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Learning the language of computers

Interested in coding as your next hobby? Try these outlets and resources

Learning the language of computers

Photo by Tierney - stock.adobe.com


As the world grows more dependent on technology it makes sense that learning basic programming skills would become more essential. While children are especially encouraged to adopt digital fluency, adults of any age can benefit from learning to code. Understanding how computers “think” boosts problem-solving abilities and logic skills.

If jumping right into learning HTML, JavaScript, C#, or Python seems impossible, or even if you’ve never heard of any of those programming languages until now, there’s still hope. Here are some online resources (mostly geared at kids) that will allow you to dip your toes in before deciding if you want to make coding your next hobby.

Tynker | tynker.com

Geared primarily toward ages 5-17, Tynker provides a bevy of drag and drop code blocks as well as text-based courses. The free version offers 20 games to introduce programming concepts. The program also has a strong emphasis on learning to create mods for the popular voxel-based building game, Minecraft. Since most kids are already familiar with the game, this makes it a smart choice to help bridge the gap between playing and creating.

Paid memberships also offer a dashboard where parents can review their student’s progress and skill development. This type of game-based curriculum is pretty common for learning the principles of coding without getting overwhelmed by programming languages and syntax.

Grasshopper | grasshopper.app

For those who prefer to take their learning on the go, Grasshopper works with both iOS and Android devices. Despite the whimsical name, Grasshopper is geared more toward adult students. The lessons are delivered in engaging, quick sessions to accommodate busy professionals. Students will learn the foundations of JavaScript while developing problem-solving techniques that are applicable in everyday situations. Think of it as the Duolingo of coding. The app is free to use and can help launch new interests, hobbies, or even careers. 

Scratch | scratch.mit.edu

Designed as part of the Lifelong Kindergarten Group at MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a free programming language and online community. Although it was designed for ages 8 to 16, Scratch is used by millions of people of all ages. The emphasis here is on creating and sharing interactive media across the community. Kids program their own stories, games, or animations, then upload them to the Scratch community to share. This collaborative environment encourages creativity through project based learning.

Similar to Tynker’s parent dashboard, Scratch offers educators access to a free Teacher Account so they can manage student accounts while overseeing projects and comments.

Code.org | code.org

Offering a more solid curriculum, Code.org introduces students to computer science concepts. Students can select a self-paced course, based on their interests and get started right away. The program starts with the familiar code blocks before expanding to popular text-based scripting languages. As they progress, students will learn to build apps, websites, and games.

They even offer an entire section devoted to Hour of Code activities. These one-hour tutorials are designed for all ages and available in over 45 languages. It’s a great way to play around with coding possibilities without a huge time investment.

Khan Academy | khanacademy.org/computing

Those looking for an even more structured curriculum may also be interested in the courses available at Khan Academy. Through practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard, Khan offers a bit of everything. Focusing on most all K-14 subjects, they also offer a robust computing selection. From introductory classes in several popular programming languages to deep dives into the principles of computer science, they have something for learners of all levels.

Since Khan is 100% free, there are no hidden fees or courses locked behind paywalls. This makes it a great place to build a solid coding foundation before considering more advanced training.

Coding has a lot to offer those willing to give it a chance. OKL Article End