Our mission at CodeCast is to provide a platform that will aid both teachers and learners. This means we spend a lot of time thinking about our own experiences and coming up with ways that will better serve our community. Previously we’ve written blogs that have aided teachers with using CodeCast and all the features the player offers, but so far we haven’t said much about the people doing the learning.
Any student knows that they have specific ways of learning that work well for them. They also usually have ideal ways of studying and absorbing the information they receive in lectures. Learning to code is no different. Anyone who is approaching learning something new has to find a way to learn that suits them.
As a student, it’s important to have a good toolbox at your disposal. Every industry has a standard set of tools that you need to perform your job. With that, learning how to use the tools and having access to them is part of what being a student is. In this blog, I intend to go through and list some tools that learners should have before joining a cast. While some of these aren’t necessary to either watch or participate in the casts, they will help to improve your learning experience and make sure you’re getting the most out of the material.
You can’t write code without something to write it on. A good computer is the most important thing a developer can own. That being said, in the early stages of learning to code, an older or basic computer will suffice perfectly fine. You can view casts on any device, as long as it has access to a web browser. However, since live code-sharing is one of the best tools CodeCast has to offer, working on a computer means CodeCast can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
The player has a lot of functionality that will make your learning experience better, and I previously have written an entire post to get you started using the player.
A Code Editor
If you’re going to write code, you need somewhere to put it! Before starting any casts you may want to copy code from, make sure you have a code editor installed and functioning on your computer. Code editors are extremely powerful, and there are a lot of them on the market. At CodeCast, we’re big fans of Visual Studio Code. All the developers here use it, and it was the editor of choice during my bootcamp. I also have a post about some of our favourite extensions you can add to VSCode, so be sure to check that out.
Somewhere To Take Notes
This may seem obvious, but “notes” are something often overlooked by people new to coding. Only a couple of people in my bootcamp ever took notes. It’s easy to think that you will learn through just the code, and to a certain extent, most of what you do learn will be through writing (or reading) code. There are a few specific things that I personally recommend you make note of, but before I get into that, I want to emphasize something.
The theory or information behind a language or a topic regarding development is often the very first thing mentioned in any program or course. If you watch any current introduction tutorial out there, the explanation of the language (or whatever the topic may be) always comes first. It’s usually simplified and easy to understand, meaning when we hear it we acknowledge that we understand it and wait for the next point. However, just because you understand something in the moment doesn’t mean you will remember it later.
One thing I would recommend making notes of in the beginning is any kind of project initializing steps. Let me give an example:
You’re watching a cast that is introducing you to Ruby. The first step is going to be installing Ruby onto your local machine. There are many ways to install things, but using CLI is the most common practice amongst developers. You should make notes of the different commands the teacher is using so you can easily and quickly refer back to them later.
Now, there are a lot of different ways to take notes. There are lots of popular applications that are designed to keep everything organized and they work very well. Even better, most of them are completely free at the basic level. A few that I have used and found really helpful are Bear and Evernote because they both allow the ability for you to include blocks of code within your notes. I have also used markdown files within follow-along projects to make notes of each step. An example of one of these can be found here on my GitHub. These are especially helpful because they exist right in the code editor and are easily referenced without using another external application or source. Markdown is very useful and easy to use, so it’s definitely not a bad idea to learn it!
Regardless of which note recording method you find, definitely have somewhere to keep the information you're recording organized and easily accessible so you can refer to it quickly in the future.
This is an invaluable tool to get in the habit of doing regardless, but I specifically want to reference prepping for live casts. All live casts are recorded to be able to be watched again later, as long as the person casting allows people to view the recorded content. This makes it easy to go back through it step by step and really focus on the aspects that you want more clarification on.
However, a live cast is exactly that: live. We’ll get into a tip on navigating these in just a moment, but for now, I want to focus on the prep work aspect. If you are brand new to the topic, it’s never a terrible idea to roughly familiarize yourself before watching the cast, in case they get into the basics very quickly! This doesn’t have to be a lot, but if the only thing you’re going into a live cast knowing is the name of the topic, a bit of prep work could be worth it.
Similarly, if a teacher is going to be working through a project, often they’ll provide a GitHub repo or materials, so make sure you save those somewhere so you can refer to them after the cast!
This is a very important skill to have in any aspect of your life. When you’re watching something alongside a group of other people, every person watching it will be at a different place in their learning. This means that something might seem really obvious to you and yet tons of people may be asking questions about it in the chat. If you know it or think you can help and it won’t distract you from any material, it’s always a fantastic opportunity to chime in. After all, teaching someone something is often the best way to learn it.
On the other hand, topics will come up that you’ll feel lost or overwhelmed by. Sometimes it feels like everyone else but you understands what's going on. This is very normal and a completely expected part of the developing process, especially when just learning. The chat feature in the player allows you to ask questions, so feel free to ask the caster to explain it again. If there isn’t time for this, or your comment goes unnoticed, make a note of the confusion and the time in the cast somewhere, but don’t dwell on it. Try to continue forward in the cast grasping what you can from the rest of it, and then go back and watch the recorded lecture later. Otherwise, you risk getting very little out of watching the cast as a whole.
Phew! Props to you if you read this all and I truly hope that some of this will help you navigate your learning journey and help you when you join a cast. As always feel free to reach out to us on any of our social media if you have any questions or concerns!