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Women Who Code SF Message Board Miscellaneous › How should programming be taught?

How should programming be taught?

Romy I.
Oakland, CA
Post #: 20
Here is an article:

Programming is not algebra

Many really great points here.
He quotes a really disturbing earlier blog post - Programming Sheep - in which unprepared students are given a simple test to determine if they "have what it takes" to be computer scientists.

What do you think?
A former member
Post #: 6
Interesting articles. As a beginning programmer I find Andy Skelton's article to be on point. My main problem with learning is not a lack of ability to understand but more of a need to ask questions to solidify concepts and not get sufficient answers.

There are great resources for learning different languages that help get the basics but I feel I have to keep reviewing from the beginning for each one. Both because there's no sound board to answer outlying questions concerning the new things I learn and each resource I use explains concepts a little differently so I hope I can pick up something more with a new book/video. I used to try and ask my partner (an objective C programmer) follow-up questions to help understand concepts and he can spout the text book definition but responds to my analogies/scenarios with "Well, not really. Finish the chapter, you'll get it." My analogy was probably wrong for an unknown reason that's above my level, but it's frustrating nonetheless to be in a position where the teacher can't relate to where you are.

Personally in my head I liken the Sheep Test to an old world sexist or xenophobic assumption like 'women are bad at math.' I feel that everyone has the ability to learn whatever they want and the barriers are more of a sociological/cultural nature than biological. But, in any case, from a teaching standpoint if you have a student that is really driven to learn and is having trouble comprehending, they may need more time to have it sink in but it's not a "some things were never meant to be" sort of moment. It may be a time where you will need to sit with them and see if they are willing to put more time into it; suggest other resources, like a tutor or another book, to help them along. It may be you, and not by any fault of your own, other people might be able to explain things that help resonate better. A student who is more advanced might be able to remember these frustrations better than you and relay how to think and work through concepts in a more meaningful way to the student.

In the end "what it takes" to be anything really depends on how much effort the person is willing to put in. If things come easy and they 'get it' but don't really care, then they may be good but doesn't mean they're good at it or someone who will be making things great. They aren't used to the work and don't want to. Without drive they don't have what it takes. If they have a hard time with it but really want it, it will happen. And they may be the better programmer in the end because getting something that you put a lot of work into has a rewarding affect that pushes you to do more.
Doug M.
Occidental, CA
Post #: 37
I strongly feel that having lots of room for questions, and to explore questions, is vital to making software development more accessible to women. There is a huge, if subtle, sexist bias built into the practice, and the industry, and in many cases men don't engage with women's questions appropriately because it requires trying on a point of view other than the one they have adopted to get a handle on coding for themselves (and they hate having their confidence shaken -- so much so that having yours devastated is considered acceptable collateral damage). This keeps the barriers in place and leaves the industry dangerously narrow-minded and incomplete. Three cheers for anyone, on either side, willing to move past the discomfort and stick with the questions until new clarity emerges.
Romy I.
Oakland, CA
Post #: 22
Since i posted this message I started learning Objective-C...

and as someone who's studied algebra, trig, calculus with differential equations, taken college level chemistry etc...

I don't understand the mystique behind programming. it's hard but it's not that hard. it's abstract but it's not that abstract...

I am starting to feel like anyone can do this... it's just a matter of being the best.

seeing things with new eyes:

I'm seeing many examples of people writing some "gnarly code" and making things unnecesarily clever to make themselves look good but that is weird. as a beginner i'm finding that people who write very elegant, easy to understand code that's short and sweet is the best way and that seems the most difficult.

so the idea of splitting people into those who can and can't code... it's really foolish IMO.
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