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I’ve taught a number of classes recently to people who are just getting started as software developers either as a way to change careers and move into our profession or just to people who love computers and want to learn more about how to program.   I personally love these types of classes as they differ so much from the standard SharePoint or Silverlight type course where the average student is fairly skilled and the questions and interaction from students is very technical.   In an introduction type class, everything moves at a much slower pace and the “theory”, while basic to many of us who have been doing this for a long time, is much more the focus.   Simple things like variables, conditional statements, loops, etc are the focus and we get our hands dirty with some simple console applications.

While many of us with a few years of experience in this industry know and love the power available in VS.NET, I frequently get the pleasure of watching the eyes of students during the first night of class when we double click the icon and Visual Studio loads for the first time in all it’s toolbar and dock-window filled glory.  It’s definitely an overwhelming experience that is soon coupled with creating a new project and having to decide between VB.NET/C#/WCF/WPF/Windows/Web (Site or application or MVC?)/Workflow (Sequential or state machine?)/Office/Etc/Etc…  Obviously VS.NET brings a lot of power to developers of many skill levels but getting started as a developer with all the tools and technologies available today is a bigger undertaking than many people realize.

Also, it is my personal opinion that schools (at any level up to and including colleges) don’t do a good enough job of educating today's developers on the skills they will use every day as part of software development teams at your average enterprise.  I do appreciate the theory I learned regarding data structures and compiler writing in college BUT I wish I could have learned more about methodologies and ALM tools such as source control and bug tracking systems.  Anyway…I’ll leave that soapbox for another post and get on with the point of this one…

Development for Beginners

Recently Microsoft released a great site chock full of resources for the beginning developer.  It’s called the “Beginner Development Learning Center” and can be found here: http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/beginner/default.aspx.

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The site is a GREAT resource for anyone wanting to get started and is broken into 4 primary sections:

-Web Track – Learn the basics of creating web applications, online applications, and services.

-Windows Track – Learn to build Windows applications and PC games

-Aspiring Pro – Learn about the tools and technologies required in a professional development environment including source control and other ALM tools.

-Kids Corner – A GREAT resource and set of fun projects to introduce kids to software development.

Track Overview

Each of the above tracks is broken into 3 tiers and include a progressive series of lessons focusing on the basic skills necessary to get started as a developer.

Each section includes links to download the necessary tools for working through the lessons (including VS.NET 2008 Express editions).   Each section also includes links to additional learning resources outside of this site that students can refer to as they work through the lessons.  In addition to external resources, a Tips and Tricks section helps students better learn the tools and technologies they might be using on a specific Track.  The lessons themselves vary per topic and include things such as full video, audio/podcasts, full transcripts, supporting projects and other source files, lesson plans, additional resource links, and relevant articles. 

The screenshot below provides an example of the Web Development Tier One lessons.

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Below is a sample of a lesson on “Event Handlers in Windows Forms”:

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I think the organization and material provided on this site is excellent and I highly encourage anyone interested in learning to develop software to consider this a great self-paced starting point to begin to move in that direction.   With enough focus to work methodically through the various tiers of content on any track (or all of them) a student would have a very solid foundation on which to begin contributing to larger projects and possible further their career goals.

The site also includes the makings of a community of other beginning developers you

Programming for Kids

The final area of this side I wanted to discuss was the Kid’s Corner section.  This site is intended to introduce kids to software development through a series of fun and challenging lessons to which they can relate.  For example, some of the web lessons have them developing a web site for a Rock band.  Where was this type of lesson when I was a kid?  The site includes articles and videos of varying levels of complexity (i.e. Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced).  It also includes links to fun projects and other resources that kids will find interesting.

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An example of the types of videos they have created which target kids can be seen below:

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Another great thing about the Kid’s Corner is the fact that includes lesson plans and content targeting parents and/or teachers which they can use as part of their own plan for educating children either at home or in our schools. 

As a father of 3 daughters (ages 11,10, and 8) my girls are definitely at that age where they have the capability (and interest) to work through much of the content on this site and I’m eager to get them started to see how far they go before dad has to start providing “development and debugging” support. 

In closing, I have a few more great training resources I will be blogging about shortly…but, for now, let me know what you think of this resource for beginning developers and PLEASE share it with people you know are trying to get started and could benefit from something like this.

Posted on Saturday, October 31, 2009 3:03 PM | Back to top


Comments on this post: Development for Beginners (and Kids)

# re: Development for Beginners (and Kids)
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Thanks for doing something for beginners and kids.Now i think beginners can easily learn development From Microsoft..
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