Thoughts on How to Learn JavaScript properly.

I’ve tried following JavaScript tutorials before, but I usually found them too focused on lectures or too heavy on practical exercises with little information on the why’s and how’s. I could never seem to find a good balance in any tutorial I worked with. But about a month and a half ago I stumbled onto a post on javascriptissexy.com entitled “How to Learn JavaScript Properly”. I decided to do as suggested in the tutorial and follow the steps exactly as they’re outlined. It was only about a week and a half ago that I purchased the second book, but my impression so far has been really positive. I’ve learned more in the past two weeks about JavaScript then I have in the previous two years combined. It’s coming down to 3 main points: following directions, taking the time, and having persistence.

Follow the Directions

The tutorial suggests, correctly, that you shouldn’t be taking bits and pieces from various courses to try to learn JavaScript. I think the worst thing that I’ve done in the past is to try and learn through different tutorials each with their own way of teaching JS. The outcome of learning through various sources means you’ll probably be spinning your wheels for awhile. I think the use of Codecademy for exercises is also a big help because if you get stuck there are plenty of people to help get you back on track.

The Reading is Dense

The tutorial recommends two books to use to augment the exercises you’ll be working through on Codecademy. The books are sometimes more difficult to work through than the JS lessons themselves. Working through Nicholas Zakas’ “Professional JavaScript for Web Developers” is intense and I often find myself reading and rereading sections to make sure I’m getting it. David Flanagan’s “JavaScript: The Definitive Guide is a lot more accessible, but if you’re not used to reading technical books you’ll just have to take it a little slower. I’ve also found it really helpful to learn the background of JavaScript as a language as it helps put things in perspective. What really makes lessons stick, however, is actually using the recommended Codecademy exercises to drive the points home. For some of the reading I wish there was a way to have some more specific exercises , but so far so good.

Set aside the time and do it 

The tutorial recommends to be finished with the readings and lessons within 6 weeks, but no more than 8. In my past experiences trying to learn I’ve found myself taking breaks and then coming back which forces me to relearn a lot of information. Relearning what you lost feels like a huge waste of time and after several times of doing that it feels like I’m getting good at the basics, but not at anything that’s actually functional or useful. I’m diving in head first this time and it’s working out really well. By dedicating a few hours every night and on the weekends I find myself further along with learning JS than I’ve ever been. My goal over the next two weeks is to finish the Weeks 3 & 4 section and move into Weeks 5 & 6. I’d also like to try my hand at building a basic Backbone.js app as well a simple Node.js app.

A couple notes –

1. I ran into some problems initially and couldn’t figure out why the reading was so different than the exercises. Down in the comments I found out that I had started out on the wrong track at Codecademy initially. You should be following the original Codecademy Javascript track.
2. Work through the exercises on your own. I make sure that I don’t jump right into the forum to find the code that will pass. I spend a considerable amount of time trying to debug the code myself before taking a look at the forum. It’s easy to copy and paste the answer, but you won’t learn anything.

 

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