Codecademy is an Interactive and Accessible Way to Learn Programming

Codecademy lesson

Codecademy has made learning to program, currently only with Javascript, accessible to almost any computer user by using simple prompts which guide you through lessons and a console to type code in. Codecademy is similar to the style of Try Ruby! and Hackety Hack by Why the Lucky Stiff, who is today commemorated in Whyday.

The website currently has eight lessons but is likely to expand quickly. The creators, on a forum, said “we should have more lessons up within the week. We’re going to get on Python as soon as we can”, adding that “hundreds” of people have offered to make courses for the website. Programmers can offer to help by contacting the website owners.

At first, users are not forced to sign-up to the service but later into the lessons an account is needed. Accounts store user achievements and also track progress. The friends mode allows you to “keep tabs on your friends’ progress” by connecting with a Facebook account.

Codecademy was created by Zach Sims and Ryan Bubinski who built the website using Ruby on Rails. The new website was also posted to Hacker News in a Show HN thread where the creators got feedback. The terms of service sheds some light on the future of the new service which says “everything on Codecademy is currently free, with premium services a possibility in the future”.


Five Websites To Learn HTML5

A List Apart

A List Apart HTML5 Lesson

A List Apart is a must-know website for any developer, covering everything from presentation to the markup behind the page. This article from A List Apart by J. David Eisenberg goes through suggestions to get your website HTML5 ready. He talks about XHTML5, regular expressions and the canvas element with SVG.

Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic table of HTML5

Josh Duck has created this beautiful periodic table for HTML5. Though you don’t have to memorize all the elements of the table, it links each element to a resource which will tell you more such as the W3 documentation. Also, by inputting a website into the ‘How are they used?’ It will breakdown the website into elements used, immensely useful for any web developer. It also is color-coded by the type of element, for example by tabular data.

HTML5 Doctor

HTML5 Doctor

This blog goes through the elements of HTML5 and a quick browse through the archive shows just how wide the breadth of content is. It goes through some HTML5 challenges in Simplequiz, gets reader questions in ‘Ask the Doctor,’ and also touches on some JavaScript and common mistakes when using HTML5.

HTML5 Rocks

HTML5 Rocks

This is a very cool website with many tutorials sorted by each new category of the HTML5 specification. Visit the code playground with a HTML5-ready browser (I hope you’ve ready done that) for some examples with source code. The website was created by employees at Google, who also work on Chrome development.

HTML 5 Demos and Examples

HTML5 Demos

This websites shows the power of HTML5 in some simple demos. It helpfully sticks to using one or two new technologies in each example and source code is available for all of the examples. It also tells you what each browser supports and all code is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 (UK).

What They Feed Kids in School Cafeterias

17% of U.S. children are obese and one-third of all U.S. are obese costing the country over $147 billion in 2008 due to obesity-related medical care costs in 2010 yet processed foods and advertising from ‘junk food’ companies are still allowed in schools. In 2010, the USDA released changes to the school meal standards lowering the amount of starchy foods, yet sugar is still not regulated.

School Cafeteria Oatmeal in Washington DC
Oatmeal with Peaches. Photographed by Ed Bruske.

‘Instead of serving the peaches in a plastic cup on the side, the canned fruit is mixed right in with the oatmeal,’ writes Ed Bruske on the Better D.C. School Food blog, which promotes healthy eating in the District of Columbia, and regularly publishes photographs with cafeteria servings. “The carrots and broccoli arrive already cut into pieces and refrigerated in plastic bags,” he writes adding that many vegetables will get pushed into the rubbish bin.

School Cafeteria Chicken
Cajun Chicken. Photographed by Ed Bruske.

The District of Columbia passed the Healthy Schools Act last year which aims for all schools to reach the ‘gold-standard’ of the HealthierUS School Challenge run by the USDA. As part of Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move money to the sum of $2,000 is given depending on the standard reached in the HealthierUS School Challenge. More photos of the lunches are available from Ed Bruske on the Better D.C. School Food blog under the title of  ‘What’s for Lunch’.

Many schools are also turning to providing foods that are not part of the usual school meals program, to supplement money granted from the USDA school meals program. Around 64% of middle and high schools offer sugar drinks for sale as ‘competitive foods’, in that they are sold separately from the USDA school meals program whilst 49% allow the advertising of less healthy foods in their schools according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

Pushing out chicken nuggets, fries and chocolate will be hard but asking school councils and districts for small changes to school menus is a feasible step that will cut the $147 billion Americans spent on obesity care costs in the future and promote healthy living for the future generations.

Guide to HTML: Editing HTML, Tags and XHTML

Linear Fix HTML

Over this week we will be publishing a few quick guides to using HTML. HTML is the basis for all websites and provides the structure of images, videos, music and text. This is not to be confused with CSS, which is what make websites look good by adding styling such as colors and backgrounds to the HTML.

Editing HTML

Editing HTML is extremely easy. No special software is required and many web designers use programs included with their computer such as Notepad, this means that no extra programs need to be downloaded to get started. My program of choice is Aptana Studio; this program is free like many other HTML editors and contains many features for creating bigger websites.

Using Tags

HTML stands for Hyper Text Mark-up Language. HTML uses tags to enclose element content. Tags are not displayed when viewed in a web browser and the web browser interprets the meaning of these tags.

Here are some examples of tags with content in italics:

<p>Your text here</p>

This is the paragraph tag, text is put in the middle of the tags.

<h1>Heading 1</h1>

Heading tags are bigger and bolder than normal text. It is useful if you want to break a webpage into multiple segments.

Notice that tags start and end with brackets with a backward slash in the second tag.


Before we get started, let’s distinguish XHTML from HTML. XHTML is a stricter version of HTML. XHTML removes presentational elements which should be added later using CSS and requires stronger cohesion to the ‘rules’ of XHTML for a webpage to be valid. XHTML also requires tags to be closed, tags to not be omitted and doctype declarations (which you will learn later).

Join us tomorrow on Linear Fix to start your first webpage.

High School Stereotypes Can be Dangerous

Stereotypes Stuck to a Student

In the media saturated world, stereotypes plays an important point for many students in high schools, and with “Mean Girls” style. With the jocks, nerds and teacher’s pet all popular stereotypes; hierarchy and stereotypes are exposed to students at an early age starting a popularity race.

Bell State University researcher, Don E. Merten, was interested by the ‘mean girl’ stereotypes and conducted interviews with junior high students in attempt to find out what caused these popular but mean girls. Merten said that ‘the cliques popularity made it attractive’ and sometimes conforming to the stereotypes turned friendly people into the opposite.

These stereotypes play a large role in how we classify and judge people. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science published a research paper by Raymond Gunn; he found that “strong peer relations … is marginalized by the damaging stereotypes.”

Some schools are becoming aware of a need of combating stereotypes to reduce bullying, as stereotypes increase bullying and the use of power plays to ‘fit in.’ Students from Gunn High school, as part of the Palo Alto ‘Not In Our School’ program, took part in a Dissolving Stereotypes project where they wrote stereotypes such as ‘every Hispanic is a border-hopping Mexican’ and ‘Asian people have no lives’ on paper and dissolved these stereotypes in water.

Does Technology Have a Place in the Classroom?

Technology Budget

High schools and colleges often fight for the bragging rights of 1:1 computer to student ratios, large computer labs and technology-centered ‘pedagogy’. However, technology overuse is often the biggest detractor from valuable classroom time.

Sending students off to a website to do their own investigations may have no effect, especially when exposed to the distractions of the internet. Supervising students using the computer is even harder than without them: are they playing games, on Facebook or actually doing their work? The internet also allow plagiarism through website such as Yahoo! Answers, which allow users to ask questions and get responses from other users, fast; it is just two clicks away with copy and paste.

Typing also reduces the ability to write neatly, a skill highly valued in any workplace, as well as researching using sources other than the internet. The costs associated with up-keeping and purchasing new technology is also extremely expensive. A laptop from two years ago is often already outdated with faster models and newer software which requires licensing.

Instead of focusing on the newest technology, money should be spent on improving teacher to student ratios and exploring more engaging forms of learning for students.

Top Five Must-Know Memory Tricks for Exams

Here are five handy tips if you have an exam coming up in a few weeks and find yourself continuously forgetting hard-to-remember formulas, quotes and methods.Memory and Recall

1. Test Yourself

Quizzing and testing helps you retrieve information according to the multiple testing effect experiments. As well as improving your memory, you’ll get a feel of what is actually covered on the exam (hopefully). Try using a pack of flashcards or practice exams to get a good recall of things you’re learning.


2. Get Your Stationery Out

Get back to the old-school method of using pen and paper to revise. There is little use of reading a textbook and expecting memorization of what you’ve just read.Instead, try to write key points, things you’ve learned and questions. You can also check these notes at the end of your study session to see where you are up to.


3. Teach Others

Learning by teaching is a popular concept which involves, as the method suggests, teaching others to learn material. Not only will teaching improve your recall, as you have to be able to know what you’re talking about to teach, but you’ll be able to help others along the way.


4. Immerse Yourself

Cover your wall in posters and place revision notes everywhere you’re likely to see them. There’s no reason you can’t have a piece of paper with formulas as a bookmark, a poster on your closet door with quotes or a sticker on the front of your diary with steps to completing an equation.


5. Make Connections in Your Brain

Here’s an extremely helpful tip, especially if you’re learning a language or a lists of dates or rules. Try using a mnemonic phrase such as ‘Roy G. Biv’ for remembering the colors of the rainbow or ‘Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit’ for remembering lined music notes on the treble clef (E, G, B, D and F).

Learn Hindi Online with “Learning Hindi”

Map of Hindi and Urdu Speaking World. Dark gre...
Image via Wikipedia

Trying to learn a bit of Hindi or Urdu? Linear Fix has found an absolute gem of a learning resource for Hindi and Urdu learners, it’s called “Learning Hindi!” and has nearly 100 (96 at the time of publication) lessons for the budding Hindi or Urdu learner.

The website starts of with the basics of reading script and later gets harder as you progress through the lessons. The website appears to be regularly updated and is written in an accessible format.

Another resource helpful for learning Hindi script is Hindi Script Tutor, which was commissioned by the University of London and is available in an interactive format including quizzes, tests and pronunciation help.

Know of other language learning gems? Comment below.

Microsoft Mathematics Solves Equations with Explanations

Currently taking a mathematics or science class and need a calculator program with an equation editor and formula library?

Solving for an equation shows steps on getting the answer.
Solution steps in Microsoft Mathematics

Microsoft Mathematics, previously only available in the paid-for Microsoft Student package, is now available from Microsoft for free.

The program aims educate and solve mathematics problems by including triangle solvers, equation libraries and equation solver with help.

One of the best features is the ‘solution steps,’ which includes how the calculator worked out the problem, handy for solving difficult problems and learning something while you’re at it.

The download is 18.9 MB or 17.6 MB depending on your operating system and is available from the Microsoft Download Center.

Top 4 Free Ways to Learn Online

MIT Main Apr09
Image via Wikipedia


Learning a language online is easy as there are many resources such as BBC Languages. BBC provides a free language resource with podcasts and video courses with daily phrases. Languages included are French, German, Spanish, Italian, Greek, Portuguese, Chinese and many more.


Many universities around the world offer free lecture notes, exams, and videos. There are YouTube and even iTunes offerings which contain video, audio-books and tours. MIT publish many of their courses online at OpenCourseWare (OCW), some of their popular courses (during May 2010) are Physics I: Classical Mechanics, Introduction to Computer Science and Linear Algebra . Remember that by doing the course at MIT OpenCourseWare you won’t simply get a degree.

Programming and Websites

W3 Schools is an excellent starting point for learning to use HTML, JavaScript and CSS. There are also many free books that have been published for learners, one of them is Eloquent JavaScript. The book has many examples and lets the reader try out many of the examples in their browser. Opera has published a great resource at Opera Web Standards Curriculum. The website promotes web standards for better websites.

To get started with programming pick a language that you will enjoy learning. Ruby is a simple language for beginners to start with and also has advanced functions. Free documentation is available for programmers at the website. According to TIOBE, Java is the most popular language. This means you should be able to find help quickly. A nice starting tutorial can be found at About.Com. C++ is another language which is popular and can be used for developing many programs. Microsoft has a free version of their Visual Studio software and also have a free tutorial.


Why not learn an instrument online? Instruments such as the guitar have many free resources. Try YouTube and GuitarNoise for free lessons ranging from songs to scales. You can learn the basics of music theory at Ricci Adams’ The website has lessons, exercises and tools such as staff paper generators and tempo calculators.