Learning vs Doing: Designing My First Website #2

Written By: CodeKristi

I often lose motivation, but it’s something I accept as normal. ~ Bill Rodgers


So I haven’t posted blogs for quite a while now… I went away on vacation with my husband for two weeks, and the two weeks before that I was planning the vacation. That was a lot of fun! But having all the vacation planning as first priority, I had lost a bit of steam with my web development studies…

I was also getting a bit bored with Sololearn as my main learning tool. Sololearn’s lessons are quite easy. Since I didn’t know enough about web development yet to really write code, I wasn’t as mentally intrigued as I should’ve been to stay motivated. The main way in which I stay motivated is to constantly learn and practise new things.

Another main distraction in my life was money, or rather, the lack thereof… I quit my full-time job a few months ago in order to focus more of my time and energy on my web development studies. I have been tutoring part-time for the last 3 months. Unfortunately, my initially calculated income from the tutoring job was a bit off-track, so my budget didn’t quite work out! That’s why, for the last few weeks (before the vacation my husband fully paid for!), I have been trying to figure out a way to make more money…

The bad news is time flies. The good news is you’re the pilot. ~ Michael Altshuler


Due to all these recent distractions, I was focusing on a variety of other things, instead of spending as much time as possible on studying. So when we got back from our trip, my husband and I had a long chat about how I should move forward. We decided that I needed  to quit the tutoring to see if I can find a better paying job. Also, whether or not I find this elusive job is ‘unimportant’, as my web development studies should be my main focus!

We worked out a studying schedule with week by week goals. This schedule is worked out from September to the end of January. This will give me smaller chunks of work to focus on and will give my husband (as an external motivator, and currently ‘investor’) the ability to see that I stay on track.

We scheduled in time to learn web development within each week (using Sololearn, W3Schools and Team Treehouse as course material). For each of these ‘course materials,’ we have written down the specific content that needs to be completed per week. We also scheduled in time for blogging, and time to Twitter. I am trying to follow people on Twitter who will provide useful information for my web development journey, and thus I need time to read the relevant blog posts and articles they tweet.

The last change we made was to add one of the paid study options to my ‘course material’. (see blog). This was another external motivator: if I (read my husband), pay for the course material I will be more motivated to use it than when it is free. The one we chose was Team Treehouse.

If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. ~ Dr Wayne Dyer

A photo by Sidharth Bhatia. unsplash.com/photos/YbRd8Qqem_Y

Making new connections with learning content makes it clearer

So just to recap the two learning platforms I have been using so far:

  • Sololearn is a free app / website with the learning material organised in short written lessons with questions at the end. Each lesson contains between one to three concepts, and all concepts build on top of the previous lessons’ concepts.
  • W3Schools is also free and have short articles of information. They use code challenges as the ‘consolidation method’ of new knowledge, but you can decide whether or not you want to do it.

The new platform I started using last week, Team Treehouse, is a paid course. They have lots of videos combined into tracks (or courses). Between the videos, there are a few questions or code challenges to assess the newly learned concepts.

I decided to add Team Treehouse to my course material for a few reasons:

  • It is slightly more difficult than Sololearn, which will provide more of a challenge and keep me motivated
  • Paying for it acts as external motivation, as I have limited time to complete the content
  • It uses a different underlying teaching approach than Sololearn, which means I learn the same content in different ways. This leads to better understanding of the work

Sololearn uses a bottom-up approach, which means they are starting with small units of information, and slowly moving to the bigger, more holistic picture. Team Treehouse uses a mix of bottom-up and (mostly) top-down approaches. Most of the time new concepts will be introduced when it become relevant to what you are learning, which means that you don’t know all the little bits of information about a topic. Sometimes, however, they will explain a concept beforehand in order to make things clear to you when you are practising it later on.

Play is our brain’s favourite way of learning. ~ Diane Ackerman

A photo by Lacie Slezak. unsplash.com/photos/yHG6llFLjS0

Last week I started with Team Treehouse’s Digital Literacy track, which basically explains what is the Internet; how hardware and software works together; and a little bit about HTML, CSS and JavaScript. This course contained mostly things I already knew, but here and there were interesting bits and it acted as a good introductory course.

I then moved on to the next track, Front-end Web Development. This is a really long track (72 hours) and according to my study schedule, I should finish it about middle December (if I study about 6 hours per week).

The Front-end Web Dev track has been really fun so far! This is a great example of the top-down approach since we immediately started programming a website. As we went through the work, the different HTML tags & syntax were introduced and explained. We then moved on to CSS, where they again explained all the relevant information as we came across it.

In my next post, I will summarise what I have learned in the first few Team Treehouse lessons. If you are serious about learning Web Development, this really is a great resource to use!

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