How Do You Learn?

by Matthew Casserly

The evolving landscape of web development is characterized by a state of constant progression. The tools, libraries, and systems used today may be outdated in a year. This rapid advancement has helped create a culture of learning within the industry. As a developer, the question isn’t what you will learn but how do you learn best, because you will always have to be learning.

The development team here at Fresh Tilled Soil has a few techniques for fostering the personal development necessary to stay on top of modern web technologies. Aside from the constant stream of popular articles posted to Slack, we meet bi-weekly for a ‘Learning JavaScript’ meetup.

This meetup originally began when an apprentice wanted to pick up some new JavaScript techniques but has progressively grown to include all the members of the development team. The goal is to contribute a new library, technique, or snippet of code that you have found to be helpful or worthy of sharing.

The topics have ranged from how to implement local storage, to prototyping a comment feed, to an accessible tab plugin. Knowing I will have to contribute to the meetup, I have been more keen to delve a little deeper into JavaScript issues that I run into in my day-to-day work. The added pressure of having to explain how a certain function works or why I chose to structure my JavaScript file in a certain way helps me get a little better each day. I have also started commenting my code more often which is an added bonus.

One item recently discussed was a JavaScript assessment tool. This tool stood out because it does not provide any answers. Where documentation, tutorials, and videos might teach you how you can solve a particular issue, this assessment tool instead asks that you take the time to write the code that solves the issue, forcing you to learn by doing. Working through the tests in this tool, you might have to jump back to documentation or a tutorial to arrive at a solution but this is very much in line with a developer’s daily workflow.

Personally, I have found that I grasp a concept in much more detail by combining documentation with a video tutorial. Watching someone put into practice the steps I had only previously read helps to cement an idea or technique in my head. That said, there is no better way to truly grasp a concept than to write the code yourself.

About Fresh Tilled Soil

Fresh Tilled Soil is a Boston-based user interface and experience design firm focused on human centered digital design