Last week, I decided to try out the Ruby on Rails Tutorial as part of my personal initiative to learn Ruby on Rails. I’ve been learning Ruby for the past few months, and thought this would be a good time to move on to Ruby on Rails. I was surprised to find out that Rails is pretty much it’s own language with its own rules, and knowing as much Ruby as I have learned is not really that necessary. Nevertheless, I finished most of the tutorial and was able to get a website up, so here are my thoughts on the tutorial.
The tutorial reminds me a lot of a RailsBridge weekend workshop I attended last year, when I wanted to learn to program. The workshop had great food and I got to meet interesting people, but when I got home at the end of the day, I was completely lost as to what to do next and was completely discouraged from programming.
The problem with these type of workshops or tutorials is that they tell you what to do without spending much time explaining why you’re doing it. There are more than a few points in the Ruby on Rails tutorial where the author says that this is how you do it, and he’ll explain it in more detail in a later chapter – for now, just go along with it. As a result, I can always do what the tutorial tells me, but once I encounter a problem not in the tutorial or need even simple customization, I have no idea what to do because I don’t understand the basics – I only learn how to follow instructions.
This also reminds me of a particular moment in my high school drivers ed class. I had trouble parallel parking, so the instructor got on the radio and told me, step by step, how to parallel park (turn your wheel all the way to the right, go straight, now turn left, etc). I followed the instructions, and successfully parallel parked while the instructor was on the radio, but have never been able to parallel park quite correctly ever since then. Why? Because I now have to think on my own and have to figure out how to parallel park myself instead of having someone else tell me what to do.
Anyway, if your goal with the Ruby on Rails Tutorial is to put up a simple website one time, then it is a really good tool. I also learned how to use GitHub, Heroku, and some RSPec via the tutorial, which is really useful. However, if you’re in my position, and would actually like to learn a lot more about Ruby on Rails, like what it is and how it really works, consider other options (although there are very few other options available). I’m still pretty excited to take the Berkley Course on the topic on February 20th – hopefully they give a lot more background into the workings of Ruby on Rails…
Have you tried learning Ruby on Rails? What methods have you found to be most useful?