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Learning Javascript

If you asked me today what is the most important programming language to learn, Javascript would probably be it, at least if you're doing anything on the web. Interacting with API's like WordPress will use it, building applications with server-side code using Node.js will use it, you can even build amazing things entirely with HTML and then make them come to life with Javascript. A great example of this I got to see in action was when Jim and I went down to VCU to soak up some knowledge via osmosis from Tom and his crew at the ALT Lab. While there amongst the many tools and examples they showed us was the website for the Digital Sociology program at VCU: https://digital.sociology.vcu.edu/

This site is built entirely in HTML, or rather I should say what you're seeing is HTML, CSS, and Javascript because that's all that lives on that VCU server. The real hat trick is that all of the data is on a very simple WordPress site on Ram Pages. Using the WordPress API they can gather all the data remotely and structure a super fast site to be built on the fly on a server they don't actual control (the site admins only have to login to the WordPress site on Ram Pages and edit the various posts with the data, they never have to see a line of code or deal with theme headaches). This is the headless WordPress idea people have spoken about that I was seeing in action for the first time and it blew my mind.

To that end I've recently been interested in learning more Javascript myself and came across one of the best structured (and free!) courses I've ever used, Watch and Code. A series of screencasts by Gordon Zhu, the killer feature of this course for me is just how excellent a teacher he is at breaking down complex topics into understandable metaphors. Just when you think you're discussing basic building blocks of a todo list application you realize he is breaking down really hard-to-grasp concepts like arrays, objects, scope, and more. To use his own metaphor, rather than teaching you to write but hitting you with a bunch of grammar, he teaches you how to understand what it means to be a good writer and you learn concepts along the way to reach that goal.

If you've been on the fence with the whole "Learn to Code" movement and wondered where to start (because there really is so much out there) I can't recommend the course highly enough. From what I've already seen Javascript capable of I have no doubt that it is going to continue to play a crucial and important role in how we build for the web.