You have developers that are self-taught, developers who went to a boot camp, and then you have developers who went through a more traditional approach. Where they went to a university, got a computer science degree, and then they learned development after that. You have all kinds of different ways that you can learn.
One of the common issues that I’ve heard from students through the years, is that they say they feel like if they’re learning from a boot camp experience or if they’re learning from online tutorials, it feels like they’re walking through tutorials and they know how to copy and paste what the instructor is telling them. Then afterwards if they were asked to build out a real application, they’d have no idea where to start.
That’s what I want to talk about in this guide. The topic of this tutorial is going “From copy and paste to comprehension”. The first thing that I want to say is that if you feel like you’re at a stage where you’re just copying and pasting code. So you are copying and pasting code from
Stack Overflow, from tutorials, from anything like that. Do not worry.
That’s actually perfectly natural. That is a very natural stage of the learning process. I want you to first feel that that’s a normal. Someone like myself, or if you see any other developers, and you think that we just learned it magically, that is not the case.
If you feel like you’re just copying and pasting right now, and you’re not really understanding the concepts do not worry. That’s all part of the learning process. I want to take a look at a real world analogy.
This is something that happened with me years ago, and it helped me understand a little bit more about learning in general especially as it related to coding.
When I was growing up I did not have a real handy kind of experience. I couldn’t go and repair something in the house, I couldn’t repair sheet rock, I didn’t really have a kind of building experience whatsoever. I didn’t grow up in a family where that was prioritized.
I had no idea how to do anything really when it came to being handy around the house. Then I bought a house, this was in my mid 20s or so, and it needed to pretty much be redone completely from scratch.
My father-in-law was a very successful architect, and he walked through and he showed all of the different things that had to be done. It was like he was looking at the house, and he already saw what the end goal needed to be and all the steps that needed to be taken in order to get there.
I didn’t see it at all. What we did as a family is we just started rebuilding the house and started renovating it. Now I started with no knowledge of how to do that whatsoever.
What I would do is I’d be given some kind of task, it was usually pretty menial tasks, as they didn’t really trust me to very much which they shouldn’t. What they would do is my father-in-law would show me how to frame a wall, he would first do it himself, and then he told me to come over and do it.
I didn’t have any idea on any of the details. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know how foundations worked in the house, I didn’t know the way that electricity had to work, or the way the wall had to be formed. All I could do was watch him, see exactly what he did, and then go and try to duplicate that myself.
That’s how it started. That went on for months and months, and that entire time I still had very little knowledge on what was actually happening behind the scenes. What started to happen is the more time I spent remodeling that house, the more time that I spent practicing and following his example, all of a sudden things started to make sense.
I started to see how different parts of the house were all connected, and then I didn’t even need to follow him in step-by-step kind of approach. I’d still go ask him for advice many times, but I started to build up a mental model for understanding how it worked.
Now with coding, it’s the exact same thing. If you feel like you are in a stage where all you’re doing is you’re watching a screen cast, and three quarters of the things that they’re saying don’t even make sense, and you’re just following along.
Sometimes it’s hard to even follow along and you’ll make typos, and what ends up working on their screen doesn’t work on your screen. That is perfectly fine. That is exactly what happens in any kind of thing that you’re ever going to learn.
Just like it happened to me when I was learning how to remodel a house. It took time, and it also took a lot of repetition. What my main encouragement for you to be is:
1. Don’t get discouraged
If you feel like you’re not learning the underlying concepts right away, that will come. That comprehension will come. That’s a reason why this guide is called from copy and paste to comprehension. You’re not going to be able to build up that mental model right away. That is going to take time and it’s going to take repetition.
It’s the same reason why I recommend to all the students have gone through any of my courses that they need to be coding every single day. They need to be building out new applications, and learning the topics from different angles.
2. Watch Several Tutorials on topics you don’t understand
That also is something that I really try to encourage. If you watch a tutorial or you’re going to a boot camp and you hear one concept, and it doesn’t make any sense to you, that’s fine. Go and see several different tutorials from other instructors on that topic. Keep going until it makes sense.
There’s so many times where I’ve had a concept that I wanted to learn, and the first time I heard it it sounded like a foreign language to me. I’ve been doing this for over 15 years, and there are still things that make no sense to me the first time I hear them.
What I’ve learned what helps me out the very most is by going and hearing it from some other angle. I’ll go, and just say it’s a new feature in
React, and I don’t understand it the first time I read it in the update. So then I’ll go watch a tutorial on someone who discussed that topic.
Maybe they gave an example, many times that example didn’t make any sense to me either. So I go and I hear it a third time, and sometimes a fourth and a fifth, and I keep going until it actually makes sense, until I can repeat it myself.
If that’s a stage where you’re in, where you feel like you’re just copying and pasting things, you’re not understanding the concepts. Do not worry. Do not lose heart. What you’re going to be able to do is be able to take those concepts, repeat them over and over again, and sooner or later they are going to start to make sense.
What I’ve found is that the very best developers, what really marks them is they refuse to give up. They will continue to repeat and to find out and discover new ways of learning things. They refuse to not understand a concept.
Make sure that that’s the attitude in the mindset that you have. That you don’t get discouraged when you hear something and it doesn’t make sense to you. If that was the way I lived, I would just live in depression all day every day.
Every single day I hear something that I’ve never heard before and it doesn’t make any sense. What my approach is, is if it doesn’t make sense the first time I just make sure that I dive deeper into it until I do start to build up that mental model and until it starts to make sense. That would be my top advice for you.
If you feel like you are locked into that stage where you don’t really understand the concepts yet, you’re simply going through and repeating what others are doing. That’s natural. That is the first step. My advice would be work through that go through it, repeat it, learn from other people who were discussing the same topics until it makes sense.
Then the one thing I will promise you is after you’ve done that, and you’ve done it enough times, you’ll look back at that concept that at first looked like a foreign language and didn’t make any sense to you. It’s all going to click, and you’re going to be surprised it took you that long to understand it in the first place.