The Problem with the Call to Code

Further to my recent blog post on the Code Year (and Codeacademy’s efforts to get us all coding) take a look at this blog post from Michael Widner, who asks us to proceed with caution:

“… the call to code is also a problem. It suggests that coding is just another skill, like riding a bicycle or sewing, that you can learn easily and then put to use. Among humanities scholars, the first model we often think of is learning a foreign language, which for many of us is a fairly trivial task: learn the grammar, then memorize the vocabulary. Yes, coding requires learning different ‘languages,’ but those languages are not human. This model of coding-as-language-learning fails.”

I understand completely what Widner is suggesting, because it is something that I know myself to be true, despite the fact I have no experience at all of coding. I know it to be true because I have long been acquainted with coders who have themselves struggled with learning the concepts of a new coding language. We return to my mate Dave, alternately strumming a mournful Spanish refrain on his acoustic guitar and screaming obscenities at his Java textbook, or throwing it (the textbook, not the guitar – he was very protective of the guitar) at an innocent wall.

There is nothing wrong with bringing coding to a new audience but as Widner says, we need to bear in mind that it is not simply a case of learning a new language – it is developing a “new mode of thinking”.

You can read the full blog post here.


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