Learning How to Learn

30 Apr 2019

I’ve been committed to this coding thing for about a year now. I’m about to finish Flatiron School, spread my wings and fly through into the tech universe. There are a lot of things I’ve learned over the last year (Rails, Redux, communicating code, etc.), but one of the most important is how to learn. I’ve spent the last ten years dedicated to the humanities, and although I think there are some amazing similarities, the learning process has been a lot different for me. Here are some tips and tricks I used to help me to learn how to code.

Create Notecards

I went straight back to my early 2000s self and used color-coded notecards. I wrote out definitions, difficult concepts, lifecycles. I couldn’t talk about code if I didn’t know the terms. I learned that early on in a pair programming session when the programmer I was working with told me to be more specific. I didn’t know how to be more specific. Notecards got me there.

Watch Tutorials

Finding a good tutorial can be like finding a gem in a haystack, but once you find it, hang onto it. Listen to how the programmer talks about code, look at what they’re doing. Think about their logic. And then watch it again. Watch it as many times as it takes. I once watched a tutorial so much that my two-year old could recognize the programmer who made the tutorial and asked where he was when I watched a tutorial by someone else.

Take Notes

When I first started coding, I couldn’t understand why people handwrote their notes. I had a running google doc that I could CTRL F for any of the terms I wanted. Now I understand it. Yes, my google doc is still useful, but handwriting commits it to my memory twice. Right now, I’m taking notes on Redux and thunk, and things are finally clicking.

Pair Program

I know I’ve said this a couple of times, but it’s really valuable. I strongly recommend pairing with people who are ahead of you and behind you in your learning journey. There are amazing benefits to both.

Ask Questions

This might be hard if you’re self-taught, but thankfully there are wonderful coding communities out there on social media. If you don’t understand something or you need recommendations for more learning resources, ask someone for help. I hate wasting time. I need tested resources and solutions when I’m already frustrated. (This isn’t to say jump to this step as soon as you’re stuck. Try to work through it yourself and do some digging before asking for help.) If you’ve been having a hard time figuring out how to solve a coding problem, chances are someone else has too and they’re willing to help walk you through it.

Stay Positive

There were so many times that I doubted myself in this process. That didn’t get me anywhere. If anything, it held me back. You can do it. It might take you longer than the person you see on social media, or you might fly through some sections and hit a brick wall at other sections, but it’s about persistence, the journey.

Everyone’s journey is different. You might find that watching a variety of videos helps you to learn the best. Or you might need to map everything out on a giant whiteboard. Finding what works for you is important to making it through those frustrating moments–and everyone will have those.