Teaching Programming to People Who Don’t Want to be Programmers

I have started a bit of an experiment this month: I am trying to teach basic programming and software engineering to women that more closely identify as artists than coders. I have a number of motivations for attempting this.

  1. A small amount of motivation comes from attending workshops where the instructor doesn’t entirely understand the tech they are dealing with. I think coding is a craft and new digital media art is a new form of craft. If you work with other traditional media such as clay or oil painting, you are expected to understand the material (to a reasonable level). The same should be true with technology.
  2. People seem eager for this kind of instruction.
  3. I think there are some problems with the way we teach programming to CS students, this is a way for me to test some more experimental practices.

One thing I do struggle with is that tools that help attract new practitioners by working out of the box and being ready to go (Processing, OpenFrameworks), can encourage bad habits. I think by excessively hiding the details of software, you restrict the ability for someone to learn about those details. I haven’t entirely formalized my irritations nor come up with solutions. Well, I guess my initial solution is to teach the course I am teaching right now and try to bring more traditional programming instruction to non-traditional forums.

Below are the slides (with some corrections and additions) that I used last night.

3 thoughts on “Teaching Programming to People Who Don’t Want to be Programmers

  1. These are fantastic slides! You’ve found some really great ways to explain the niggling tech details. I thought the comment about being irked if a recipe’s ingredients section is missing something when you’re running through the instructions was a particularly nice analogy.

    I don’t know what the restrictions are on publishing your course materials, but I think putting up the subsequent lessons’ slides and providing links to the tools being used for the course would make this enormously useful to non-geek newbie coders.

  2. Hey Becky, I wasn’t able to make the course but having been through the 2 presentations you’ve posted so far, I agree with Chris that the slides are fantastic and very accessible for newbie coders! Putting them on the MzTek site when the course is complete, along with links to tools etc, is a great idea. See you soon at another MzTek event 🙂

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