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Grokking programming concepts the first time

July 8, 2011

Programming is hard. It takes awhile to understand the ways things are and why.

When learning programming concepts, do not expect to understand things very well the first time you hear them.  You need to give yourself time and opportunity to practice the things you are learning.

Take small bites, let the concept digest slowly.  Read a lot of examples and use visuals to help explain complex concepts. Write things down as you learn them, create a blog or journal that helps chronicle your journey.  Be an active learner in the process.  Do not be a passive learner, get involved, be relentless in your pursuit of the concept. Write things down, try implementing the concept in little steps.

Look for little victories along the path of larger concepts.

The important thing is to be patience and keep at it.   Over time, through much pain and suffering, concepts will start to make sense, the abstract will become concrete . You will experience little aha’s along the way.  Some concept that you memorized will click when you see it in the context of a problem.

You will likely have to simply hang on and get the work done without understanding everything.  Memorization is ok, but you will eventually need to convert the memorization of a concrete example into a more abstract understanding.  The abstract understanding is the thing that goes with you when you leave a class or project.

Don’t worry if you don’t understand something the first time you hear it, you probably wont. Trust the best practices that have been established before you and follow them.  This is called “standing on the shoulders of giants”.  Learning from what others have done and explained.  These lessons often take the form of design patterns.

When you have an assignment or project that requires you to read data from a database, process and display in different types of views, depending on the type of data, solve the problem using established best practices.  Try to see the problem in steps or blocks.

  • How do I display the data?
  • What the rules are to display the data?
  • How to get the data out of the database?

Talk about building an application without the use of a framework and why that is a good idea, best practice.

Talk about design patterns and understanding one well before trying to understand another.


From → Java

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