Unfortunately, it is not possible to properly learn coding without a laptop. More than 50% of developers get advice online at least once a day for their code, so without a laptop learning can be very difficult. You can pick up basic syntax and concepts without a computer but the only way to get proficient at programming is to practice.
The old adage that practice makes perfect describes coding well. You can read about it all you want but unless you are putting rubber to the road, or fingers to the keyboard it’s unlikely you’ll ever get good enough to do it full-time.
You can do certain parts of programming without the help of a laptop. There are a lot of fantastic resources that don’t require you to have a computer on you all the time.
Let’s take a look at the best ways to learn coding without a laptop and how you can use them during periods when you may not have the right device on you.
Is it possible to learn programming without a computer?
No, it is possible to truly learn programming without a computer. 90% of developers use Google when they are stuck on a problem, without a computer it may be difficult to navigate to a successful solution. You can learn concepts and syntax without a laptop or computer but you’ll need one to practice creating things.
That doesn’t mean that 100% of your learning has to be on a computer. You should look to vary the sources from which you learn. Programming books are great at breaking down core concepts and improving your depth of knowledge. Some beginner-friendly books take you right from the basics.
It is also worth checking out various YouTube channels where you can watch tutorials and grasp concepts. There are more general aspects to coding like problem-solving, lateral thinking, and perseverance. These are tougher to practice but there are some things at your disposal to improve these skills. We have also discussed learning to code without the internet which is worth checking out.
However, programming takes time, effort, and practice. Without a computer, you won’t be able to write enough code to allow you to make the mistakes that will help you improve. Watching someone else code is useful but won’t necessarily improve your skills in isolation.
Building things is crucial to mastering the art of coding. There are platforms like CodeSandbox which run an IDE on mobile but using them on a smaller device is a tough challenge. Learning to code is difficult enough without having the luxury of jumping through pages of code to find what you are looking for.
Even a tablet that is larger than a mobile isn’t set up for coding. Nothing beats a keyboard and mouse, or even the trackpad on a laptop. The ability to switch tabs, find information quickly, and get a bird’s eye view of a codebase is crucial.
How to learn coding without a computer
While learning to code without a computer is not ideal, it doesn’t mean it should stop you from pursuing your dream. There are times and situations when certain devices aren’t available but this shouldn’t deter you from at least trying to sharpen your skills.
The best ways to learn coding without a computer include:
- Using your phone
- Playing games
- Reading books
- Using the library
- Signing up for education
Let’s look in a bit more detail at the items above and dissect how you can learn to code if you don’t have a laptop.
Using your phone
I don’t recommend this as a long-term solution as writing a significant amount of code on a phone will boil your blood. It’ll make the already stressful experience even worse. However, there are some fantastic applications available. These are great at teaching you syntax and allow you to take on the basics, they include:
- Code Academy
Platforms like HackerRank and Leetcode have multiple small challenges that may not require a lot of code to crack. Sololearn is the same and you can even compete against other programmers to solve small challenges.
Udemy and Code Academy are slightly different in that they provide course material that can be consumed via your mobile. It is great to have a course on your app which means you can learn on the move.
For parents who have young children and want to get them into coding, games are great for encouragement. They can help students learn about functions and develop sequential reasoning abilities. Robot Turtles is a great board game that uses coding cards and turtles moving around a board and helping students learn.
There is also a more simple paper and LEGO-based game available. The LEGO maze game introduces students to loops and conditionals and gets them to set and follow commands.
When you first learn about programming books are a fantastic resource. They get you away from the hands-on stuff and mix your learning up. They dive deep into core concepts for the majority of languages and can take your understanding to the next level. Try out:
- HeadFirst Python Programming – The Python-focused version which is part of the Head First series is great for back-end developers. You’ll get a good idea of the language and make a few projects along the way.
Using the library
In most countries around the world, libraries provide access to a computer completely free of charge. While you can learn some coding concepts without a laptop, I’d highly recommend getting some time in front of a laptop or computer.
It will allow you to take the things you have learned and actually apply them. A for loop may look simple but missing out syntax is easily done in the beginning. Sneaking away to the library is a perfect way to get in some much-needed practice even if you can’t download VS Code or similar.
Sign up for education
If you have no access to a laptop, then I’d highly recommend signing up for further education of some sort. Whether it’s a community college or a locally run free course, you need to position yourself to get access to a laptop.
Most university and school IT classes provide access to a computer as part of the course. Many also have computer labs which you can use out of hours.
Nathan Britten, the founder and editor of Developer Pitstop, is a self-taught software engineer with nearly five years of experience in front-end technologies. Nathan created the site to provide simple, straightforward knowledge to those interested in technology, helping them navigate the industry and better understand their day-to-day roles.