Look it up!

That’s something I say probably ten times a week. Sure, five of those times are directed at my kids but the rest are usually students in my class on my front-end development.

You see, The Web is huge. So huge, and yet so tiny.

I think because I lead the class, the expectation is I have all the answers. And, to be fair, I have a lot of them. I mean, I designed the curriculum and everything. But I don’t know everything. In fact, I quite literally cannot and, as an educator, it would be disingenuous of me to portend that I do and that my students should as well.

So, I tell ’em to go look it up.

No, it’s not lazy. It’s just reality. That’s how everyone I know who works on the web gets their jobs done. Forget the difference between align-content and align-items? The CSS-Tricks flexbox guide will show you. Having a brain fart on pushing a local branch to a new remote one? Stack Overflow has a bunch of answers to that, not to mention answers to about any other thing that might have you feeling stuck. Need the snippet for a quick grid layout? CodePen has all the examples you need, and then some.

But that isn’t exactly what students are taught leading up to my class. They’re told they need to study and retain information, then tested on their ability to pull it from memory. If you’re like me, you can still recite the list helping verbs and perhaps even the quadratic formula, thanks to grade school mnemonic devices. That’s great and all for subjects like English and math where information changes, like, never. But it’s different for a space like front-end development where information changes at breakneck speed. We’re learning, re-learning, and even re-re-learning all the time.

(I’ve lost count how many times I’ve searched online for an answer only to land on one of my own articles. It all comes full circle.)

The best skill you can develop as a front-end developer is how to think like a front-end developer. And front-end developers know where to find answers more than they know the actual answers. The best thing I can do for a student who asks a question is show them how I find the answer. I could pretend I know it. Or I could help that student develop a skill they are certain to use over their course of their entire career.

Ironically, the only reason I’m writing this now is because Stack Overflow is currently down for maintenance.

Stack Overflow is currently offline for maintenance.
✏️ Handwritten by Geoff Graham on July 29, 2022


  • 💬 Sunkanmi Fafowora

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