(Hopefully) Helpful Hint: Learn to Code

A few episodes ago, we talked about iTunes U as a free source of educational courses, content and lectures from major universities. Along those lines, you can also take free computer science and programming classes from sites like Coursera and MIT’s Open Courseware.  Practical Programming in C is one such course offered on the MIT site.

Want something a little looser in format — but just as educational that you can do in your own time? Visit the Codeacademy, which is the product of a start-up company based here in New York. On its interactive Web site, you can take lessons in a few different languages including Python, Ruby, JQuery and JavaScript and learn website fundamentals.

If Ruby piques your interest, there’s also the TryRuby interactive site. It’s linked to the Code School site, where you can sign up for and try classes for free — and then pay $25 a month if you want to keep learning.

Want to learn Ruby on Rails, which is an open-source full-stack web application framework that works with the Ruby language? Try the Rails for Zombies site, also from Code School. (Zombies, we just can’t get enough of zombies — especially with The Walking Dead returning with new episodes this weekend.)

For the younger set, there’s CodeMonster from Crunchzilla. CodeMonster uses a fun way of guided interaction to teach live JavaScript programming. For example, the screen suggests you change a number. When you do, the colored box next to the code changes size so you can see the cause and effect of your programming actions. You go from colored boxes to working with basic animation and fractals. Other examples introduce standard programming concepts like expressions, functions and loops.

Another site for young programmers is <Code/Racer>, which is a multiplayer live game that teaches how to write the code for a basic Web site in HTML and CSS. If you already know how to do that, the site tests how quickly you can code.

These sites are just a few of the many options out there, but a good place to start your search for a programming language to learn. And once you get the skills down, you can flaunt the wardrobe.

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