Why Projects are the Best Way to Learn Programming

Tamasin Ford -- 30 April 2015

When you first start to learn programming, it feels like it is about the commands: knowing how to use a variable, a repeat block, an if-then statement. But what real programmers know is that once you’ve learned them, the commands don’t matter anymore. Every coder has those same commands available, but each will make something completely different with them. Coding is more about solving a problem and creating something you have imagined than about memorizing vocabulary and syntax. And that is why the best way to become a better coder is to build more projects.

Projects offer multiple types of learning

When you build a project, many steps happen before you start using commands to write code. As an example, you might need to:

  • Think about how the project is supposed to work - what is the story, objective, user experience, etc.
  • Select the right languages, frameworks and platforms
  • Break it down into smaller pieces or steps
  • Decide on what piece you will build first

Then, when you start coding, you need to think about:

  • What is the algorithm (set of steps) to make each piece
  • What commands you need to create each step, which includes remembering the commands you know and finding or learning new commands
  • Testing to see if it works
  • Finding and correct errors when it doesn’t work

As you can see, there is a full and rich process of thinking and planning and analyzing that goes into any coding project.

Coding is a multi-layered skill which must be built up over time

At Power Up, we want our students to build projects as soon as possible, and then keep building more and more of them. We see learning coding a lot like playing a sport or a musical instrument. Knowing how to throw or catch a ball, or play your first song on the piano, is just the start of your journey. It is through practice, coaching and taking on challenges that you move from these first steps to becoming a real athlete or musician. And as you create a set of working projects, you will find yourself truly becoming a programmer!

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