7 Unique Ways To Practice Your Coding Skills

I am 24 years old and just started learning coding. I want to be a programmer. Am I too late in the game?

One of the upvoted answers to this on Quora.com came from graphic artist Michel Poisson.

I’m 63, and eight months ago I decided to teach myself Blender 3D. It’s open source, written in C, and uses Python for scripting. Last summer it was HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript and PHP. So from my perspective, 24 is as good a time as any.

The 40 years between the respondent and the doubter is the chink in our thought process that says it’s a young man’s game. Let’s repeat — there’s no age to learning. Once you are on that path, you just have to keep practicing. And today there are more ways than one way to sharpen your coding chops.

If you have picked up a programming language to learn, let’s start the class with some innovative websites.

Dash — Learn With Projects

Learn: HTML, CSS, JavaScript

Dash is similar to Codecademy with its immersive project-based approach, and the tutorials walk you through five projects of increasing difficulty. Limited to the three web technologies for now, it is well-designed for a beginner and completely free. From building a personal website to a Madlibs game, a would-be coder has to unlock 82 skills by going through checkpoints in the lessons.

Dash is designed for incremental learning — you cannot go to the next skill unless you unlock the previous one. The Dash projects are short and based on real-world needs. Each has a “storyline” — with a semblance of reality as you build projects for fictitious clients. The Dash editor also allows you to toggle the “what you see” display from a computer monitor to a mobile phone.

The Code Player — Learn From Screencasts

Learn: HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript.

Learning with screencasts from coders is another interesting take on how to build something with code. This isn’t quite suited for beginners but if you have some experience under your belt, the code player shows you the art of making timer or stylish calculator from scratch. Beginners can take inspiration from the fact that a few lines of code creates digital art.

Play it at different speeds. Use the timeline slider for pausing and rewinding the bits you miss. For every walkthrough, read the description and the comments. If you wanted to watch someone creating something with code, at a pace that suits you, The Code Player is ideal.

Talent Buddy — Learn With Quizzes & Puzzles

Learn: JavaScript and other languages from C to Scala.

Solve coding quizzes that include Java, Ruby, Python, PHP and more. The site has paid mentorship programs with expert software developers helping students develop web development skills. It is a three month program. But you can login for free and try the fun problems on the built-in editor. The quizzes can help you hone your skills and provide immediate feedback via the editor. Talent Buddy may not be for everyone as it is a paid program, but the quizzes help you exercise your skills.

You can also use the free iPhone app to practice from your pocket.

Codewars — Learn From Real Code Challenges

Learn: JavaScript, CoffeeScript, Ruby, Python, Clojure, Haskell.

Pitting yourself against someone better than you might be the fastest way to learn — every athlete knows this “secret”. Codewars is another platform for programmers to scale-up their skills by training with others on real code challenges. But here’s the catch — you have to prove yourself in the programming language of your choice during sign-up. The startup asks you to solve a “kata” before you are allowed in, similar to the ethos of a martial art school.

Codewars isn’t the first place for a beginner. It could develop into an online society where talented coders can compete, collaborate, and unite around programming challenges — but only once they have some experience under their belts.

CodeWars is another community effort with crowdsourced code challenges and solutions. Some code blocks are forkable allowing others to contribute (i.e. a “kumite”). Elements of gamification make it fun. For instance, katas increase in difficulty, and you earn honor points as you successfully go through them. It’s not easy for a newbie, but definitely is one of the more fun ways to practice your coding skills.

Codaround — Learn With The Community

Learn: JavaScript, Ruby, and iOS programming

Learning is frequently more effective when one interacts with peers who are better at your chosen skill than you are. Codaround (beta) is a brand spanking new learning forum that is trying to bring a touch of group learning to self-teaching. Previously known as Hackavard, Codaround is bringing the community close to the solo-learner. In the crowd of social tools and meetup services, Codaround keeps its focus on the burgeoning community of coders.

Register with Facebook, specify your expertise level and you are in. The site is part chat and part meetup planning platform. Want to learn something — announce it on the site and meetup with learning partners at a convenient location. You can also use the site to see if some meetups are happening nearby.

Being very new, the interactions are few and mostly within the U.S. There are better ways to mingle with the coding community, but Codaround is another option you can keep an eye on if it grows.

Programmr — Learn With A “Simulator”

Learn: 19 technologies from Android to SQL

Programmr is designed to be a programming simulator for learning and practicing coding skills. The platform covers technologies like AngularJS, Backbones, PHP,Python and more. The site calls itself an “an online interactive lab” for beginner coders to code, compile and run projects within the browser. The “auto-faculty” module provides instant feedback to students as they complete the exercises and challenges. You code your own applications, then embed them like YouTube videos.

You can practice with the help of coding exercises and challenges. Make your own project and add it to the pool of 3000+ projects on the site. Or dip into these projects and learn how they were made. There doesn’t seem to be any open contests right now, but keep an eye to win some Amazon gift cards and a spot on the leaderboard!

CheckIO — Learn With Gamification

Learn: Python

Gamification of coding is the latest trend…especially for teachings kids the basic programming concepts. CheckIO is a code gaming platform for coders who want to learn some Python skills. Python is one of the common programming languages taught to beginners. On CheckIO, programming landmarks are called “islands”. You have to undertake programming challenges or “missions” to go from one island to the next. CheckIO crowdsources the coding puzzles that make up the challenges in each island.

The crowdsourcing is unique with three learning opportunities — contribute puzzles via GitHub, help with translating the puzzles in 10 languages, and offer hints to problem solvers. With the combination of community and gaming, users can design missions, challenge their peers and help each other improve their code in the process. CheckIO has turned into one of the popular destinations for learning Python.

How Do You Learn Coding?

Old-timers must be amused. Many of us learnt it the hard way…with a computer science degree or from programming books. Beginners should follow these 8 tried and tested tips for learning code.

If you are already down the road, tell us how you picked yourself up after every stumble, kept your motivation to improve — or the resources you are using to achieve mastery today.

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