Back To The Basics

Working through the course material at FreeCodeCamp moves you rather quickly from one area of Web Dev to the next. I began with basic HTML, CSS and a little jQuery. I made a few projects using what I learned, and then the course moved on to JavaScript and algorithm scripting. After many lessons in JavaScript I created a few more projects using my new-found JavaScript knowledge. All of this culminated with me earning my front-end certificate.

some random code

Next came the Data Visualization portion of the FCC course. This starts off right away with 5 projects under the heading “React”. This was a little jarring for me. Up until this point there had been a pretty consistent pattern of “here’s how you do a thing” then “go put that thing to use”. This pattern was not only broken, but shattered here in the Data Visualization section of the course.

In all fairness to FCC, although the project introduction videos specifically instructed the students to use React and Sass for these challenges, those instructions were omitted in the assignment text. I suppose I could have just tried to complete the assignments using the HTML/CSS/JS I had previously learned but I dismissed that idea rather quickly. React seemed like a pretty useful tool and I had noticed while nosing around on that many companies were looking for people who were familiar with React. So, I set out to learn React.

This Is Not A Story About Learning React

Phew, thank the coding gods. I’ve written my thoughts on React in a previous post, so I won’t duplicate all that effort here. However, React is vastly different than most of the things I learned while earning the first certificate. Well, I shouldn’t say different, it’s more in how it’s applied. And this leads me to the crux of today’s post. While working on the third React challenge, a project to create a recipe box with persistent local storage and functionality which allows the user to create, edit and delete recipes, I found the FCC help chat room. Most of the people I encounter here are working through the first certificate, which I had completed about a month prior to discovering this chat room. They come to ask questions about the lessons they’re working on and get help from those who have already learned what they need help with. My first thought while reading through these questions was, “holy crap I’ve forgotten all of that.”

Learning The New Without Retaining The Old

I suppose charging through the front-end lessons felt good at the time, but here I was faced with the realization that I had failed to retain all but a fraction of what I had learned. It was a classic ‘use it or lose it’ scenario. This in-and-of itself was not necessarily a bad thing; I know how to find the information if I need it, but at some level I felt bad for not retaining the information.

Since having that realization I’ve made a point to spend at least a portion of most days with the FCC help chat room open. While I may not actively be helping people, I do read through the questions and answers. I think about solutions others are coming up with, read through their code and try to figure out what I would have done differently or what I could incorporate in my future projects. As more and more questions get asked, I find that I recall more and more answers. It may not be perfect recollection but it’s definitely better than I had. Also, there’s something about explaining a concept to someone else that really helps me understand it myself.

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