Getting started with JavaScript

Christina Truong has over ten years of experience in the tech industry as a front-end developer. As an educator, she has taught over 1,000 students in college, bootcamp programs, workshops and many more with her online courses.  

In her former role as Director of Curriculum for Ladies Learning Code, she overhauled the curriculum for the adult program by creating new content for workshops and a part-time program. She also provided training for all lead instructors across 20+ Canadian chapters, to work towards creating inclusive and engagement learning environments.

These days she is working independently and focused on inclusive tech education, curriculum development, and technical consulting services.

Visit her website or follow her on Twitter @ChristinaTruong for updates.

Christina will be at ebookcraft leading a workshop called JavaScript and EPUB: Making interactive ebooks. If you like this post, don't miss it!

In my experience teaching front-end web development, the same thing always seem to happen among students. Students start off feeling good writing HTML because you can output content onto a web page in literally seconds. Quick wins always feel great.

Despite my stressing the importance of understanding how to write semantic HTML first, students are eager to move onto CSS because, well, plain HTML can look a little boring. CSS is a more complex language than HTML, but you can still get up and running pretty quickly. (Writing efficient and scalable CSS takes more time and experience, but that's another story.) Many CSS property names are fairly intuitive. One can assume that color:red; is going to mean that you're changing the colour of something to red.

It's fun for a while but when students start wanting to make the web page do things, JavaScript is introduced. Everybody is excited. And then they realize the learning curve is steeper than HTML and CSS and the frustration sets in. Excitement dwindles. Of course this is not true of every person who learns front-end development, but it's certainly a common experience.

JavaScript is essential in making web pages interactive. But unlike HTML and CSS, there are more steps required to make something happen. Even the name can create some confusion. Java and JavaScript are two totally different languages.

Let's go back to the beginning. In 1995, an engineer at Netscape, Brendan Eich, created the JavaScript language. It was originally called LiveScript but was renamed to JavaScript. It was an attempt to take advantage of Sun Microsystem's Java language, which was quite popular at the time.

Just remember, Java is to JavaScript as sand is to sandwich. Not related at all!

When learning JavaScript, I would recommend getting to know the basics of the syntax and terminology first before thinking about applying JavaScript to specific scenarios. Instead of jumping straight to "How do I make [x] do this?", first get comfortable with what a variable is and what it does. What is a function? What does it do?

Think of it as learning the alphabet first, then forming words, and then writing full sentences. And celebrate the wins, big or small.

Here are some resources to get you up and running:

And remember to have fun making things!

If you don't already have your ticket for ebookcraft workshop day, you can register here. Hope to see you there!