Learn to Code … with a Mobile App?

Posted on April 19, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android, Dev, iOS, Mobile with 23 Comments

Learn to Code ... with a Mobile App?

A new app for Android and iOS promises to teach you basic JavaScript programming skills. Does it work?

I’m not sure yet, as I just found out about it. But given the importance of learning JavaScript these days, I thought I’d at least mention it. After all, you might be slightly interested in heading down this path, but need a more bite-sized way to get started. Perhaps this thing will work a bit like Duolingo, the language-learning app I’ve been using for years.

Anyway, the app is called Grasshopper. It’s available for both Android and iOS, and it’s free.

“Grasshopper was created by a team of passionate coders from Google’s workshop for experimental products, Area 120,” the Grasshopper site explains. “Coding is becoming such an essential skill, and we want to make it possible for everyone to learn even when life gets busy. We made Grasshopper to help folks like you get into coding in a fun and easy way. And we put Grasshopper on a phone so you can turn your commute or waiting in line into a learning moment. We hope you like it and that it helps you embark or continue your journey in learning to code.”

I installed the app on my Google Pixel 2 XL and stepped through the opening wizard, which eventually asks if you’ve coded before. I have, so I suspect that it was smart enough to adjust the difficulty level a bit. That said, it still appears to be pretty basic. Which is understandable.

After running through the initial lesson, you choose a practice schedule, similar to how Duolingo works. I will try to use the app daily, but you can choose every other day, twice per week, or no reminders.

As to whether you can learn to program this way, well. No, of course, you can’t: If you want to learn to code, you need to code. And code. And keep coding. But this does seem to work somewhat like Duolingo in that you can fill your off minutes learning something instead of wasting that time. And it may be just what the real beginner needs to take the next step.

I will try to use this daily to find out.

 

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “Learn to Code … with a Mobile App?”

  1. skane2600

    “Coding is becoming such an essential skill"


    No, it's really not.

    • rafaelsolmaker

      In reply to skane2600:

      Hello,


      It depends on what you're doing or working for. Right now, it's essentials for engineers, soon it should be of help for most of the majors. We can't simply go back, computers are right now an integral part of our daily lives and everyone uses them.


      If you want an advantage, to have some edge over competitors, or better, to be "up-to-date" with a good resumé, programming skills are as essentials as dealing with MS Office or learning other languages. Unless you want to live under a rock... Prove me I'm wrong, if you can. (No, it's not an actual provocation, just a speech device)


      Cheers,

      • skane2600

        In reply to rafaelsolmaker:

        I think the burden of proof would be yours given that you are claiming something for the future that clearly isn't the case now.


        Yes, most people use computers in one form or another (although smartphones are used more as an appliance than anything else) but that doesn't mean they will be programming in the future any more than everyone using a car leads to everyone becoming car mechanics.


        The last thing most companies want their non-STEM employees to do is play junior-IT. In fact the trend is away from people managing their own workstations in favor of providing them with a restricted environment they can't customize.




    • Daekar

      In reply to skane2600:

      I agree. It's an essential skill if you want to be a coder or otherwise create digitally-powered goods. The transition which started with the iPhone and has continued with things like Chromebooks is an excellent example - it reflects a DE-skilling of the population regarding technical expertise, not the other way around. Coding and technical understanding may be more USEFUL than ever, but it's also less essential than ever. Remember, an entire generation of kids are going to grow up using smartphones and having literally no idea how they work. They don't know what RAM is, they don't know about directories and storage... these devices are literally magic boxes to them. At least when we were growing up we didn't have a CHOICE. Want to use a computer? Well, you need to know what C: means, how to switch directories, you need to know keyboard commands, and (horror of horrors) install drivers. Now? Shoot, on an iPhone you need to know almost literally nothing - which is why so many people can use them.

      • Boris Zakharin

        In reply to Daekar:

        It began much earlier when PC manufacturers stopped dumping you into BASIC in favor of a proper OS. Then when the first major OS shipped without any programming tools (Windows 95 hid QBSAIC on the install CD). Then (soon after) dev tools disappeared from PC manufacturer's bundled software options. Sure, the web briefly brought this stuff back with Netscape Communicator and MS Frontpage Express HTML editors, but nobody had to use them if they didn't want to.

    • lvthunder

      In reply to skane2600:

      It's an essential skill if you want a well paying job in 20 years.

      • Saxwulf

        In reply to lvthunder:


        In 20 years machines will be writing their own code.

      • skane2600

        In reply to lvthunder:

        That might be true if software development or IT work were the only well-paying jobs in the future, but I doubt that.

      • Daekar

        In reply to lvthunder:

        Have you seen the compensation package your average code-monkey gets nowadays? It's not world-shattering. As more people learn to code, it will get LESS valuable on average (leaving aside, as we must always, the extraordinary edge cases) rather than more.

        • lvthunder

          In reply to Daekar:

          Except many jobs simply won't exist in the future. Fast food workers are going to be replaced by robots, transportation workers (Taxi's, Uber, truckers) are going to be replaced by self driving vehicles, etc. That's like 20% of the workforce currently. I think if you know how to code you will have an easier time getting and keeping a job in the future.

          • skane2600

            In reply to lvthunder:

            I think you're somewhat optimistic about the future success of "physical" automation. Legal and insurance issues may slow down or even kill self driving vehicles as the dominant transportation approach.


            But in any case, the disappearance of low-skill jobs will neither increase the need for STEM work nor will it make it easier for people to qualify for it. The claim that there's an STEM shortage is a myth that's been propagated almost continuously since the 1960s.


            The loss of good jobs for unskilled workers may turn out to be a problem in the future but the most viable solution may be a minimum guaranteed income rather than flooding the STEM market with people who are working in it solely because the have to.

  2. Hoomgar

    Who wants to try to analyze lines of code on a hand held device with such a small screen? I'd go cross-eyed!!!

    • ErichK

      In reply to Hoomgar:

      Yeah, I remember trying to use Touch Develop, something that Microsoft was offering that was supposed to be used on any kind of device, desktop, tablet, phone, what have you. It felt ... clunky and cramped, but it was an okay effort.


      Went to the site just now, and it says they're retiring it soon (but will be replaced with something else).

  3. ErichK

    Imagine something like this for assembly language.


    I see myself passing through red lights as I ponder how to use the MOV opcode with registers and hex values...

  4. Bob Shutts

    Just find an Atari 800 from eBay, plug in a Microsoft BASIC cartridge, and you'll learn to code.

  5. dcdevito

    No doubt a direct counter to Swift playgrounds. I'm using it, I really like it. It's well done.

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