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Where to begin if you're learning to code

Last weekend IRE hosted a new bootcamp for journalists to learn web scraping and programming in Python.  IRE offers workshops like this often -- check our events and training page for opportunities to learn new data skills. But if you were unable to make a bootcamp or just can't wait until NICAR14 to start learning, here are some resources to help you begin.  

WHERE TO START

Bento: http://www.bentobox.io/ 
Bento is a diagram to walk you through where to begin when you want to learn coding.  You can begin with HTML and watch as your next step languages are highlighted, or if you already have some experience, you can click any language you’re familiar with and other related languages will be sorted for you.

“Learning to make the internets - a journalist’s guide” - Andy Boyle:  http://www.andymboyle.com/2011/07/11/learning-to-make-the-internets-a-journalists-guide/
Boyle’s guide is funny and insightful, explaining why you should begin with learning HTML and how can you progress from there.  Once you get down the basics, Boyle’s site also includes an entire section devoted to “journo web dev” as well as links to other great resources.  

Blockly:  http://code.google.com/p/blockly/
If you want to get into the mindset of a programmer, Blockly is an interactive visual introduction to programming logic.  Users have a set of blocks which resemble puzzle pieces.  Build from the blocks provided and run your program to see how it works.  You can then export the program you’ve created to view the code in JavaScript, Python, and XML.

 

ONLINE TUTORIALS (FREE)

Codecademy:  http://www.codecademy.com/ 
Pros:  Lessons are broken into small pieces, so they’re easy to complete if you only have a few minutes.

Cons:  Many lessons build off of each other.  If you want to go back and review a section, you may need to read more than one lesson for context.

Codecademy is a free website with step-by-step tutorials to walk you through learning HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Python and Ruby.  You work with the text editor built into their page, running your code on the site to confirm it's working.  You can learn through individual lessons or complete small projects.  If you get stuck, there are hints on each page which you can hide and reveal as needed.  There's also a message board where you can ask for help.  You can track your progress with badges, infographics, and rankings.  You can also sign up for mailing alerts to know when new lessons and languages are added.

Coursera:  https://www.coursera.org/ 
Pros:  Coursework is taught by professionals and is more structured and class-like.

Cons.  Course offerings change frequently.

Coursera courses are created by universities and function more like online classrooms.  Students watch or listen to lectures and participate in online quizzes and class interactions.  Classes are free, but some courses also offer a paid version.  Students must enroll, but are not required to complete all assignments.  You receive assistance from other students enrolled in their course.  At the end, you will receive a grade or statement of progress  from their professor.

 

ONLINE TUTORIALS (SUBSCRIPTION)

Treehouse:  https://teamtreehouse.com/
Pros:  Wide variety of content is available and is frequently updated.

Cons:  The site is organized by projects, rather than by languages.

Treehouse is an online course subscription with lessons in HTML, CSS, jQuery, JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, Ruby on Rails, WordPress, iOS and Android. Treehouse is similar to Codecademy in that the site provides tutorials, a text-editor, badges and your choice of lessons via topic or project, but Treehouse also provides video tutorials.  Paid subscriptions include other services like personal feedback and online workshops.  You can pay monthly or yearly for the services and Treehouse has a 30 day risk-free guarantee.

Code School:  http://www.codeschool.com 
Pros:  Code School offers tutorials that other sites don’t have, such as R, Git, and Unix. 

Cons:  Unlike Treehouse, you must set up automatic payments.

Code School, like Treehouse, offers video tutorials, challenges and badges through a monthly subscription of $25 a month, but students can win prizes for completing a course.  The site provides reviews from previous users on course material.

Lynda:  http://www.lynda.com/Developer-training-tutorials/50-0.html 
Pros:  Courses may provide more than just how-tos.  Great if you want to learn the history of a language.

Cons:  Course videos aren't broken down, and they can be longer than 3 hours.

Lynda provides in depth video tutorials and exercises through paid subscriptions.  Subscriptions start at $25 a month and are not limited to one subject.  Coursework covers a wide variety of topics, but how the course is structured will vary depending on the instructor.  Certificates are available for completing coursework.

 

PROGRAMS CREATED FOR JOURNALISTS

Code with me:  http://codewithme.us/
Code with me is a two-day coding workshop designed specifically for journalists.  There is an application process and an $85 registration fee for students. In sessions, there is one mentor for every two students.  The teaching materials are also available online under a Creative Commons license if you want to arrange your own workshop.

For Journalism:  http://forjournalism.com/
For Journalism began as a Kickstarter for data journalism education.  There are sessions and materials on Django, Ruby on Rails, and JavaScript.  Follow their twitter account for more information @forjournalism.

Hacks/Hackers:  Many cities host Hacks/Hackers meetups for journalists to learn and develop code alongside more experienced journalists and programmers.

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