It\’s true that the fear of coding is a very real problem for many people. It\’s understandable to feel intimidated by the idea of coding, but it\’s important to remember that you don\’t need to know how to code in order to do it.
The purpose of this article is to learn how Dr. M learned how to code as a kid and walks you through how simple it is to learn how to code if you take it a step at a time.
The Story Behind How I Learned to Code
I was always interested in playing games. I would play games at my friend\’s house and I asked for a gaming console for Christmas one year. I played games by myself and invited friends over to play also. We played sports games such as hockey and basketball.
I remember the first time that I saw a computer. It was at my friend’s house, and he had one of those early Macs that you could only do word processing on. And I’m like “What are you doing?” And he says “This is how you use a computer! You type words on this screen!”
At the time, most of our papers were written by hand. A friend and I decided that we would use a computer to do our papers. We would spend hours typing and printing our papers.
I didn\’t really think much about computers until I was able to purchase one myself to use at home and then I was hooked. Our high school was offering a computer programming class offered by Digital Equipment Corporation at our school. I wanted to learn how to code so badly that I took the class but I was so scared to death. I did not know what to expect. I had a lot of fear of entering the class at first.
What Exactly is Programming?
Programming is an extremely important part of the modern workplace. It is a set of instructions that tell the computer what it should do and in what order.
Programming is a complicated process, but it can also be easy when you break it down into small steps. It\’s like solving an equation with many steps. Programming is like solving an equation with many steps, but instead of math, you are solving problems with code.
Think about all the steps you have done when you first wake up in the morning. Jot them down. There you have it. You have your first program. That was not too hard, was it?
Coding is about how to solve problems in a step-by-step manner. We code computers to do stuff for us. They are tools for us to use and master.
How to Start Learning to Code
Learning how to code is not only a great way of developing your analytical skills, but it can also be very rewarding. It is one of the best ways to get ahead of the curve in the 21st century.
It can be difficult to get started with coding and overcome your fears, but there are some great resources out there that make it easier than ever before.
The first step for anyone who wants to learn how to code is to learn to think like a coder first. The technique that I used to learn how to code was Karel the Robot.
What is Karel the Robot?
Karel the Robot is a programming language that uses the Python programming language. The goal of this system is to teach children aged 6-12 and beginners how to program using a simple, easy-to-understand language. Karel the Robot teaches logical reasoning skills, computational thinking, and algorithmic problem-solving.
The Python environment is designed to teach kids and beginners how to code. This language requires an installation of Python and can be run on any computer.
Learn to Code with Karel the Robot
From an early age, the teacher I had as a kid taught me how to program by encouraging me to think like a programmer. All I needed was Karel the Robot.
Karel the Robot environment was a two-dimensional maze. Our job was to code Karel to maneuver in the maze towards a goal.
Karel the Robot had different commands such as:
- move: one tile forward depending on the direction of Karel
- turn_left: Turn Karel to the left
- pick_beeper: if a beeper is present, add the beeper to Karel’s bag.
- put_beeper: if Karel has a beeper, then drop it at Karel’s current location
- beeper_is_present: Checks to see if a beeper is present where Karel is.
- front_is_blocked: Checks to see if Karel is going to run into a wall.
Karel the Robot was represented as a “>” character. The character represented the direction of Karel in the maze. For example:
- facing north (^)
- facing south (v)
- facing east (>)
- facing west (<)
A very primitive maze would look like the following:
KAREL 0 0 v N
. # . . . . .
. # . # # # 2
. . . . # . .
# . # . # . #
# . # . # . #
# . # . . . .
. . . . # . .
In the maze above, a # is a wall. The number is the number of beepers at that location, . is the empty tile in the maze. The first line says that Karel the Robot will start at position 0,0 facing south.
For someone new to programming, it is easy for them to get lost in the syntax of a programming language. Karel the Robot provides a few commands to use and just need to know what the characters mean. It gives them a simple environment to learn without having to worry about the details of programming at this early stage. Typically, each Karel the Robot program has a goal in mind.
We could say that Karel starts at location 0,0 which is the lower-left facing south and the goal is to pick up the two beepers.
The Karel the Robot program:
Do not worry if you were not able to figure this out right now. In this case, the students focus on all the steps needed to pick up the beeper which should feel natural to a beginning student once they are comfortable with all the commands in Karel the Robot language.
The example above is a complex Karel the Robot example. Typically, you would start with just a couple of commands at a time, master them first, and add more commands to the toolkit. Each week will add more complexity to your Karel the Robot programs until you can solve mazes in your sleep.
I contribute the success I have had with programming is by starting with Karel the Robot. It is a simple programming language that is easy for anyone to learn with some guidance. Once you have mastered how to think like a coder then you can move on and program in a language like Python.
But, it is common when learning something new to have an initial fear of it. Most people’s fear of coding is mostly psychological. Like anything else in life if you believe you can learn to code you will be able to learn to code.