new workspace and immediately start coding. Later on, if you decide this is something you want to stick with, you can set up whatever you need on your own computer.

Additionally, Workspaces allows teachers to distribute starter files for you to work from. Again, there’s no need to download anything. Say, for example, that you’re taking a course devoted to jQuery. It would make sense for most of any example site you worked on to be built already. That way, you can focus on what’s being taught and not on building a frame in which to practice the concepts you’re actively trying to learn.

Get Involved

Aisha teaching for Treehouse

Once you start to feel a little more comfortable, within any learning community you decide to be a part of, it’s important to continuously give back whatever you can to keep that community going. That might mean posting on some kind of forum or even contributing content. To this day, if I have a question about anything I’ve seen on Treehouse, I’ll post about it and usually get a very helpful response.

Given my background in teaching code through Girl Develop It and Grand Circus, you probably won’t be surprised to hear I’ve taught a couple of courses for Treehouse as well. I was thrilled at the opportunity and encourage anyone who feels like they might be interested in teaching to take the leap and respond whenever they’re looking for new instructors. I had an amazing time! My Treehouse courses to date:

There’s an overwhelming number of amazing learning platforms out there. They range in terms of price, content, depth, method of delivery, target experience level, and on and on. What are your favorite resources for learning to code? Post your response in the comments!

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