Let’s Get Learning!

by Kevin Lawver on August 20, 2011

It’s already clear that most jobs now require some computer skills and that employers are already having a hard time filling those positions, and in the future they’ll probably require at least basic programming skills (even if that means being able to write a formula in Excel). If you’ve got access to the web, you’ve got tons of free resources out there to learn everything from the very basics to how to build complex web applications.

Today, I just want to cover things to help you get started. If you’ve never programmed anything more complex than a microwave, this list is for you. I tried most of these out on my oldest, so they’re kid-approved (which means they should work OK for curious adults too).

Web Tools and Tutorials

  • Codecademy – A free website packed with lessons and exercises from the very basic to the very complex. It’s all online and looks pretty awesome (this is one I haven’t used but was recommended by a friend).
  • Don’t Fear the Internet – A series of video tutorials from well-respected web designers and developers that should teach you the basics of building web pages.
  • Computer Science 1 – Programming Methodology – From Stanford University, this is a series of lectures that make up their introductory computer science course. I’d start with Codecademy and if you really like it and want to learn more about “serious” development, check out the videos.
  • Rails for Zombies: Ruby on Rails is a great framework for building web apps, and even better, a skillset that’s in great demand right now. This is a fun way to jump in and learn it without all the formality of a book (one without zombies at least).

Downloadable Apps

  • Hackety Hack – You’ll need to download this app to use it, but it’s a great little tool and has tons of lessons that will teach you the basics of programming.
  • Scratch – Another downloaded one. There’s no code at all in Scratch, just drag and drop. This is the tool my son has stuck with the longest (almost five years now) and has built everything from interactive fiction to a complex first-person shooter video game with it. It’s a fun way to introduce control structures, but if you’re a grownup, I’d start with Hackety Hack or Codecademy.
  • Blue Griffon – Not really a way to teach you to program, but it’s a free web page editor that feels more like a word processor than a scary text editor.


  • Learn to Program – This is the book I gave my son when he wanted to learn what I do all day. It’s a fantastic introduction to programming. If you’re better with a book, this is the one to get.

I hope this is helpful. If you’ve got other resources, please share!

One comment

Thanks for putting the links together. The Head First series from O’Reilly is also a great way to get started. http://headfirstlabs.com/ They really try to take you by the hand and make it fun. Check it out, Mark.

by Mark Finnern on August 25, 2011 at 8:42 pm. #